Cancer, Health Promotion, Recommendations

The air up there: air quality for long-term health

As development and industrialization occurred, international and domestic societies became increasingly dependent on mass-produced products and, unknowingly, the chemicals used in their development. Chemicals are used in the production of everything from household products to organic foods, and many of these man-made compounds have detrimental effects on human, environmental and ecological health. One chemical exposure of greatest significance to human health is ambient and indoor particulate matter. These elements are often overlooked; however, a human health risk assessment can be used to determine the severity of their harm.

Particulate matter (PM) is defined as all hazardous particles (including solids and liquids) that are suspended in the air [1]. These pollutants are generally less than ten µg in diameter and include course, fine and ultrafine elements. PM has many detrimental affects on human health because it is so easily encountered and can be deeply inhaled. PM is known to elicit cardiopulmonary responses and is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and cardiac arrhythmias are just a few cardiovascular disease states with which PM is associated [2]. PM inhalation is also associated with cancer – the second leading cause of death globally.

All people are exposed to particulate matter because it is dispensed into the air we breathe. There are various sources, including aerosols, mist, and all forms of combustion, that emit particulate matter into the atmosphere many of which individuals encounter frequently throughout the day. To protect oneself from these harmful chemicals, it is important that people engage in protective behaviors. Below are a few that could help you improve your long-term health:

1. Use an air purifier in your home.
2. Avoid using aerosols.
3. Check for proper ventilation and air filtration when using a fireplace.
4. Avoid burning incense.
5. Avoid second-hand smoke and stop smoking.


[1] “Ambient Air Pollution.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

[2] Du, Yixing, Xiaohan Xu, Ming Chu, Yan Guo, and Junhong Wang. “Air Particulate Matter and Cardiovascular Disease: The Epidemiological, Biomedical and Clinical Evidence.” Journal of Thoracic Disease. AME Publishing Company, Jan. 2016. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

  • Matthew Johnson

    I wonder about air quality a lot with social determinants of health. I watched a TED talk once about how much the air in different places that you live can impact your health. I think it’s important to think about how the negative impacts of industrialization aren’t evenly distributed. Oil pipelines, pollution, and factories often are in areas with poorer people, impacting their health, while rich people are able to live in more environmentally friendly locations.