Air pollution

There is a wide range of sources, both inside and outside the buildings, that contribute to the liberation in the air of polluting agents that represent a risk for the health. The exposure to air pollution affects all the population and, although it shows temporary variability, it is not a punctual exposure but a continued in time one.

The main source of emission of atmospheric polluting agents in the cities is the traffic. The more relevant polluting agents, concerning their effects on the human health, are particles (specially the fine particles, since they can penetrate more deeply in the respiratory system), ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

The sources of air pollution in inner atmospheres (like tobacco smoke, gas appliances, use of paints, dissolvents, etc.) can remarkably contribute to the exposure to polluting agents like nitrogen dioxide, fine particles or volatile organic compounds.

Effects of this pollutants in health

The main acute effects of these polluting agents include an increase in the number of deaths, hospitable income and visits to urgencies, especially for respiratory and cardiovascular causes. In the same way, chronic effects related to exposures in the long term have also been described. It is thought that the increase in the risk of dying by chronic exposure to air pollution is several times greater than due to the acute exposure, and that it could represent a diminution of around a year in life expectancy.

On the other hand, children are, along with the pregnant women, the elder and the sick people, the most vulnerable population to the effects of the air pollution. This greater vulnerability of the children is due to differences in the exposure, their physiological immaturity and the greater time of life after the exposure. In addition, children inhale a air proportionally greater volume than the adults.

Effects of the atmospheric pollution in children and fetuses

Results of experimental studies and in humans show that the small foetuses and children are especially susceptible to the poisonous effects of polluting agents like fine particles in suspension, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, tobacco smoke, metals and ozone. Apart from this, the possible influence of the exposures to the atmospheric polluting agents grows during the gestation, as much in the inner atmosphere as in the outside, at the levels that can be reached nowadays in our houses and our streets. In the last years, several studies are contributing tests of the impact of the exposure in uterus on the risk of intrauterine mortality, the prematurity and the reduction in foetal growth.