NYMC Faculty Publications


Asthma, Environment and Pollution: Where the Rubber Hits the Road

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October 2018




The detrimental effects of environmental pollution on one's health are undeniable and have been demonstrated time and time again. Breathing in pollutants in ambient air often has consequences throughout the body, including cardiovascular disease, effects on the reproductive system, and oncologic implications. In the respiratory system, chronic exposure yields a number of outcomes, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma exacerbations, increased rates of hospitalizations, and increased severity of acute illnesses. On a macro-level, this morbidity and mortality then leads to vast and far-reaching public health consequences the world over, including the loss of billions of dollars' worth of labor. This is especially applicable in developing countries, which often undergo rapid growth, industrialization and urbanization with a resultant increase in vehicular traffic, coal combustion, and fuel emissions as a whole. For this reason, environmental pollutants have been studied extensively, and countries around the globe have established laws that regulate ambient air levels of so-called criteria pollutants. This article will explore several of these criteria pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone, and their individual relationships to asthma pathophysiology. However, it is also emphasized that though each one of these toxins yields its own effects, the group of them often works together to have cumulative consequences. For these reasons and many more, it is important to remain aware and educated about these omnipresent environmental pollutants.