Focus on environmental pollution Focus on environmental pollution

Poor air quality negatively affects the health of your eyes and skin and can lead to fertility problems.

Medical Advisor: Andrés Pareja, professor and lead scientist at the In Vitro Toxicity Unit at CES University, Colombia

Constant exposure to environmental pollution is a health hazard. Taking measures to improve air quality is one way of preventing future health problems such as strokes, lung cancer, and chronic and acute lung diseases such as asthma.

Air pollution is mainly related to the quantity of motor vehicle emissions and waste products produced by industries and homes. “There is a wide variety of gaseous pollutants such as nitric oxide, sulfur compounds and heavy metals; the most worrisome is particulate matter, which are the particles that remain floating in the environment.

Depending on their size, they can enter the nose, larynx and bronchi, pass through the walls of the lungs and reach the bloodstream,” explains Andrés Pareja, biology professor at CES University in Colombia. Some particulate matter comes from the combustion of petroleum, gas and carbon which may or may not cause irreversible damage such as fertility and genetic problems, or which over time, can affect the eyes, airways, ears and body functions in general

Skin protection

The skin acts as a barrier to the environmental aggressors it is exposed to from poor air quality. Poor air quality accelerates the skin’s biological age by increasing the production of free radicals that cause wrinkles and a lack of firmness. It is important to counteract the effects of this by washing your face daily, using sunblock and eating a balanced diet in order for your skin to receive the nutrients it needs. (You may be interested: The effects of air quality on your health).

20 times smaller, is how much smaller particulate matter can be than your pores, which is why it can penetrate them easily and cuase them to become plugged.

Eye health

The eye’s surface has direct contact with the environment. Eye irritations are therefore common such as itching, stinging, dry eyes, irritant conjunctivitis, intolerance to contact lenses, increased allergy symptoms or an inflamed cornea. While you are outdoors, use eyedrops to keep the eyes hydrated and use sunglasses that protect from UV rays.

79 % of particulate matter emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels. Medellín is the most polluted city in Colombia, followed by Bogotá.

Take precautions

  • Use public transportation or carpool.
  • When you go for walks, choose green spaces that are removed from traffic.
  • When you play sports outdoors, try to do so early in the morning.
  • If possible – especially with children, the elderly and pregnant mothers – avoid polluted areas that are indicated on environmental risk maps.

2 million children under age five die from indoor and outdoor air pollution, secondhand smoke, and contaminated or poor water quality, according to the WHO.

Source: World Health Organization (WHO).