Air pollution has long been known as one of the most topical environmental issues. In recent years, governments, as well as many local and international environmental organizations have been discussing this global problem both in terms of human health and environmental risks. However, its effects remain extremely harmful to the planet and jeopardize people’s well-being. A recent news article from BBC has stated that “air pollution regularly exceeds recommended safe levels” (Harrabin, 2021, par. 1). Quoting from the report of the World Health Organization, the author added that “an estimated seven million people die prematurely each year from diseases linked to air pollution” (Harrabin, 2021, par. 2). This paper will discuss the population at risk of health problems due to air pollution, the pathways of exposure, and the measures that can be taken by nurses to address this problem.
One of the major reasons why air pollution is among the most dangerous environmental health hazards is the fact that it affects large groups of the population worldwide. The population most at risk includes “people with a cardiovascular disease, lung diseases, and adults over 65” (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2021, par. 3). In addition, people at risk of health problems caused by air pollution include individuals who “work or exercise outdoors, smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke and spend a lot of time near busy roadways” (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2021, par. 3). People at poverty, as well as infants and adolescents, have also been reported to be most likely to suffer from pollution-related health risks.
Another reason why air pollution is an extremely dangerous and current issue is connected to the pathways of exposure to an air pollutant that exist in almost all urban and rural areas. Although the most common pathway is inhalation, there is also the dermal route, which occurs when there is contact between the skin and the pollutant. As the negative health effects of air pollution have been acknowledged by all environmental and health organizations, it is not challenging to find information about it.
Both governmental agencies and environmental activist groups make efforts to raise public awareness about the issue. Some examples of such institutions include the World Health Organization, Greenpeace, and the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2021). U.S. Agencies that solve the problem of air pollution and provide the public with the necessary information about it include, among others, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
There are several measures that nurses can take to mitigate the harmful health effects of air pollution. The first important aspect of nurses’ job is educating their patients about the types and magnitude of the risks, as well as exposure conditions that the latter face. This is particularly important for patients with lung diseases and other illnesses that can be aggravated by the effects of air pollution (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2021). The second important aspect is promoting clinical standards that could increase patients’ resistance to pollution-related health effects.
It can be concluded that air pollution is one of the most dangerous environmental health hazards due to its exposure pathways and the large population at risk. Many local and federal organizations address this problem, but air pollution in most countries remains above-recommended levels. The main opportunities for action that can be used by nurses include educating their patients and providing different groups of individuals with clinical guidelines specific to their conditions.
Harrabin, R. (2021). Air pollution: Even worse than we thought – WHO. BBC News. Web.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (2021). Who is at risk from air pollution? Web.