diseases caused by air pollution
Health Insurance

4 Most Common Diseases in India Caused by Air Pollution

Air pollution poses a significant risk of numerous health conditions, including respiratory disorders, lung cancer, and heart diseases. Diseases caused by air pollution may begin with symptoms like difficulty in breathing, cough, and wheezing, but they can lead to debilitating conditions such asthma or make things worse for people with lung and heart disorders. In severe cases, air pollution may also lead to premature death.

The degree to which air pollution affects a person depends on various factors, including the amount and type of pollutants they are exposed to, their current health status, and their genetics. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2.4 million people die each year due to diseases caused due to air pollution. When the air quality index (AQI) shows the air in a certain place to be hazardous or unfit, people are asked to stay indoors, but indoor air pollution is also problematic. Thus, you must ensure to maintain optimum health and minimise your risk of developing health problems linked to air pollution.

Common Diseases Caused Due to Air Pollution

Air pollution affects the whole body negatively, but it has the most adverse effects on the respiratory system. Some of the common diseases that result from air pollution are listed below:

1. Lung Problems

The short-term impact of air pollution may include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, but in the long term, air pollution can lead to diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Continuous exposure to polluted air can make a person’s airways sensitive, which can lead them to develop allergies from dust and air pollution, bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes), asthma (swelling in the airways restricting breathing), and/or emphysema.

People with respiratory problems can experience an increase in their discomfort and hospital visits due to elevated air pollution around certain festivities.

2. Heart Problems

Air pollution increases a person’s risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, etc. According to research, almost half of PM2.5-related deaths can be associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Additionally, the risk of developing diseases like vascular endothelial dysfunction, arrhythmias, atherosclerosis, and systemic inflammation increases with exposure to the polluted air. Thus, if you are at a high risk of developing cardiac problems and live in a place with a poor air quality index (AQI), you can consider moving your residence.

3. Cancer

Air pollution leads to an increase in the risk of a person developing lung cancer, breast cancer, cancer of the stomach and liver, and laryngeal or throat cancer. Outdoor air pollution is categorised as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Breathing in small particles over a long period of time can contribute to lung cancer. It is believed that the inhaled particles cause inflammation in the lungs, thereby damaging lung cells. Additionally, research suggests that the mortality rate of people with lung cancer increases with exposure to the polluted air.

4. Neurological Disorders

The harmful effects of air pollution are not limited to the respiratory system. Studies have suggested air pollution can also impact the brain in various ways. Extended exposure to PM2.5 particles is associated with dementia, and long-term exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Health Impacts of Air Pollution

Apart from the diseases mentioned above, exposure to air pollution leads to increased oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is believed to be the primary pathway leading to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases caused by air pollution in the exposed population. However, it can also affect other parts of the body and cause premature aging.

Air pollution can also irritate your eyes and lead to headaches. Some people may notice a burning sensation in their eyes during the Diwali season, when the air becomes highly polluted with smoke.

Moreover, air pollution impacts a person’s immune function. The immune system is a complex system that comprises various dedicated cells, such as B cells and T cells, to help your body fight off a disease. The alveolar macrophages and neutrophils in the lungs are considered the first line of defence for inhaled pathogens, which may get affected due to exposure to air pollution.

Prevention and Mitigation of Air Polluted-related Diseases

Numerous green initiatives are being taken by people all over the world, which can help reduce air pollution. However, it will likely take some time to control air pollution effectively. For the time being, the following pointers can help prevent or minimise the risk of developing health problems resulting from air pollution:

  • Use an air purifier in your office and/or home.
  • Wear a mask that can filter PM2.5 particles when going outside if the AQI is poor.
  • Eat a balanced diet to ensure overall health and build immunity.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid exercising outdoors when AQI is poor.
  • Go for regular health check-ups.
  • Consult your doctor upon noticing any symptoms of health problems associated with air pollution.
  • Shift your residence away from industrial areas and busy roads.
  • Avoid smoking and inhaling passive smoke.

You can do the following things to reduce air pollution in your environment in the long run:

  • Avoid activities that increase air pollution.
  • Opt to travel by public transport to optimise energy usage and encourage others to do the same.
  • Incorporate renewable sources of energy in your day-to-day life such as sunlight to power your home or devices and electricity to run your vehicles.
  • Recycle and reuse everything as much as you can.

There are numerous ways to reduce air pollution, which can help you to lower your risk of developing health problems associated with poor air quality. Nevertheless, these ways may not be adequate to ensure that you’re protected against any condition related to poor air. Thus, having a medical insurance proves to be an effective tool for you in the battle against diseases caused or aggravated by air pollution.


What is air pollution?

Air pollution is defined as the contamination of environment (indoor and/or outdoor) by physical, biological, or chemical agents. According to WHO’s database, about 99% of the global population breathes air that contains high levels of pollutants, which exceed WHO guideline limits.

What are the different types of air pollutants?

Ground level ozone (O3), nitrogen oxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), persistent free radicals, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and particulate matter (PM) are some air pollutants. Some of the primary sources of air pollution include vehicle emissions, by-products of manufacturing processes, and fumes from chemical production.

How does air pollution affect a population?

Air pollution can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disorders, acute and chronic respiratory diseases, mental health problems, cancer, and dementia among other things. It also causes premature aging and increases mortality rate.

How to prevent diseases caused by air pollution?

The best way to reduce the risk of diseases caused by pollution is by reducing your exposure to it. If you can, consider changing your residence. Those who are not able to shift their home or offices can use air purifiers.

Which organs are impacted by air pollution?

Depending on the time and extent of exposure, all organs of the body can be affected by air pollution as certain pollutants may be able to enter the bloodstream through the lungs and cause damage.

What are the effects of air pollution on pregnancy?

Exposure to polluted air is linked to an increased risk of adverse outcomes for the foetus, including lower-than-normal birth weight and small size for gestational age.

Disclaimer: The above information is indicative in nature. For more details on the risk factor, terms and conditions, please refer to the Sales Brochure and Policy Wordings carefully before concluding a sale.

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