THE IMPLICATIONS OF AIR POLLUTION ON HUMAN HEALTH

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Abstract

This study is on the implications of air pollution on human health. The following are the objectives of the study: To assess the effect of air pollution on human health, to assess the diseases cause by air pollution, to ascertain the relationship between air pollution and human health, to assess on how to control air pollution. In line with these objectives, four research hypotheses were formulated and four null hypotheses were posited. The population of the study was 200 staff from different general hospitals in Akwa Ibom state was selected randomly. Descriptive Survey research design was adopted for this study. A total of 133 respondents made up doctors, nurses, laboratory analysts and receptionists were used for the study.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

  • Background of the study

The air we breathe contains emissions from many different sources: industry, motor vehicles, heating and commercial sources, household fuels as well as tobacco smoke. The effects of air pollution on health have been intensively studied in recent years. The results of these studies showed that air pollution harms human health and particularly is harmful for those who are already vulnerable because of their age as children and older people or existing health problems. The epidemiological evidence suggests that adverse health effects are dependent on both exposure concentrations and length of exposure, and that long-term exposures have larger, more persistent cumulative effects than short-term exposures. Ambient air pollution has been associated with a multitude of health effects, including mortality, respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations, changes in lung function and asthma attacks. Current scientific evidence indicates that air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels causes a spectrum of health effects from allergy to death. Recent assessments suggest that the public health impacts may be considerable. Air pollution is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic health effects, the nature of which may vary depending on constituent of the pollutants as well as the group of the population. Current exposure to particulate matter (PM) from anthropogenic sources leads to the loss of 8.6 months of life expectancy in Europe from around 3 months in Finland to more than 13 months in Belgium. The most recent estimates of impacts of PM on mortality, based on PM10 and PM2.5 monitoring data in 40 European countries, indicate that close to 500 000 deaths per year are accelerated due to exposure to ambient PM in those countries. According to the WHO Health Reports, air pollution at current levels in Nigeria cities is responsible for a significant burden of deaths, hospital admissions and exacerbation of symptoms, especially for cardiovascular disease. Because of the tremendous number of people affected, the impact of air pollution on cardiovascular disease represents a serious public health problem. Results from research studies have demonstrated a strong relationship between levels of airborne particles, sulfur dioxide and other fossil fuel emissions and risk of early death from heart disease. People with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, previous heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and high cholesterol have been shown to be especially vulnerable. The results of a long-term study on influence of common air pollutants on health of Nigeria residents showed that individuals living in the more polluted cities had a higher risk of hospitalization and early death from pulmonary and heart diseases as compared to those living in the less polluted cities. The study focused on the health effects of gaseous pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, which are produced mainly by coal-burning power plants and fine particle air pollution, particles with a diameter of less than 2.5μm that come from power plant emissions and motor vehicle exhaust. The relationship between air pollution and mortality was much stronger for the fine particle component than for the gaseous pollutants. Exposure to PM is associated with increased hospital admissions and mortality in adults. The risk increases linearly with the concentration of pollution and there is no evidence to suggest a threshold for PM below which no adverse health effects would occur. When inhaled, PM10 particles (with a diameter of less than 10μm) penetrate deep into the respiratory system. Finer particles (with a diameter of less than 2.5μm) then go on to penetrate the lungs and pass into the bloodstream and are carried into other body organs. Concerned that these particles cause a wide range of health impacts, WHO has developed guidelines addressing their risks. Knowledge about the links between health and air quality has significantly advanced in the last years. It was determined that short-term exposure to PM2.5 significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular and respiratory disease among people over 65 years of age. In the U.S. the National Morbidity, Mortality and Air Pollution Study indicated a 0.41% increase in total mortality in response to a 10-µg/m³ increase in PM10 in ambient air. The investigators linked PM2.5 data to hospital admissions for heart and vascular diseases, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections in an epidemiologic study of over 11.5 million Medicare participants. The study results predict that for each 100 hospital admissions for heart failure, one extra admission will occur for each 10 µm/m³ increase in PM. Long-term average exposure to PM is associated with both the risks of chronic effects on children’s health, such as impaired development of lung function, and the frequency of acute effects, such as the aggravation of asthma or incidence of respiratory symptoms. Children who live in neighborhoods with serious air pollution problems (emissions from the automobile traffic, heavy industry) have lower IQ and score worse memory tests than children from the cleaner environments. The respiratory and cardiovascular effects of air pollution are well documented; however the possible neurode generative effects of air pollution have been unexplored and require further intensive research. The research in the US showed that the more heavily exposed children were to black carbon, the lower their scores on several intelligence tests. For example, the average IQ of the most heavily exposed children was 3.4 points less than children with low exposure. When the findings were adjusted for the effects of parents’ education, birth weight, and exposure to tobacco smoke, the associations remained. The effects were roughly equivalent to those seen in children whose mothers smoked ten cigarettes per day while pregnant. The researchers assumed that the harmful effects may be caused by the inflammatory and oxidative effects of the black carbon particles. These findings suggest additional research is needed to investigate the effects of air pollution on the development of intelligence in children and on cognitive decline for people of all ages. Globally, the prevalence of asthma and allergies has increased over the last few decades. Asthma has become the commonest chronic disease in children and is one of the major causes of hospitalization for children aged less than 15 years. The increasing prevalence of allergic diseases in children throughout Europe is no longer restricted to specific seasons or environments. It has only become fully apparent in the last decade that air pollution, especially of fine particulates, plays a major role in cardiovascular disease. A half of deaths globally arise from cardiovascular disease. Even relatively small increases in the risk of cardiovascular disease will translate into huge numbers of additional people suffering more severely from the disease. There is now substantial evidence concerning the adverse effects of air pollution on pregnancy outcomes and infant death. Evidence reporting associations between maternal exposure to ambient air pollutants and adverse fetal development, in particular growth restriction, pre-term birth, and infant survival due to postnatal respiratory mortality has been growing rapidly in recent years. The association between maternal exposure to ambient air pollution and the risk of congenital anomalies, which are a significant cause of stillbirth and infant mortality, has been less well studied. New evidence is also accumulating on the burden of disease due to indoor air pollution. The air pollutants such as asbestos fibers and dioxins, resulting from waste disposal, have been associated with a multitude of health effects.

  • STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Current scientific evidence indicates that air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels causes a spectrum of health effects from allergy to death. Recent assessments suggest that the public health impacts may be considerable. Air pollution is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic health effects, the nature of which may vary depending on constituent of the pollutants as well as the group of the population. It is on this view the researcher want to investigate the implications of air pollution on human health.

  • OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

The main objective of this study is the implications of air pollution on human health. But for the successful completion of the study; the researcher intends to achieve the following sub-objectives;

  1. To assess the effect of air pollution on human health
  2. To assess the diseases cause by air pollution
  3. To ascertain the relationship between air pollution and human health
  4. To assess on how to control air pollution
    • RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;

H0there is an effect of air pollution on human health

H1there is no effect of air pollution on human health

H02: there is no significant relationship between air pollution and human health

H2there is a significant relationship between air pollution and human health

1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of benefit to the ministry of health. The study will help to know how to control air pollution. The study will also be of great benefit to the researchers who intends to embark on research on similar topics as it will serve as a guide. Finally, the study will be of great importance to academia’s, lecturers, teachers, students and the general public.

  • SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

The scope of the study covers the implications of air pollution on human health.  The researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study;

  1. a) AVAILABILITY OF RESEARCH MATERIAL: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
  2. b) TIME: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
  3. c) Organizational privacy: Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.
  • DEFINITION OF TERMS

IMPLICATION: Implication definition: The implications of something are the things that are likely to happen as a result.

AIR POLLUTION: Air pollution occurs when harmful substances including particulates and biological molecules are introduced into Earth’s atmosphere. It may cause diseases, allergies or death of humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural or built environment.

HUMAN HEALTH: Health is the level of functional and metabolic efficiency of a living organism. In humans it is the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage when facing physical, mental, psychological and social changes with environment.

 1.8 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.  Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF AIR POLLUTION ON HUMAN HEALTH