Contamination: Check for damage caused to the respiratory system
DAMAGE TO THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Long-term effects of air pollution include serious diseases such as cancer. Highly polluted urban air slowly transforms our healthy and pink lung tissues into darkened particles of smog, dust and other pollutants, making the lungs more vulnerable to infections. The highly sensitive respiratory system can be damaged in various ways.
Environmental Pollution: One of the powerful hazards is environmental pollution. Ambient smog contains many chemicals. Many of these chemicals are depleted by vehicles and industry. Moreover, several household cleaning products also release such poisonous gases.
Cigarette smoke: This is another hazardous emission. Passive smokers are most affected. Burning ashtrays pose a serious threat to our respiratory system. Tobacco smoke contains over 40 chemicals, including the dangerous tar. Most of them are known causes of cancer. Approximately 90 percent of lung cancer cases among men and more than 70 percent among women are related to smoking.
Besides tar, several other chemicals enter our lungs from a burning cigarette. The tar from a single cigarette temporarily immobilizes the cilia of the upper and lower airways. Tar also temporarily paralyzes macrophages in lung alveoli. When the cleaning and filtering functions are disabled, the lungs and air passages are exposed to the various particles, viruses and bacteria that spread in the air, except of course the tar.
These substances are deposited in the mucous layers of the lungs. Paralyzed cilia take almost an hour to regenerate. But the repeated paralysis from the heated tar eventually kills them. Mucus accumulates as a result of repeated smoking. Accumulated mucus blocks the smaller airways. Clogging unlocks “smoker’s cough”. That familiar reflex cough is the affected lung’s effort to clear the airways.
Indoor air pollution: This is one of the most dangerous but often overlooked hazards. Offices and homes are primarily bases of indoor air pollution. In addition to furniture and synthetic carpets, many cleaning compounds, some building materials, and even air fresheners emit dangerous gases. They remain highly concentrated in unventilated or air-conditioned rooms. The most vulnerable groups of people exposed to these respiratory hazards are children, the elderly and those with a history of respiratory disease. These people usually spend most of their time between the four walls. Indoor air pollutants not only weaken our lungs, but also cause infections.
Occupational risks: Many professionals are daily exposed to pollution emitted by their activities. These workers are at high risk of suffering from respiratory diseases. Mention may be made of people picking cotton, working in farms or shipyards, mechanics installing brake linings or linings. Other people who suffer from such risks are miners, construction workers, quarry workers, stone cutters and sandblasters, among others.
GOVERNMENTAL AND NGO POLLUTION MONITORING
All governments have their own independent agencies to monitor pollution levels. There are also non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that carry out this activity. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in the US, for example, issues regulations to protect workers. It made it mandatory to wear air masks with filters for certain jobs. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) monitors and regulates pollutants released into the air by various organizations and industries. Despite these efforts, various types of respiratory diseases are on the rise worldwide.
DISORDERS AND DISEASES OF THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Any part of the respiratory tract can be affected by disorders and diseases of the respiratory system. Although common diseases of the respiratory system are trivial, they can sometimes be life-threatening.
Common cold, runny nose and stuffy nose: Viruses cause colds by targeting the pharynx and nasal passages. First, viruses enter the body through the respiratory system. They are then directed to the cells in the membranes of the nasal passage. But before they can destroy the cells, the body’s immune system strikes back. The immune system increases blood flow to the area. Such reinforcement of white blood cells leads to swelling of the membranes. This causes a stuffy nose. An increase in mucous secretions to neutralize the viral attack leads to a runny nose. It should be mentioned that the infection can affect the sinuses – membrane-lined cavities located in the head, in addition to the middle ear and the lower respiratory tract.
Hay fever and asthma: These are allergic reactions of the respiratory system. These conditions are caused when the immune system is irritated by irritants such as dust or pollen. Symptoms of hay fever are sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. This is a seasonal response when there is an abundance of pollen in the air. Asthma attacks are usually mild. But they can also be life-threatening. A person suffering from asthma experiences difficulty in breathing. This happens when the bronchi and bronchioles become inflamed and become temporarily constricted.
Laryngitis: Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx. Laryngitis is caused by various factors. These can be as different as excessive use of the voice, cigarette smoke or a viral infection. Laryngitis leaves different effects on the voice. By the time the inflammation subsides, it may either become hoarse or reduced to a whisper.
Bronchitis: Bronchitis refers to inflammation of the membrane. The membranes covering the bronchioles or bronchi become inflamed. Bronchitis occurs due to a bacterial or viral infection. Bronchitis can also be caused by irritating chemicals.
Pneumonia: This infection of the alveoli is caused by viruses or bacteria. Pneumonia is a potentially serious lung condition. In pneumonia, the alveoli become inflamed after fluid builds up. This fluid collection and subsequent inflammation interferes with the flow of carbon dioxide and oxygen between the alveoli and capillaries.
Tuberculosis: Also known as tuberculosis, it is caused by the tuberculosis bacterium. The lungs are primarily attacked in tuberculosis. Other body tissues are sometimes affected. If left untreated, a lung infection can even destroy lung tissue. Earlier, tuberculosis was controlled with antibiotics. However, the bacterium has developed an antibiotic-resistant strain that poses a serious health problem.
Emphysema: This non-infectious disease affects the alveolar tissue, which is partially destroyed. The remaining alveoli enlarge and weaken. During exhalation, the bronchioles contract. As a result, air remains trapped in the alveoli. In the long term, emphysema affects the patient’s ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The circulatory system is also dysfunctional. This causes breathing problems. Emphysema can occur due to genetic factors in addition to infection, smoke, smog and cigarettes.
Lung cancer: The main cancer-causing agents are uranium, asbestos and tobacco smoke. Genetic causes can also cause cancer. Respiratory cancerous tumors form in lung tissue (alveolar), bronchioles or bronchi. Early detection of such tumors can stop their progression to other parts of the body. Then the treatment is more effective and the prognosis for recovery is quite good. Unfortunately, 85 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed at a later stage, when the tumors have already spread. In such extreme cases, the prognosis is poor.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Also called RDS. Dysfunction refers to a group of symptoms. All point to severe lung failure.
IRDS: Premature babies can suffer from Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS). IRDS occurs when the alveoli fail to fully expand during inhalation. The dilation of the alveoli requires a chemical called a surfactant. However, among premature infants, the underdeveloped alveoli fail to produce enough surfactant. The usual treatment for IRDS is administration of air and surfactant through a breathing tube. This application allows the alveoli to produce surfactant.
ARDS: Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) occurs when the lungs are severely injured. Many car accidents, poisonous gases or inflammation of the lungs can cause such dysfunction. Patients with ARDS usually have to fight for life with a 50 percent survival rate.
ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT OF RESPIRATORY DISEASES
Many traditional and alternative health systems such as yoga, ayurveda, unani and homeopathy have different remedies for different types of respiratory ailments. Yoga has simple breathing exercises called “Pranayam” that have proven results. The other alternative health systems like Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy also have viable strategies for effective treatment of respiratory diseases.
However, before resorting to any of them, you should consult with experts on these systems. Obviously, some of the bad habits like smoking and drinking alcohol have to be given up in order to get optimal results. This is true for any treatment.
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