We all know air pollution is bad for you. That’s a fact. But it can be hard to determine just how bad it really is. There have been many studies that link air pollution to harmful health effects. Recently, a strong link between diabetes and air pollution was found, even at air pollution levels that are lower than the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety limit.
Previous studies in animals have linked insulin resistance (a major component of type 2 diabetes) and inflammation (a trigger for insulin resistance) with exposure to air pollution particles. In another recent study, air pollution was linked to breast cancer development. Specifically, post-menopausal breast cancer was found to be highest in places that were most polluted and lower in places that were least polluted. No big surprise there.
While knowledge of the air pollution link to diabetes and breast cancer is relatively new, it has been known for a while that air pollution contributes to the development of asthma. In yet another recent air pollution-related story, it was found that air pollution exposure suppressed the immune system’s regulatory T cells. This suppression lowered lung capacity and worsened asthma symptoms. This is a hallmark study because of the difficulty of tracing negative health effects directly back to air pollution. Further, this study shows that air pollutants do not simply irritate the lungs, but interfere with the complex immune system and can have more far-reaching effects than asthma.
While it can be difficult to avoid the thousands of toxins we come into contact each day, there is something you can do to minimize their effect on your body. Maximizing our health by avoiding toxins when possible, eating well, and supporting the body’s detoxification process can help to minimize harmful effects of pollution.