There are short term and long term risks associated with pollutants in the air. The short term risks of breathing polluted air include headache, eye irritations, inflamation of the respiratory tract and asthma related disorders. In the long term, air pollution can contribute to the development of cancer, emphysema, birth defects and behavioural problems in children.
Lead, once a major domestic pollutant as an ingredient in house paint, is now pumped into the air in vehicle exhaust or found in soil contaminated by industry. In children, high lead levels are thought to be responsible for a lowering of the intelligence quotient, loss of concentration and hyperactivity. Workers in certain industries run a high risk of lead poisoning. These include zinc miners, petroleum plant workers, car mechanics, sheet metal workers and those dealing with explosives. Lead poisoning results in nervous disorders and stomach and brain related illnesses. To avoid its effects, workers should wear appropriate protective clothing. Parents can have their children’s blood lead levels tested and may consider moving to an area of lower contamination if levels are high. Avoid walking, cycling or jogging in heavy traffic or wear a face mask.
Insecticides, fertilisers, bleaches and blooms of toxic algae affect many of our waterways and can seriously affect our health. Even within our reservoirs, the fluoride and chlorine added to the water to kill bacteria are themselves under a health cloud. Try to drink the purest water available to you and invest in a good water filter. Otherwise, always drink from the cold tap as hot water has sat still in a tank and in pipes and will contain more metals.
Chemicals are not the only pollutants of the atmosphere. Concern is mounting over the dangers of electromagnetic waves to human health, particularly to those living in the vicinity of high voltage power cables. The links between television and computer screen emissions and conditions such as cancer, nervous disorders and cataracts are being investigated. Sit at least 2.5 metres from a television screen and if possible, fit a shield to the screen of your computer.