Air pollution is a familiar environmental health hazard. We know what we’re looking at when brown haze settles over a city, exhaust billows across a busy highway, or a plume rises from a smokestack. Some air pollution is not seen, but its pungent smell alerts you.
When the National Ambient Air Quality Standards were established in 1970, air pollution was regarded primarily as a threat to respiratory health. Over the next decades as air pollution research advanced, public health concern broadened to include cardiovascular disease; diabetes mellitus; obesity; and reproductive, neurological, and immune system disorders.
Air pollution exposure is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells, which may lay a foundation for chronic diseases and cancer. In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified air pollution as a human carcinogen.