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Air Pollution as a Health Risk Factor: Policy Proposal

Introduction

Climate change is a serious issue that affects people around the globe. Although it is primarily discussed due to its adverse impact on the environment, its effect on public and individual health is also significant. Severe changes in typical weather conditions and different pollution types can lead to numerous health problems in people living in that area. This paper will discuss air pollution as one of the most critical health risk factors. It will also provide suggestions for addressing the issue and discuss the possible impact on the healthcare system.

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Air Pollution

Air pollution can severely impact public and individual health and put an additional strain on the healthcare delivery system. It can be defined as the long-term presence of large quantities of pollutants in the air (Manisalidis et al., 2020). According to the U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation (2019), air pollution shows an overall decreasing trend. However, some areas in the country are still significantly affected by it. California is the unhealthiest state, with average exposure to particulate matter of 12.8 micrograms per cubic meter (America’s Health Rankings, 2020). People living in urban areas, children, older adults, and adults suffering from pre-existing conditions are more susceptible to pollution (America’s Health Rankings, 2020). Additionally, racial and ethnic minorities are exposed to higher air pollution levels in larger cities (America’s Health Rankings, 2020). Overall, vulnerable populations within urban areas are disproportionately affected by the discussed type of pollution.

Exposure to polluted air can lead to numerous health problems and exacerbate the existing ones. According to the World Health Organization (2020), approximately four million people die due to continued exposure to contaminated air. Manisalidis et al. (2020) state that particulate matter can enter the body through inhalation and lead to lung and heart diseases and dysfunction of the reproductive and central nervous systems. The air with abnormal quantities of carbon monoxide or lead can result in poisoning in humans and animals (Manisalidis et al., 2020). Meanwhile, prolonged exposure to dioxins can impair immune, nervous, and endocrine systems and cause developmental problems in children (Manisalidis et al., 2020). Thus, air pollution should be viewed as a significant health risk factor, particularly for people living in urban areas.

This paper’s problem statement is as follows: air pollution is a factor in developing respiratory and heart diseases and various types of cancer. Failure to impose new policies to curb the increase of pollution can lead to a rise in the number of pollution-related premature deaths and a more significant burden on the country’s healthcare system. Thus, it is imperative to develop sustainable policies for the improvement of air quality.

Proposed Policy Changes

Several policy changes can be used to reduce pollution in urban areas. The first policy should address and promote the implementation of federal fuel efficiency standards. According to Payne-Sturges et al. (2019), the introduction of fuel standards can result in the reduction of emissions and the improvement of fuel economy. There are several stakeholders in this policy, including the Environmental Protection Agency that proposed the policy, vehicle manufacturers, fuel production companies, and the country’s healthcare system, among many. This policy should be initiated and promoted by the federal and state governments to ensure compliance from all the stakeholders. However, as emissions from vehicles are not the singular cause of air pollution, this policy should be implemented alongside others to decrease pollutants in the air efficiently.

Reduction of air pollution can be effectively achieved by increasing the number of forested zones in urban areas. Trees naturally remove air pollution by absorbing pollutants through the leaves (Parsa et al., 2019). By assuring that areas disproportionately affected by air pollution are planted with trees, the percentage of pollutants in the air can be decreased significantly. The policy can be initiated at local levels, with the citizens of that area and local healthcare facilities being the main stakeholders. Funding for the plantation of forested zones can also be achieved locally.

Potential Impact on the Healthcare Delivery System

Implementing the proposed policy changes discussed above will have a meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system. Cleaner air will contribute to fewer people living in urban areas developing respiratory, cardiovascular, and other conditions caused by air pollution. As fewer people will seek medical help, the healthcare delivery system will benefit financially. It can be argued that medical staff will have more time to dedicate to patients as overcrowding is likely to cease. Furthermore, healthcare facilities can avoid understaffing and the adverse effects it can have on the patients if their number decreases. The quality of care patients receive is likely to improve if the medical staff is not overworked and has enough time to spend on each patient. Overall, the employment of proposed policy changes will mitigate air pollution’s effects on public and individual health and decrease premature pollution-related deaths.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, air pollution can have a severe impact on the health of individuals and the public in general. Prolonged exposure to polluted air can result in numerous health conditions, including cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Introducing fuel standards and creating forested zones can positively affect air pollution in heavily affected urban areas. If implemented, these policies can lead to fewer people developing pollution-related health conditions, unburdening the healthcare system, and improving care quality.

References

America’s Health Rankings. (2020). Air Pollution. Web.

Manisalidis, I., Stavropoulou, E., Stavropoulos, A., & Bezirtzoglou, E. (2020). Environmental and health impacts of air pollution: A review. Frontiers in Public Health, 8(1), 1-13. Web.

Parsa, V. A., Salehi, E., Yavari, A. R., & van Bodegom, P. M. (2019). Analyzing temporal changes in urban forest structure and the effect on air quality improvement. Sustainable Cities and Society, 48, 1-13. Web.

Payne-Sturges, D. C., Marty, M. A., Perera, F., Miller, M. D., Swanson, M., Ellickson, K., … Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2019). Healthy air, healthy brains: Advancing air pollution policy to protect children’s health. American Journal of Public Health, 109(4), 550-554. Web.

U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation. (2019). Air Quality Trends Show Clean Air Progress. Web.

World Health Organization. (2020). Ambient Air Pollution: Health Impacts. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, March 3). Air Pollution as a Health Risk Factor: Policy Proposal. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/air-pollution-as-a-health-risk-factor-policy-proposal/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, March 3). Air Pollution as a Health Risk Factor: Policy Proposal. https://studycorgi.com/air-pollution-as-a-health-risk-factor-policy-proposal/

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StudyCorgi. "Air Pollution as a Health Risk Factor: Policy Proposal." March 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/air-pollution-as-a-health-risk-factor-policy-proposal/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Air Pollution as a Health Risk Factor: Policy Proposal." March 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/air-pollution-as-a-health-risk-factor-policy-proposal/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Air Pollution as a Health Risk Factor: Policy Proposal'. 3 March.

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