Immunity And Pollution: The Connection Uncovered

Think your immunity is strong enough? Think again. In today’s age, when pollution levels have reached new heights, the immune system is also getting affected and the consequences can be alarming.

By Ashwin Dewan  • 9 min read

Immunity And Pollution: The Connection Uncovered

Aakash Malhotra, an IT professional, lives in Mumbai with his wife and six-year-old son Ritwick. To ensure his son stays healthy, Aakash makes sure Ritwick consumes health drinks and vitamin tablets on a regular basis. One day, Ritwick starts coughing continuously and falls ill. A visit to the doctor confirms the illness as lung infection. Upon conducting further tests, air pollution was revealed to be the main culprit.

Ritwick is not alone. Every day, your immune system is exposed to pollution in different forms – air, water, light, noise, etc. Each form comes with its own dangers.

Water bodies like rivers and lakes are getting polluted daily due to dumping of large quantities of industrial waste. Each day, more vehicles are being added to the streets, which only increases noise and air pollution.

Airpocalypse , a Greenpeace India report published in 2017, stated as many as 1.2 million deaths take place every year due to air pollution in India.

How pollution affects immunity:

1) Air pollution:

One of the most potent sources of pollution is the air because one is exposed to it every single day. In fact, air is the most polluted environmental resource. Air pollution is caused by several factors: exhaust gases from vehicles, gases from industries like sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, burning of plastic, wood and rubber, etc.

Air pollution can drastically reduce air quality by making it unclean and contaminated. Long-term exposure to air pollution can affect the respiratory and inflammatory systems of the human body.

Air pollution can weaken the immunity of the human body resulting in respiratory and lung diseases including asthma caused by inhalation of poisonous gases and constant suffocation due to polluted air. Air pollution can lead to bronchitis, which is the inflammation and swelling of the air passage between nose to lungs and the throat to lungs. It can also cause birth and immune system defects, weakening of lung function due to repeated inhalation of contaminated air.

Smoke emitted through cigarettes is another form of air pollution that harms not only the one smoking but also those around.

2) Water pollution:

Water pollution is the contamination of various water bodies such as the sea, lakes, rivers, ponds, etc. Water pollution is caused by waste from industries, insecticides, pesticides, and chemicals; and oil spills caused by spillage from tankers and rigs.

Polluted water can weaken the immune system considerably and lead to many waterborne diseases like typhoid caused due to the intake of water with harmful bacteria, diarrhea, vomiting due to the failure of the digestive system to process consumed food and kidney damage due to the presence of harmful chemicals in the polluted water.

Go through the below article to look at 8 habits that can weaken your child's immunity.

3) Soil pollution:

Did you know that soil pollution can also have an impact on the immunity of an individual? Excess use of pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and other similar chemicals that are used on a large-scale absorb nitrogen from the soil making it extremely unfit for the growth of plants.

When you consume fruits and vegetables grown on this soil, these chemicals make their way into your body and attack your immune system, weakening it considerably.

Soil pollution can lead to certain diseases like cancer caused due to direct exposure of the human body to soil that contains harmful chemicals, brain and nerve damage due to consumption of food grown in soil contaminated by lead, and kidney and liver disease which is also an outcome of polluted soil that has various infectious chemicals.

Day and night, your children are breathing in toxins, both outside and inside your home. Harmful substances in the air such as car exhaust, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen, smoke from cigarettes affect breathing and harm your child’s health. Go through this ClipBook to know the ways of protecting your child from air pollution.

4) Noise pollution:

Noise pollution occurs when we experience discomfort because of an elevated level of noise. The industrial sound limit according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is 75 decibels (dB). Every day, people are exposed to noise pollution in many forms – honking of vehicles, trains, a public gathering, loud music being played, heavy machinery operating, etc. Noise pollution leads to stress and can damage the ear drums leading to deafness. It can increase blood pressure levels when one is constantly subject to a loud and noisy atmosphere.

Importance of a strong immune system:

A strong immune system protects an individual against many diseases and illnesses. It plays a major role in maintaining proper health and is an integral part of the body. It comprises of special cells, proteins, tissues that work to defend the body against germs and other microorganisms along with white blood cells that destroy disease-causing organisms and substances. When foreign substances are detected, several types of cells work in tandem to recognise these substances and respond appropriately.

How to build a strong immune system:

Just like every other part of your body requires proper care and a nutritious diet to function properly, your immune system also requires care and maintenance. You can build a strong immune system by:

  • Avoiding sugar and junk foods
  • Including more fish in your diet
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Sleeping and resting well
  • Getting sunlight on a regular basis
  • Avoiding alcohol and cigarette

Measures to protect one’s immunity against pollution:

There is no proven method to protect one's immunity against pollution. However, one can always adopt certain measures such as choosing to wear a proper anti-pollution mask, eating a diet rich in nutrients, having air purifying plants at home, using a good quality water filter, etc.

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