Air Clean Up

Is Pollution Messing with Your Hormones?

Sep 18 2017 Comments 0

The effect of pollution on our bodies is becoming increasingly clear. It’s pretty well known that exposure to particular matter and harmful gases can contribute to a wide range of respiratory conditions. But how about your hormones? Recent research has revealed that the reach of air pollution goes beyond problems in your lungs.

Putting pollution to the test

A team of researchers in Shanghai have found a link between air pollution exposure and stress hormone levels. They gave air purifiers to a group of 55 healthy Shanghai students for their dorm rooms – but only half of the purifiers worked. The working purifiers cut students’ exposure by around 50%, while none working purifiers made no difference at all.

They kept them in their rooms for nine days, followed by a 12-day break period, after which the filters were switched over for a further nine days. Following the test period, researches took blood and urine samples, and measured levels of different hormones in the samples.

Hormonal imbalance

With non-working filters – and dirtier air as a result – the samples were found to have higher levels of the stress hormones cortisol, cortisone, epinephrine and norepinephrine. They also discovered higher levels of amino acids, fatty acids, lipids and blood sugar. That translated to higher blood pressure, more markers of molecular stress on body tissues and a poor response to insulin.

“Our result may indicate that particulate matter could affect the human body in more ways than we currently know,” explains Dr. Haidog Kan, a researcher on the project. “Thus, it is increasingly necessary for people to understand the importance of reducing their PM exposure.”

The particulate matter problem

While this particular study was focussed in Shanghai, there are several other cities with even worse levels of particulate matter. Beijing, for instance, is an even bigger problem for China. It’s levels of PM2.5 stand at over 50 micrograms per cubic metre, with 84 micrograms of PM10. That far exceeds the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of 10 and 20 micrograms respectively.

And in Europe, the World Health Organisation estimates an average of nearly 1 year is knocked off people’s lives by particulate matter alone. Problem cities like London are often in the headlines, but have recently taken steps to limiting emissions with a plan to ban diesel and petrol car sales from 2040. Some power plants around the world are also reducing their emissions using capture technology, to eliminate mercury discharges for example. However, based on the study’s findings, there is also a clear benefit to using air pollution filters to tackle pollution in the home.

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