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close this bookBasic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR))
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Pollution and long-term effects on the human body


Parts of the body affected by various pollutants

POLLUTION AND LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON THE HUMAN BODY

Many different kinds of pollutants affect the human body unknowingly because the chronic (months to years of exposure to the pollutants) are not dramatic compared to the acute (few seconds to days exposure) menaces. The more pronounced acute symptoms are diarrhea, eye and skin irritation, cough and sneezing. Often, by the time clinical symptoms (months to years of exposure to the pollutants) emerge, permanent damage has already been done. Pollutants may also affect the unborn child of a pregnant mother. The effects may appear as abortion, stillbirth and congenital birth defects.

Some pollutants, its long-term effects and the specific organs affected are presented below.

Pollutant

Sources

Organs Affected/Effects

Lead

Lead battery manufacture

Brain


Paint/Smelting industry

Impairment of learning and intelligence in school children


Ingestion of crayons containing lead pigment

Lead encephalopathy (damaged to brain tissue)


Chewing of toys with paint

Mental retardation


Leaded gasoline

Digestive system



Persistent abdominal pain



Kidney



Bloody urine



Bone



Damage to the formation of hemoglobin; joint pains; anemia



Death

Mercury

Gold extraction from mineral ores

Brain


Electrical contacts and vapor lamps

Tremor, loss of memory, lack of . confidence, vague fears and depression



Kidney



Bloody urine



Oral cavity



Gingivitis (infection of the gums)

Arsenic

Pesticides containing arsenic

Skin


Copper smelting

Chronic irritation of the skin



Digestive system



Persistent abdominal cramps, nausea



and vomiting (simple attack)



Eyes



Chronic irritation/permanent



impairment of vision

Irritant Gases/ Asphyxiants

Fumes from smoke-belching cars; emissions from

Heart

Sulfur dioxide

industries; cigarette smoke

Aggravation of cardiovascular illnesses

Hydrogen

Coal gas industry

Brain

Sulfide (H2S)

Gold extraction from mineral ores

Loss of consciousness; impairment of mental function

Ammonia

Fertilizer industry

Aggravation of respiratory diseases (asthma, pneumonia)

Nitrogen dioxide


Cancer

Carbon dioxide


Eyes

Carbon monoxide


Reduction of vision

Hydrogen cyanide


Coma/death

Cigarette smoke and



Dusts (vegetable animal)

Cotton fibers

Lungs


Coffee bean hull

Respiratory tract irritation (cough, sneezing) asthma, pneumonia


Rice hull



Sugarcane bagasse

Cancer


Animal feathers

Death

Pesticide

Manufacturing, packaging industry

Brain


Residues from food

Nervous disorder (paralysis); loss of consciousness


Pesticide from household use

Behavioral disorder (mental disorder)



Multi-organ



Cancer



Skin



Chronic allergy



Lungs/heart



Chest tightness/pain, chronic respiratory tract irritation

Ultraviolet radiation

Destruction of the ozone layer

Skin


Prolonged exposure to

Cancer of the skin


sunlight

Eyes



Eye impairment (e.g., cataract)

Cadmium

Anti-rust plating material

Lungs


As salts used as pigments and

Chronic pulmonary irritation


coloring agents for plastics,

Prostate


ceramics and glass

Cancer


In nuclear reactors as

Heart


absorbing material

Hypertension (High-blood pressure)



Bone



Itai-itai disease (softening of the bone associated with pain)



Kidney



Chronic kidney damage

Barium

Geothermal industry

Lungs


As a component of pesticide

Chronic irritation of the nose and throat


As pigments of white paints.

Pneumonia-like symptoms



Reproductive organs

.


Impaired female and male



reproductive functions.