Dust storm: Impact of dust pollution on the lungs
People in north India are still reeling from the after effects of the dust storm that took the lives of over a hundred people. However, the problem is not limited to the storm, because medical experts warn that anyone who is exposed to high levels of dust will eventually face lung problems.
Dust comprises minute particles of various matter that are generated either from natural sources such as earth, coal etc., or from man-made sources such as from wood, granite, marble industry etc., or even microscopic bits of fibre and plastic. Dust can also be categorized as either organic or inorganic. The size of dust particles vary and affect the lungs in variable degrees. The larger size of dust trapped inside the nostrils can be easily cleared and hence considered less dangerous, whilst dust particles with smaller size can penetrate through the nostril and enter the lungs making it quite dangerous while breathing.
Apart from the size and the kind of dust particles, the quantity of dust particles present in the air and the time of exposure also determines the level of toxicity of a dust particle. Inhalation of small dust particles can cause many symptoms and disorders of the lungs and cardiovascular diseases. The most prominent are coughing, breathing problems, COPD, asthma attacks, and asbestosis. In long term, the dust particle may cause emphysema and various type of pneumoconiosis. The dust particles can also cause several other health-related issues which include allergy, eye irritation, sneezing, hay fever and others.
People working in dusty environment, especially in industries where the level of dust in the air is high, are mostly affected with asthma. Dust in lungs of infants, young children and older peoples are at the high risk for developing acute and chronic lung-related problems. In certain cases, it has also been found that continuous inhalation of dust can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases.