Certain Air Pollutants Can Cause Diseases That Smoking Does

Armen Hareyan's picture
No pollutants in mountain fresh air

Scientists have discovered air pollutants that cause diseases that cigarette smoking does. The pollutants can cause lung damage and even lung cancer. If confirmed, the thesis will explain why non-smokers contract disease very typical for smokers.

It was previously known that there many disease-causing free radicals in the atmosphere, but the known radicals live no longer than a second. To inhale these radicals and to have health damaged one needs to be right in the middle of the road when a car is passing by.

However, the newly found pollutants - named persistent free radicals (PFRs) - can live much longer and cause life threatening diseases. The particles are discovered by researchers from the Louisiana State University. They are explained to come out of 'smokestacks, car exhaust pipes and household chimneys'. The radicals gather air pollutants on their way out and are able to stay in the atmosphere for a long period of time. The pollutants containing copper and iron are more resistant and can travel a long distance.


Once inhaled, the radicals start damaging organ tissues and causing diseases like lung cancer, asthma, emphysema. It is known that cigarette-associated diseases also depend on genetic background, but these PFRs add an extra risk to non-smokers, who actually do not smoke, but there is no way they could escape from pollution.

Researchers report, that the radicals are very similar to pollutants coming from cigarette smoke, but they are much stronger. For example, one needs to smoke 300 cigarettes a day to have the similar effect of breathing in polluted air.

H. Barry Dellinger, the Patrick F. Taylor Chair of environmental chemistry at Louisiana State University, said: "The implication is you can have the same environmentally related diseases by exposure to airborne fine particles that you can get from cigarettes."

More research needs to be conducted to understand the nature of air pollutants and to find ways of fighting them, but one thing is clear that we need clear environment to be healthy. Not only bad habits like smoking can damage health - if one chooses healthy lifestyle he or she can still contract numerous diseases, because the air he breathes is not clean enough. This can probably explain why people in mountainous villages liver longer and healthier life.