Healthcare Technology Featured Article

March 13, 2024

Teenage Blood Pressure Rising Due to Pollution, Study Shows

Air pollution has become a significant public health issue globally, with about 99% of the world's population breathing poor-quality air. For years, high levels of air pollution have been associated with respiratory and cardiac illnesses among adults and children. However, recent studies have shown that elevated levels of air pollution can significantly affect teenagers' blood pressure.

A study by King's College London found that exposure to air pollution is linked to changes in blood pressure among teenagers. The study examined data from 3,284 teenagers in London aged between 11 and 16. The study's results showed that high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter were significantly associated with increases in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure among teenagers. 

How Does Air Pollution Affect Blood Pressure?

Air pollution is a mixture of tiny particles and gases, including nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and ozone. Inhalation of these pollutants can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, all of which can lead to changes in blood pressure.

Air pollution has also been shown to impair the function of the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, which plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure. This reduced function can decrease the bioavailability of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps blood vessels expand, causing an increase in blood pressure.

The study by King's College revealed that teenagers exposed to high levels of air pollution had higher rates of hypertension. High blood pressure in adolescence is risky as it can lead to hypertension in adulthood, a known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and strokes. There is also evidence that hypertension and endothelial dysfunction can contribute to cognitive decline in later life, further emphasising the need to address this issue.

Teenagers from ethnic minority groups in the UK are exposed to higher levels of pollution at home compared to their white peers, according to research findings. However, the impact of pollutants on blood pressure remains consistent across all ethnicities, regardless of weight or economic status.

It is important to note that teenagers are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution than adults due to their rapid growth and development and increased breathing rates. Exposure to poor air quality during adolescence can have long-term health implications for their futures.

Sources of Pollution

Diesel emissions are a major source of air pollution in urban areas. Diesel engines are used in various vehicles, including buses, trucks, and cars. It’s no secret that the effects of diesel emissions on the environment also play a prominent part in public health. Other sources of air pollution include industry, power plants, and residential heating and cooking. The most polluted areas in London are often concentrated around major roads with high traffic volume.

The aftermath of Dieselgate, the Volkswagen emissions scandal, continues to have consequences for public health. In 2015, it was revealed that Volkswagen allegedly installed software in millions of diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. The cars appeared to be much cleaner than they were, emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides. This alleged deception has contributed to high levels of air pollution in many cities worldwide.

Dieselgate has exposed the flaws in emissions testing and the need for tighter regulation of vehicle emissions. The scandal has also led to a shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles, which produce much lower levels of pollutants. However, the transition to cleaner transport may take years; in the meantime, thousands of people continue to be exposed to harmful levels of air pollution. To this day, scandals around well-known car manufacturers are being reported in the news. Vauxhall's involvement in the diesel emission scandal revealed that it had one of the worst results, with its Corsa and Insignia models exceeding test limits up to 10 times.

What Can Be Done?

Reducing air pollution is crucial to protecting teenagers' health and wellbeing. The problem of pollution does not have an easy fix. Government, businesses, and individuals all have a part to play in reducing environmental pollution levels. One way to combat air pollution is to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Individuals can save electricity, use public transport, and cycle or walk when possible, instead of using private vehicles. Governments can encourage using cleaner energy sources, offer subsidies for electric cars, and invest in public transport. Schools can also implement measures such as air purification systems to reduce particulate matter and other pollutants in the classroom.

Businesses that generate emissions can take steps to reduce their impact. They can switch to cleaner technologies and reduce waste. Diesel and petrol car owners can also educate themselves about diesel claims and the benefits of filing one by visiting Educational campaigns and promoting public awareness can help individuals take small steps to reduce pollution, like reducing energy consumption, recycling, and personal vehicle usage. 


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