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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Bugs And Air Pollution

It is the time of year for flu’, colds and other bugs to be about giving numbers of people respiratory problems. They will vary from unpleasant to serious and take time for recovery, sometimes longer and shorter.

We have known for many years, if not centuries, that air pollution is a complicating factor in many ways. This will depend on the length of time it has been experienced and the degree and nature of the pollution. Critically, it will often depend on the immediate and wider environment. Those of us who grew up in UK towns before the 1950’s will be well aware of how much some places were worse than others.

What the pollution does is to make many people more vulnerable and for anyone complicate the severity and length of time to recover from an infection or bug might cause. In other words this will be an effect that adds complexity.

In turn such an illness might lead to greater vulnerability in the future and in some cases the effect of the pollution during an illness may be a cause of other issues and problems.

Most medicine is not set up or equipped to deal with this kind of complexity. The air pollution is just part of the background to the illness. For some kinds you are told to avoid it. So, if you are a smoker or go to smoky places you are advised to stop. This may not be easy if your place of work is smoky.

Historically, it has taken humanity a long while to recognise that something in the air is a pollutant and to admit that some are more dangerous than others. Even with all the powers of modern science and ability to inform getting the message across is often difficult.

In the last couple of decades another major pollutant with the capacity to worsen or actively damage health has appeared. The danger of this one is that it is one of the products of modern science and heavily marketed as both desirable and an addition to well being and attractiveness.

These are the synthetic fragrances that are becoming every more powerful and extensive with theoretically unknown propensities. For those who are and know they are affected adversely they can be a real danger.

For those who are not aware and more or less the whole of the medical establishment in the UK there is a total lack of realisation of the part they can play in any epidemic or common illness. In the present flu’s epidemic there will be nothing learned about how they may affect or complicate the treatment or effects.

As I suggest this is all very recent, but then the plagues of the past have often arrived unheralded and humanity has been no wiser about them when they have receded.

But if air pollution of any extent is already a known factor why is not more attention not being paid to one of the strongest and most common forms of it at present?

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