Effects of atmospheric pollution on human health

Experientia. 1993 Sep 15;49(9):754-8. doi: 10.1007/BF01923544.


Most air pollutants do not lead to specific diseases. Depending on the pollutant, the concentration and the duration of exposure, some organs are more affected than others. The most frequent disorders are those caused by irritant gases and particulates on the mucous membranes and respiratory organs. The consequences are eye, nose and throat inflammations, diminished lung function, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection and a higher incidence of chronic bronchitis. These disorders and diseases are, of course, influenced by other factors as well, such as immune deficiency, allergies, occupational exposure to pollutants, and particularly smoking. The effects of air pollutants are, therefore, multifactorially conditioned and nonspecific disorders are placed in the foreground. Evidence for an association of air pollution with adverse effects on human health is drawn from three sources: animal experiments, experimental human exposures, and epidemiologic studies of exposed human populations. The burden of atmospheric pollution must be reduced to protect human health by an adequate safety margin. In particular, the increased sensitivity of sick and aged people as well as children should be taken into account. In defining the maximum emission levels, preventive aspects should have priority so as to keep the risk of damage to health and the harmful influences on the environment to a minimum.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced


  • Air Pollutants