By Jason Croxford

Consider this: breathing polluted air is responsible for killing 7 million people a year.

You might not be able to see it or smell it all times, but air pollution is all around us, and it’s slowly wreaking havoc on our health. It’s sapping our energy, killing our vitality, and causing a health-related fallout that’s literally killing us. Consider this: breathing polluted air is responsible for killing 7 million people a year. And according to the World Health Organization, air pollution is now a public health emergency, partly because it’s now a bigger killer than tobacco smoking. We’ll let that sink in for a minute before we continue.

Ok, ready?

The bad news: air quality probably isn’t going to get any better – at least not for the time being. The world’s population isn’t getting any smaller or less industrialized. But the good news is that by being aware of where air pollution comes from and how it affects your body can help you minimize its impact. So let’s get started.

Where Does Pollution Come From?

Think you’re only inhaling pollutants when you’re on the road? Think again. Gas fumes are bad, but they’re not the only source. In fact, pollution can come in gas, liquid, or solids. And sometimes from inside our homes in the form of carbon monoxide, building materials like asbestos, outdoor allergens from cockroach and mouse droppings, tobacco smoke, or mold and pollen. Outdoor sources like fossil fuels (all that car exhaust) and chemical vapors are also incredibly toxic for the body.

We don’t just breathe pollutants, either. They can enter our bodies through the skin, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth where they can damage our lungs, heart, and brain. Think of pollutants like molecule-sized weapons. And then avoid them wherever possible.

How Pollution Affects Your Body

See what the World Health Organization is saying about pollution–and just how bad it is for your body.

How Does Pollution Harm Your Body?

Once dirty air slips past your defenses, it begins to take a toll on your organs, beginning with your lungs, heart, and brain. The body’s initial response to pollution is inflammation as it treats dirty air like it would a foreign bacteria. By attacking it, the body releases enzymes and acids that spread through the body. The more we’re exposed to dirty air, the more inflammation builds up, the more our arteries shrink, and the worse things become. Eventually, all that bad air can lead to heart attacks.

Research also shows that pollution negatively affects the liver as our bodies try to detoxify the pollutants entering our bloodstream. New cases of irritable bowel syndrome as well as some bladder and gut cancers are linked to pollution.

Unfortunately, the damage doesn’t stop there. Pollution’s far-reaching grasp might be negatively impacting every organ in our body down to the cellular level. This even includes reducing fertility in both men and women while increasing the likelihood of miscarriages among women. From low birth weights to more severe outcomes that stunt their development, pollution can have a particularly devastating impact on little children.

All of the symptoms we’ve been discussing are far more prevalent in larger industrial areas, and studies have shown that when people move to cleaner regions where air pollution levels decrease, health improves.

So What Can You Do?

We wouldn’t blame you for thinking this article is all doom and gloom. But the more we know, the better. And when it comes to pollution, knowledge is power. Start by analyzing how dirty the air is where you live. Breathelife has put together an amazing online tool to help. Just click here to see how bad the pollution is in your city.

Next, fortify your home against pollution. Here are a few ideas that can help.

1. Keep your home clean.

This might go without saying, but a clean home is a healthier home.

2. Change your filters.

Your filters work hard behind the scenes to clean dust and airborne particles from the air you breathe. Changing them regularly can go a long way.

3. Buy an air purifier.

Air purifiers actually work, especially if you have pets.

4. Open some windows.

Fresh air (as long as you don’t live on a city interstate) is great for detoxifying the pollutants in your home. Open your windows and let some of it in every day.

By mitigating some of your exposure to dirty air, you’ll decrease the damage it can have on your body. Remember, don’t take pollution lightly. Those molecules might be microscopic, but they can cause some big-time damage.