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Respiratory Hazards and Your Health

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

By The Environmental Health Project

How do respiratory hazards affect us?

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental risks to health, often resulting in premature death. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), respiratory hazards that threaten our health can exist in various forms, such as gases, vapors, dusts, mists, fumes, smoke, sprays, and fog. When inhaled, these chemicals can bypass our body’s protective mechanisms, enter the deep lung, and cross into our circulatory system, exerting their effects along the way. Some hazards, like carbon monoxide, are short-acting, which means they work quickly and can detrimentally affect one’s health within minutes. Others, like formaldehyde, are long-acting and have been shown to cause long-term health impacts, such as cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. For a full list of chemical carcinogens, visit the National Cancer Institute or explore PubMed.

What are the most common air pollutants?

Some of the most commonly known air pollutants as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are particulate matter (often referred to as “particle pollution” or “PM”), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can harm human health and the environment, and all of these are released or formed during shale gas development processes.

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