Two things you might not think are connected, air pollution and eye health. We have brought this topic up before but wanted to reiterate how the planet’s climate and pollution can affect your eye health. There is important information we want to make you aware of so you can make small changes in your day to day lives to protect yourself.
Our world is constantly changing, and the affects of pollution are not only making the planet deteriorate. Our bodies including our eye’s are exposed to new and worse pollutants as time goes on.
Climate change has caused an increase in natural disasters over the last 40 years all around the world. This increase is starting to cause concern for eye health as air pollution levels continue to rise.
Some statistics from NASA:
- Most of the Earth’s warming has happened in the last 40 years
- The 6 warmest years on record have been since 2014
- 2016 was the warmest year on record
With these warmer years, we are seeing shorter winters and longer fall and spring seasons. With this in mind, the two biggest eye health threats are air pollution and longer allergy seasons.
Danger to Eye Health
There are a few main issues that are directly related to climate change that are causing the most harm to our eyes.
Air pollution can lead to a higher risk of age related macular degeneration, dry eye and conjunctivitis (pink eye). There was a study done in Taiwan in 2019 that showed there is a 91% greater risk of developing Age Related Macular Degeneration for those who had been exposed to the highest level of vehicle emissions compared to those who had be exposed to the lowest amount.
Air pollution can also cause immeidate threats. Recently there was a large wildfire in Canada and its smoke and ash polluted the air all the way down the east coast of the United States. These types of air pollutants can blow ash into your eyes causing scratches and discomfort to your eye, as well as cause dry eye symptoms which if not treated can cause other disorders.
Climate change is changing weather patterns that we have grown accustom to. As these weather patterns change so does our environment around us. With a warmer climate world wide, season length is starting to change. Longer spring means longer allergy season for some as well as more pollen being released into the air than in previous years.
With the symptoms of allergies being somewhat misdiagnosed in some cases this can cause issues for people trying to get relief. There is also the issue of the overuse of antihistamines for allergy systems. When used for too long they can cause dry eye and more discomfort.
Higher UV Rays
Climate change is causing our ozone layer to deteriorate which is leading to higher UV ray exposure when outside. UV radiation coming from the sun can cause eye issues such as:
- Snow Blindness
- Eye Sunburn
There was a global agreement in 1987 that banned ozone depleting chemicals being used, but the damage that was done up until that point has not healed completely.
How to Combat Pollution Related Eye Issues
Everyone can make a difference, even if it feels like you are starting small. It will take all of us to slow down the process of climate change and start to restore our planet to its former glory.
- There are many ways you can start contributing to air pollution clean up:
- Recycle any recyclable materials
- Car pool or use alternative transportation like Bikes
- Plant Trees
- Shut off lights in rooms you are not in
- Use electric yard tools
- Don’t burn waste
In regards to keeping your eyes safe, always wear a quality pair of sunglasses while outside or exposed to the sun. Avoid being outside in high air pollution areas. Most importantly, regularly see your eye doctor to make sure your eyes are in tip top shape.