Pollutants and their Impact on Eyes

In a world where technology overbears the response of life, pollutants play a major part in degrading the quality of life. Pollutants are present everywhere in nature. They are both inside and outside our homes and our human bodies. Their impact on human health is worrying as they adversely affect the functioning of critical organs in the human body. More recently, a lot of diseases have been discovered by medical science which hampers human health to a great extent. Some of the major health problems even stagnant growth and degrading the quality of life for individuals. These are so harmful that they lead to serious illnesses like lung disease, nerve damage, gastrointestinal infections, blindness, etc.


What are Pollutants?

To fully understand how pollutants affect our body, we must learn what are pollutants. Pollutants are contaminants that are artificially introduced into the natural environment beyond permitted levels and cause adverse effects to the inhabitants. As per the World Health Organisation, the harmful effects due to various pollutants include nerve damage, birth defects, cancer, brain and kidney damage, respiratory damage, bronchitis, lung disease, hearing loss, color blindness, etc.

Now let's briefly understand what are pollutants and how do they affect our environment,

  1. Pollutants in the air mostly from vehicular combustion cause Asthama, eye infections, and skin allergies.
  2. Rising global temperatures and Carbon dioxide level causes skin cancer and affects plant pollination potential.
  3. Indoor Air Pollution in the form of toxins is the cause of various nervous disorders and brain damage.
  4. Various microbial, organic, and inorganic pollutants seeping their way into the water framework.
  5. Inorganic chemical waste, landfills, and pesticides often contribute to toxins being released onto the soil which damages plant growth.

Impact of Pollutants on Eyes

Studies suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution can erode our eye health and blur our vision. Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai, where vehicular pollution is large, are more likely to face the consequences of air pollution. Pollutants in the air can cause dry eye syndrome, blurred visions, watering, and burning sensations. Air pollution also has a direct and irreversible effect on our lungs causing diseases like respiratory damage, bronchitis, and lung disease.

Some of the symptoms that are related to eye problems due to pollutants include:

  • Burning and redness observed after exposure to pollutants
  • Watering and constant Irritation
  • Itching and swelling of eyes
  • Discharge of fluid or pus noticed after exposure
  • Visual difficulties like blurred or impaired vision

If you happen to notice any of the above symptoms after probable exposure to pollutants, you might consider checking up with your eye doctor. The effect and intensity of the infection can develop over time and often be irreversible, hence is it advisable to get a doctor's opinion at an early stage.


Major Pollutants in Air and their Sources

We must understand what the major pollutants in the air are and what are their sources of generation. Only then, we will be able to get to the root of the problem and solve it. However, it is realistically impossible to remove all pollutants from the air but we can avoid them and shield our eyes from them in our daily lives.

  1. Ozone: In the lower level of the atmosphere, ozone is formed when nitrogen oxide mixes with volatile organic substances in the air. Nitrogen Oxides mainly come from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. Ozone is extremely detrimental to the health of plants and crops. It is even more severe in humans causing problems like asthma, cough, sore throat, and difficulty in breathing.
  2. Greenhouse Gases: Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide form the major greenhouse gases. They are mainly released from the burning of fossil fuels, vehicular pollution, and industrial releases. These are called greenhouse gases because they trap the heat from sunlight thus increasing the overall temperature of the earth while contributing to global warming. Global warming is a cause of worry among environmentalists lately as increasing temperatures lead to the melting of the glaciers.


  1. Carbon Monoxide: Vehicular emissions are the main reason behind the rising CO levels in the atmosphere. Furnaces, chimneys, and heaters in homes can also release carbon monoxide if they are not maintained properly. This gas is deadly when it comes to contact with humans. It stops the oxygen flow in the blood making people dizzy, tired, and sometimes fatal when exposed to high concentration.
  2. Particulate Matter: This is any solid or liquid matter particles that are suspended in the air. The main sources of PM particles come from construction sites, road dust, fuel burned in power plants, etc. These are also fatal and cause lung diseases, respiratory problems, asthma, and frequent deaths.


  1. Lead and Sulphur Dioxide: SO2 is a corrosive gas that smells of rotten eggs. It is one of the main reasons for blurry visions as it erodes the ocular layer. Another harmful pollutant in the atmosphere is lead. It usually comes from industrial sources and power plants but is also present in paints. Peeling paints in water pipes can be a source of lead in drinking water. Major health problems related to lead are kidney problems, lower IQ, heart attacks, and stroke.


Prevent Eyes from Air Pollutants


  1. Shield Your Eyes: Especially on the days when the AQI(Air Quality Index) level is more than recommended, it is important to use sunglasses, a lens, etc to shield your eyes. These act as a hindrance and do not let particulate matter, dirt, and debris enter your eyes.
  2. Coldwater wash: Always use water at normal temperature or slightly cold to wash your eyes in case of irritation, itching, etc. To further stay away from infections use eyedrops suggested by your doctor.
  3. Consume leafy vegetables: When you eat well internally, it reflects in your overall health. So include green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach in your diet. It is also recommended to consume Omega-3 like fish, and nuts for good eyes.
  4. Avoid long screen hours: It is not unknown that using mobile phones, and computers for too long can damage your eyes. It can lead to vision syndrome and dry eyes. So make sure that you take enough breaks and avoid unnecessary use of screens radiating rays. Also, a pro tip would be to use night mode and keep the brightness of your screen too low at all times.
  5. Install high-quality Air purifiers: In today's age, we are dependent on technology for survival and protection. So use a good air purifier at your home to keep indoors safe and clean. You can also use air-purifying plants to add a touch of nature to your home.