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How Pollution Can Cause Oxidative Stress

What Is Pollution?

Pollution is an unavoidable part of many of our lives. Car exhaust, chemicals from nearby plants and refineries, wildfire smoke, poor air quality and more can all contribute to pollution. Pollution levels are measured by Air Quality Index (AQI), and range from 0 to 200.

1-50 is considered good. 51-100 is considered moderate - those with respiratory diseases should avoid outdoor exertion. 101-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, like older adults and children with respiratory disorders. 151-200 is considered unhealthy, and most of the general population should stay indoors or wear face coverings if they live in a place with this index.

According to this study, “Air pollution is associated with increased cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality.”

This means that prolonged exposure to poor air quality can result in oxidative stress – which can lead to increased inflammation, and even cardiovascular issues.

How Oxidative Stress And Pollution Are Linked

All types of pollution generate small particles that you inhale – that your body has to detox. These include fine particles, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and transition metals – which are all potent oxidants. They generate reactive oxygen species (ROS.) Reactive oxygen species are also known as “oxygen free radicals,” and can cause damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA.

This can trigger pathways that lead to different biological processes, such as cell death and inflammation.

While many particles you inhale are caught in your upper airways and cleared out, there are nanoparticles that are small enough to enter your bloodstream – where they can quickly induce oxidative stress and the resulting inflammation.

How This Hurts Your Health

Inflammation isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s your body’s natural response to injury, illness, or foreign objects (like particles from pollution) and is intended to help protect your body from damage. The process of inflammation actually produces ROS.

In its early phases, inflammation doesn’t directly cause cell death – free radicals can even help induce stress defense and antioxidant genes. But when the body struggles to produce antioxidants to keep free radicals like ROS in check, oxidative stress and damage occurs.

How To Avoid Oxidative Stress

One great way to avoid oxidative stress is to avoid pollution. Most of us can’t change where we live – and if you live in an urban environment, pollution is going to be a part of your daily life. 

However, if you keep an eye on the Air Quality Index and make sure you take precautions when air quality is poor, like wearing a mask, or exercising indoors instead of outside, you can adapt to your environment.

Pollution doesn’t just happen outside of our homes – it also happens within our homes. Using heavy cleaning chemicals releases pollutants within your home, so opt for cleaning products that have no heavy scents. Switch to natural laundry detergent to reduce pollutants in your clothing and bedsheets.

Investing in a high-quality air purifier is a great way to reduce pollution in your home as well.

Another great way to avoid oxidative stress is to increase your antioxidant intake. Most of us aren’t getting the antioxidants we need from our diets – and supplementing is a great way to combat that.

Try out our CBD Softgels – CBD naturally contains an abundance of antioxidants to help you clear out free radicals and avoid oxidative damage.


Dr. Meredith Warner is the creator of Well Theory and The Healing Sole. She is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Air Force Veteran.

She is on a mission to disrupt traditional medicine practices and promote betterment physically, spiritually and mentally to many more people. She advocates for wellness and functional health over big pharma so more people can age vibrantly with more function and less pain.

At Well Theory, Our surgeon-designed products are FDA Registered and formulated to help people:

  • Manage the symptoms of musculoskeletal pain
  • Recover vibrantly from orthopedic related surgeries
  • Fill the gaps in our daily diets
  • Manage pain associated with inflammation

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