Vol 3, No 2 (2018)
Review paper
Published online: 2018-11-29

open access

Page views 3214
Article views/downloads 2298
Get Citation

Connect on Social Media

Connect on Social Media

How air pollution affects the eyes — a review

Paulina Łatka1, Dominika Nowakowska2, Katarzyna Nowomiejska23, Robert Rejdak245
Ophthalmol J 2018;3(2):58-62.


The aim of this study is to present scientific reports concerning the influence of air pollution on eyes. Air pollution
is nowadays a common problem. The most significant pollutants are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide
(NO2), ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matters — PM10 and PM2.5. The main source of toxins in the
air are cars, burning of the fuels and burning of the charcoal in household stoves. Most attention is paid to negative
effects of air pollution on respiratory system, such as asthma and lung cancer, however, it is worth remembering that
influence on the eyes is equally important. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.
Anterior segment of the eye is the most exposed. Substances, which are part of the smog have an irritating effect
on the surface of the eye, cause disturbances in the tear film and an inflammation. Medical conditions associated
with increased air pollution are mainly eye irritation, conjunctivitis, dry eye syndrome (DES), meibomian gland
dysfunction (MGB) and blepharitis.

Article available in PDF format

View PDF Download PDF file


  1. Cohn MJ, Kurtz D. Frequency of certain urgent eye problems in an emergency room in Massachusetts. J Am Optom Assoc. 1992; 63(9): 628–633.
  2. Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: a systematic review of diagnosis and treatment. JAMA. 2013; 310(16): 1721–1729.
  3. Chang CJ, Yang HH, Chang CA, et al. Relationship between air pollution and outpatient visits for nonspecific conjunctivitis. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012; 53(1): 429–433.
  4. Szyszkowicz M, Kousha T, Castner J. Air pollution and emergency department visits for conjunctivitis: A case-crossover study. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2016; 29(3): 381–393.
  5. Novaes P, do Nascimento Saldiva PH, Kara-José N, et al. Ambient levels of air pollution induce goblet-cell hyperplasia in human conjunctival epithelium. Environ Health Perspect. 2007; 115(12): 1753–1756.
  6. Fujishima H, Satake Y, Okada N, et al. Effects of diesel exhaust particles on primary cultured healthy human conjunctival epithelium. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013; 110(1): 39–43.
  7. Fu Q, Mo Z, Lyu D, et al. Air pollution and outpatient visits for conjunctivitis: A case-crossover study in Hangzhou, China. Environ Pollut. 2017; 231(Pt 2): 1344–1350.
  8. Bourcier T, Viboud C, Cohen JC, et al. Effects of air pollution and climatic conditions on the frequency of ophthalmological emergency examinations. Br J Ophthalmol. 2003; 87(7): 809–811.
  9. Lee KiW, Choi YH, Hwang SH, et al. Outdoor Air Pollution and Pterygium in Korea. J Korean Med Sci. 2017; 32(1): 143–150.
  10. Murube J, Wilson S, Ramos-Esteban J. New horizons in the relief and control of dry eye. Highlights Ophthalmol. 2001; 29: 55–64.
  11. Hwang SH, Choi YH, Paik HJ, et al. Potential Importance of Ozone in the Association Between Outdoor Air Pollution and Dry Eye Disease in South Korea. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016 [Epub ahead of print].
  12. Saxena R, Srivastava S, Trivedi D, et al. Impact of environmental pollution on the eye. Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2003; 81(5): 491–494.
  13. Novaes P, Saldiva PH, Matsuda M, et al. The effects of chronic exposure to traffic derived air pollution on the ocular surface. Environ Res. 2010; 110(4): 372–374.
  14. Versura P, Profazio V, Cellini M, et al. Eye discomfort and air pollution. Ophthalmologica. 1999; 213(2): 103–109.
  15. Klopfer J. Effects of environmental air pollution on the eye. J Am Optom Assoc. 1989; 60(10): 773–778.
  16. Torricelli AAM, Novaes P, Matsuda M, et al. Correlation between signs and symptoms of ocular surface dysfunction and tear osmolarity with ambient levels of air pollution in a large metropolitan area. Cornea. 2013; 32(4): e11–e15.
  17. Han JY, Kang B, Eom Y, et al. Comparing the Effects of Particulate Matter on the Ocular Surfaces of Normal Eyes and a Dry Eye Rat Model. Cornea. 2017; 36(5): 605–610.
  18. Schaumberg DA, Nichols JJ, Papas EB, et al. The international workshop on meibomian gland dysfunction: report of the subcommittee on the epidemiology of, and associated risk factors for, MGD. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2011; 52(4): 1994–2005.
  19. Malerbi FK, Martins LC, Saldiva PH, et al. Ambient levels of air pollution induce clinical worsening of blepharitis. Environ Res. 2012; 112: 199–203.
  20. Gao ZX, Song XL, Li SS, et al. Assessment of DNA Damage and Cell Senescence in Corneal Epithelial Cells Exposed to Airborne Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Collected in Guangzhou, China. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016; 57(7): 3093–3102.
  21. Ravilla TD, Gupta S, Ravindran RD, et al. Use of Cooking Fuels and Cataract in a Population-Based Study: The India Eye Disease Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2016; 124(12): 1857–1862.
  22. Pokhrel AK, Smith KR, Khalakdina A, et al. Case-control study of indoor cooking smoke exposure and cataract in Nepal and India. Int J Epidemiol. 2005; 34(3): 702–708.
  23. Adar SD, Klein R, Klein BEK, et al. Air Pollution and the microvasculature: a cross-sectional assessment of in vivo retinal images in the population-based multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA). PLoS Med. 2010; 7(11): e1000372.
  24. Louwies T, Panis LI, Kicinski M, et al. Retinal microvascular responses to short-term changes in particulate air pollution in healthy adults. Environ Health Perspect. 2013; 121(9): 1011–1016.