You are standing at a bus stop and inhaling air pollutants equivalent to cigarette smoke. It does not seem good, but YES, that’s something we experience whenever we went out. Despite decades of progress, the air quality across the globe is deteriorating day by day. Air is something we interact with every second.
The decline in air quality started with the boom of the industrial era. The exponential increase in automobiles, industrial emissions, and volcanic eruptions are the main culprits behind bad air quality. London smog in 1952 causes the death of 4,000 people in just five days. This shows the potential that bad air quality has
Carbon dioxide, methane, Nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide, and ozone.
We’re releasing them whenever we make our food or ride a bus for work
Clean air is a fundamental human right. But 91% of people around the world live in areas where air quality is exceeding WHO’s safe limit. So, the effects on an individual’s health and environment are pretty obvious. This article has pulled together some facts about poor air quality. Before getting into the topic, let’s learn about air pollutants and their sources.
Sources of Air Pollution:
Air pollution is the addition of harmful substances -gases and particulate matter- to air. Moreover, a higher concentration of GHGs has also been termed air pollution. We have been adding a significant quantity of pollutants to the air. The burning of coal, oil, and natural gas increases the concentration of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Potential GHGs are carbon dioxide, methane, Nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide, and ozone. We’re releasing them whenever we make our food or ride a bus for work. Air pollutants are also released through volcanic eruptions and hot springs. Power plants, oil refineries, and agricultural areas are some common sources of Air Pollution. Although these activities are significant sources of pollutants, we can’t cut all of them down. Following are some facts of bad air quality on humans, plants, animals, and on the whole ecosystem as well.
- A Global Health Hazard:
- Retarding the Plant Growth:
- Climate change and Air Pollution
- Air Pollution and Animal’s Health
- Loss of Cultural Heritage
1. A Global Health Hazard:
From smog in cities to smoke in houses, air pollution is affecting everyone’s health. According to WHO, 4.2 million deaths occur each year due to outdoor air pollution. Both short and long-term exposure to air pollutants have impacts on health. Short-term exposure causes mild diseases. Such as cough, burning eyes, and itchy throat. However, long-term exposure could lead to death. Particulate matter present in the air is so small that it could enter the body through pores of the skin. Resultantly, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease become common among people. Not only this, air pollution is one of the major reasons behind premature deaths. Under the Dome -a case study in China- shows how air pollution could damage the fetus and cause inborn impairments. Combined effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution caused 7 million premature deaths worldwide.
2. Retarding the Plant Growth:
Air pollution affects not only the human but also the plant growth. Leaves of plants in industrial areas have a small leaf area index that alters the rate of photosynthesis in plants. Moreover, chlorophyll content becomes low, that retards the plant growth. Primary ecosystem functions performed by plants are also get disturbed, including resource accumulation and carbon fixation. At the ecosystem level, air pollution changes the competitive balance among plant species. That may lead to a change in the composition of plant species. Not to speak of this, air pollution also decreases the yield of agricultural products. It results in economic loss.
3. Climate change and Air Pollution
The emission of air pollutants causes a change in the climate. Primary pollutants in the air undergo a series of chemical reactions that produce toxic secondary pollutants. Pollutants have both cooling and warming effects on the environment. Change in climate in return affects the local, regional, and global air quality. Furthermore, climate change causes severe atmospheric conditions, droughts, acid rain, and floods.
Air pollutants in China could travel up to the central valley of California. In the same manner, pollutants travel a long distance with air currents and get deposit on glaciers. The ice absorbs more light that results in glacier melting, rising sea levels, and floods. Thus, bad air quality affects climate and, in return affected by climate change.
4. Air Pollution and Animal’s Health:
The aquatic animals, birds, and mammals are at risk of bad air quality. Birds are more prone to air pollution as it’s their primary habitat. According to a study conducted in the year 2017, air pollution affects birds’ respiratory and reproductive systems. A study in Brazil has shown that high air pollution levels cause respiratory damage among animals. Furthermore, the reproductive success of females went down.
Acid rain pollutes water bodies and soil. According to National Oceanic and Marine Administration, air pollution prompts the growth of algae in the water that depletes the oxygen level. It results in creating a dead zone in water for animals.
5. Loss of Cultural Heritage:
Secondary air pollutants mix with rainwater and make it acidic. Acid rain causes the loss of material from buildings. According to UNECE, air pollution has put cultural heritage at risk. It’s a key factor to degrade the surface of monuments. In a study conducted by the Institute for Conservation and Restoration of Heritage, acid rain has put 3600 cultural heritage in Rome at risk of deterioration. So, air pollution can take away our individual and cultural identity.
The damage we’ve done to our environment in the last few decades will last for centuries. But the change in our lifestyle could reduce air pollution to some extent. Since electric equipment produces few air pollutants, so we can shift to electric appliances. Walking, riding a bicycle, reusing and recycling products, and reducing fires are the best ways to reduce air pollution. A shift from traditional to green technologies could help to reduce air pollution levels. Lastly, awareness among the masses would minimize damage to the planet.
Air pollution has been increasing every single day. Innovative technologies employed in industries, increase in the number of automobiles, and natural phenomena increase the concentration of pollutants in the air. Bad air quality affects humans, plants, and animals. Not only this, it deteriorates the quality of the environment. Air pollution is among the top killers around the world. A shift to green technologies is the only solution to reduce air pollution. So, by taking small steps, humans can minimize emissions and create a massive impact on Earth.