World Environment Day
What Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.
It is an alteration of air quality that can be characterised by measurements of chemical, biological or physical pollutants in the air. Therefore, air pollution means the undesirable presence of impurities or the abnormal rise in the proportion of some constituents of the atmosphere. .
What Causes Air Pollution?
Air pollution is caused by the presence of toxic substances in the atmosphere, mainly produced by human activities, even though sometimes it can result from natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, dust storms and wildfires, also depleting the air quality.
Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air which are harmful to our health. And in an especially destructive feedback loop, air pollution not only contributes to climate change but is also exacerbated by it. Air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and methane raises the earth’s temperature,
Another type of air pollution is then worsened by that increased heat: Smog forms when the weather is warmer and there’s more ultraviolet radiation. Climate change also increases the production of allergenic air pollutants including mold (thanks to damp conditions caused by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to a longer pollen season and more pollen production).
Sources of Air Pollution
1. Combustion of fossil fuels, like coal and oil for electricity and road transport, producing air pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur dioxide
2. Emissions from industries and factories, releasing large amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, chemicals and organic compounds into the air
3. Agricultural activities, due to the use of pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers that emit harmful chemicals
4. Waste production, mostly because of methane generation in landfills
Effects of Air Pollution
It is impossible to describe the whole extent of potential and actual damage caused by all forms of air pollution. But here are the main consequences:
On the Environment
Air pollution has a major impact on the process of plant evolution by preventing photosynthesis in many cases, with serious consequences for the purification of the air we breathe. It also contributes to the formation of acid rain, atmospheric precipitations in the form of rain, frost, snow or fog, which are released during the combustion of fossil fuels and transformed by contact with water steam in the atmosphere.
On top of that, air pollution is a major contributor to global warming and climate change. In fact, the abundance of carbon dioxide in the air is one of the causes of the greenhouse effect. Normally, the presence of greenhouse gases should be beneficial for the planet because they absorb the infra-red radiation produced by the surface of the earth. But the excessive concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is the cause of the recent climate change.
On Human Health
Our continual exposure to air pollutants is responsible for the deterioration of human health.
Air pollution is indeed a significant risk factor for human health conditions, causing allergies, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as lung damage.
How to Help Reduce Air Pollution
There are ways to prevent, control and eventually reduce air pollution:
1. Renewable fuel and clean energy production
The most basic solution for air pollution is to move away from fossil fuels, replacing them with alternative energies like solar, wind and geothermal.
2. Energy conservation and efficiency
Producing clean energy is crucial. But equally important is to reduce our consumption of energy by adopting responsible habits and using more efficient devices.
3. Eco-friendly transportation
Shifting to electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles, and promoting shared mobility (i.e carpooling, and public transports) could reduce air pollution.
4. Green Building
From planning to demolition, green building aims to create environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures to reduce their carbon footprint.
How is air quality measured?
With measuring devices using laser-based technologies, chemiluminescence, flame ionization, etc. These devices are, for instance, located close to the traffic, far from the traffic and close to industrial zones. All the collected data are compiled into a value scale, called the Air Quality Index (AQI).
How to Protect Your Health
1. When you see in the newspaper or hear on the weather report that pollution levels are high, it may be useful to limit the time when children go outside or you go for a jog, Generally, ozone levels tend to be lower in the morning.
2. When you do exercise outside, stay as far as you can from heavily trafficked roads. Then shower and wash your clothes to remove fine particles.
3. If the air quality is bad, stay inside with windows closed.
4. Wear sunscreen. When ultraviolet radiation comes through the weakened ozone layer, it can cause skin damage and skin cancer.