Time We Started Improving Air Quality Around the World
Air quality is a problem that affects us all. Many of us take the air we breathe for granted, as we are unaware of just how much damage has been done to Planet Earth. In fact, did you know that around 40% of the world’s population lives in areas that have unhealthy levels of air pollution? That’s over three billion people living with bad, polluted air.
What Is Poor Air Quality?
The quality of the air in your home or at your office is something most people don’t think about until they notice poor air quality. Dirty air not only affects how you feel physically, but can also negatively affect those around you.
Air pollution is the presence of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that are detrimental to human, plant, and animal health.
The presence of airborne pollutants can be identified by either odour, taste, or effects on visibility (haze) or the weather.
The atmosphere is a complex natural gaseous system that ‘transports’ pollutants over long distances.
Air pollution has increased significantly since the industrial revolution. And this increase has sped up in recent years because of global warming and urbanisation.
Air pollution may cause negative health effects on humans and other living organisms, including irritations of the eyes, nose and throat; lung damage; breathing difficulties; heart attacks; cancers; and premature death.
Common pollutants include dust, dirt particles/soot particulates (notably carbon), toxic chemicals such as ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons such as methane (CH4).
The sources of pollution include transportation emissions (cars, trucks, aeroplanes), industrial emissions from factories and power plants, emissions from building heating and cooling systems, residential wood burning and wildfires.
The major pollutant in the atmosphere is carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to global warming through the greenhouse effect.
How Does Air Quality Affect Our Health?
Poor air quality, both indoors and out, is directly linked to our health. Polluted air makes it hard for the lungs to work properly, which can lead to all kinds of health problems.
In the same way that we need to eat certain foods for our bodies, we also need to breathe clean air for our health and well-being.
However, pollution is growing at an exponential rate in many parts of the world, posing many health problems for people who live in these regions.
Therefore, we need to find a solution to improve air quality.
Air quality is a term used to describe the amount of pollution in the atmosphere. Air pollution can come from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions, as well as man-made sources, like factories and power plants.
Air pollution can cause health problems for people who breathe it in. It can also affect plant life and the environment.
The air around us is made up of gases and tiny particles that float around in the atmosphere. These particles are called particulate matter (PM).
Particulate matter is the tiny liquid droplets or solid particles in the air. They come from both natural sources and human activities.
These particles can be a few micrometres in size PM 2.5 which are smaller than PM 10.
Both sizes can cause health problems, but PM 2.5 is more dangerous because it’s so small it can get lodged deep into your lungs.
Bad Air Causes More Respiratory Problems
Poor air quality can contribute to a range of respiratory problems. If you regularly visit an area of poor air quality, the situation could be making you ill.
Sometimes the only way to solve this problem is to leave the area entirely, but this isn’t always possible.
You’re probably aware of the problem of pollution in many of the large cities around the world. In fact, the air quality in many major cities has gotten so bad that it frequently causes health problems for those that live and/or work there.
Perhaps you live or work in a big city, then the chances are you’ve smelled that acrid smell that hangs in the air for a little too long. It’s hard to ignore — but researchers know it’s not just your imagination.
Being a resident of an urban environment is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions like asthma and other respiratory diseases, often caused by pollution.
Excessive exposure to pollutants (like dust, soot, smoke and gases) can trigger allergies and inflammation in the airways. This can make it harder to breathe or even cause symptoms like coughing.
We may breathe these contaminants into our lungs every day through our mouth or nose, but sometimes they can enter the body through the skin.
Research has found that particles that are microscopic in size can enter our bodies through our eyes, nose and mouth. When we breathe them in, they can pass straight into our lungs.
But sometimes these particles are so small that they can penetrate through our skin, too.
They can also settle on surfaces around us, like clothing and furniture. And then they get inhaled when we brush up against them or sit down on something that’s contaminated.
Poor Air Quality Impairs Children’s Cognitive Abilities
A recent study found that children living in homes with poor indoor air quality have lower average intelligence levels and experience greater behavioural issues compared to kids growing up in cleaner environments.
Air pollution has been proven to have a negative impact on cognitive thinking in kids. The effects are greater for children who live in cities with high levels of air pollution.
In a study of over 100,000 children, those who lived in areas with higher levels of pollution were more likely to have lower test scores and grades than those who lived in areas with less pollution.
These children are also more likely to have additional health problems when they live in an area with high levels of air pollution.
Children who breathe in large amounts of particulate matter are more likely to have asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, including bronchitis, coughing, and wheezing.
Children with asthma are particularly sensitive to particle pollution because it can irritate their airways and make their symptoms worse.
In addition, children who have chronic lung diseases like asthma or cystic fibrosis are at higher risk for developing complications from particle pollution exposure because they already have reduced lung function.
Those exposed to higher levels of particulate matter may also be at risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life as well as having an increased risk for developing cancer.
Children may be exposed to high levels of particulate matter through outdoor activities such as playing outside or walking to school, or indoor activities such as cooking on a gas stove or burning candles.
Air Pollution Is a Problem Around the World
Have you ever wondered why the air quality in certain cities is better than in others? Many factors contribute to air quality around the world.
Air pollution occurs when airborne pollutants fall to the ground. Truck and car emissions, industrial pollution, and coal-powered power plants can all lead to poor air quality.
According to the World Health Organisation, 98% of cities with more than 100,000 people do not meet air quality control standards.
In fact, only 12% of the most polluted cities have managed to bring down pollution levels. There are many causes of pollution, some natural and others man-made.
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Air pollution is recognised as one of the biggest killers, yet very few people take measures to improve it. Why are so many people unwilling to act?
The problem is that pollution is a complex issue that is hard to understand and accept. We only see the effects of air pollution in the short term, so it’s easy to ignore them and focus on other things.
However, if we look at history and science, we can see that there are many reasons it’s important to invest in cleaner air.
Poor air quality kills millions of people every year (WHO). It also causes a lot of other health problems like asthma and heart disease.
Many people don’t realise how bad air pollution really is or what effects it has on our health until they experience it themselves or someone close to them does.
Problems with this approach are that by the time people realise how serious the situation is, it’s already too late for them to do anything about it.
Except leave their homes or die prematurely from lung cancer or heart disease because of exposure to high levels of particulate matter in the air they breathe every day.
When People Live Next to Abnormal Amounts of Pollution
According to the World Health Organisation, pollution is one of the major causes of premature death in the world today.
Pollution can come from something as small as a car exhaust, or as large as a factory spewing chemicals into the air we breathe.
When you can’t leave your home or even leave your bed because steps outside could result in your death sentence, that’s scary stuff.
In fact, the name ‘smog’ is often linked with the word smother and it’s no joke when you’re unable to escape something that can kill you.
Smog is a type of pollution that occurs when nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds react with sunlight.
It is dangerous because it contains harmful chemicals that affect our lungs and cause asthma attacks, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases.
And if we’re unlucky enough to live near a coal plant or other major industrial sites that are releasing toxic particles into our air supply. Then we’re even more susceptible to serious illness because of smog.
People who live near these sites have been shown to have higher rates of lung cancer and heart disease. A lot more than those who live in areas where there are fewer pollutants in the air.
It’s also been linked to the premature ageing of our skin and eyesight issues. As well as birth defects resulting from exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide during pregnancy.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Is a Growing Threat
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a growing threat to people around the world. From the increasing number of deaths from exhaust fumes to the increasing number of homes with faulty gas appliances and other devices that emit carbon monoxide.
We may have heard a lot about this dangerous gas and its devastating effects on us as well as our environment by now.
But have we really paid attention to understanding how it develops, what are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and what we can do to prevent it?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that can be produced from the burning of fossil fuels. CO poisoning is a major cause of accidental poisoning deaths worldwide.
CO can also be produced by charcoal grills, camp stoves, and portable generators. Carbon monoxide poisoning can have serious effects, including death.
The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, and confusion. These symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure to high levels of CO.
Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, chest pain and shortness of breath. A person with CO poisoning may not have all the symptoms.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting outside immediately if you smell exhaust fumes from a vehicle or other source in your home or workplace.
If you don’t have access to fresh air immediately exit the building as quickly as possible.
Pollution Is Often Invisible to The Naked Eye
Pollution is often invisible to the naked eye. We know it exists, we just cannot see it, and this can lead to it being taken for granted.
For many of us, pollution is something that happens elsewhere in the world — it feels slightly like a cause by which we can become involved, but not one in which we should worry.
A lot of people don’t realise how much pollution there is around them. This was especially true before industrialisation and in developing countries.
However, even with tighter regulations, this isn’t always the case today.
The air we breathe contains harmful chemicals that can affect our health. These can be from cars, factories, or even cigarette smoke from other people.
To help reduce this problem, it’s important to understand what kinds of pollutants are present in the air around us and how we can protect ourselves from them.
Pollution can be defined as any substance introduced into the environment that causes harm to humans or other living organisms. It can also include noise pollution and light pollution as well as water pollution and soil pollution.
There are two main categories of pollutants: gases (including carbon dioxide) and particulates (including dust).
Some gases do exist naturally in our atmosphere. But also, there are those produced by human activity such as carbon dioxide and methane gas released by fossil fuel combustion or industrial processes like mining coal or burning wood for heat or cooking food (which releases CO2).
Gases tend to be heavier than air, so they stick close to ground level where it’s easiest for them to evaporate into our lungs causing breathing problems like asthma attacks and lung disease.
Protect yourself and your family by reducing your exposure to air pollutants.
The air we breathe is filled with pollutants that can harm our health and the environment. Everyone should take action to reduce their exposure to these pollutants.
Pollution can affect everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable — children, older adults, people with chronic lung diseases (such as asthma), and people who work or exercise outdoors (like cyclists).
The best way to protect yourself and your family from air pollution are by reducing your exposure.
Reduce time spent outdoors when it’s smoggy or hazy: When levels of ozone or fine particulate matter are high, limit time spent outdoors. If you can smell smoke or see visible smoke in the air, avoid exercising outdoors.
Reduce time spent in traffic: Traffic has been linked to increased levels of smoggy ozone that can aggravate conditions such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Consider leaving 15 minutes earlier than usual for work or school so you spend less time sitting in traffic.
Keep windows closed during high-pollution periods: During high-pollution periods when the Air Quality Index is at orange (high) or red (very high), keep windows closed as much as possible.
Wear a mask that filters out fine particles (particulate matter) if there are high levels of particulates in the air. They come from combustion sources like cars, trucks and factories.
These particles are very small and can easily enter your lungs and cause irritation or infection.
Let’s all do our part to improve air quality around the world. We need to provide awareness and education, as well as find new solutions for a cleaner future.
When it comes to your health and the health of your family, you obviously want to ensure that you are doing everything you can to protect yourself from any potential hazards.
This same way of thinking can be applied when it comes to air pollution.
Many people do not realise the potential dangers that pollution poses for themselves as well as for their loved ones.
Air pollution is often something that does not affect us all at once but instead builds over time and has serious, long-term implications for our health and well-being.
No matter which way it gets into your body, it can cause a variety of harmful complications and ailments, both short-term and long-term.