What is Air Pollution?
When the air is introduced to common pollutants like soot, smoke, pollen, carbon dioxide, methane, mold, it gets contaminated, which can cause harmful or poisonous effects. When these gases or particles reach higher concentrations, they form air pollution. It causes physical, chemical, and biological alterations, which can increase or decrease the natural components of the air.
What Causes Air Pollution?
With different chemicals in the air, it becomes hazardous and creates poor air quality that can be dangerous to human health. Air quality can be measured through the Air Quality Index.
There are two kinds of air pollutants, visible, i.e., that can be seen by the naked eye in the form of smog and invisible air pollutants: Sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, etc. contribute significantly to air pollution.
Air pollutants can also be divided into primary and secondary air pollutants. Primary air pollutants are the ones that directly harm the environment, i.e., Sulphur dioxide emissions from factories. The secondary air pollutants are the result of the intermingling of two or more primary air pollutants in the environment. Smog is a good example of a secondary pollutant as it is a result of the mixing of different impurities in the air.
Effects of Air Pollution
The effects caused by air pollution can be in the form of diseases or critical rise in temperature. The impact of air pollution range from short term to long term, and domestic to global.
- Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health
Long term subjection to air pollution has been studied to be a cause of the rising rate of heart diseases, cancers, strokes, and respiratory diseases. Short term effects include seasonal viral diseases, sneezing, coughing, dizziness, eye irritation, headaches, etc. Microbes in the air can reach deeply into the lungs through breathing.
The effects of air pollution present themselves even before a human being is even born in the form of miscarriages during pregnancy. Premature births, autism, respiratory problems, spectrum disorder, are all the results of exposure to high air pollution. Children are more exposed to health problems like damaged early brain development and pulmonary diseases in areas with poor air quality.
The presence of chlorofluorocarbons is also depleting the ozone layer, which shields the Earth’s surface from harmful UV radiations. The absence of this layer will cause harmful rays to reach the Earth, which in turn will cause eye and skin related problems in humans.
- Effects of Air Pollution on the Environment
Air pollution also has a lot of negative effects on the environment. Global warming is one of the biggest problems caused by pollutants in the air as it is resulting in a worldwide turmoil. Global warming has increased temperatures in the world, which in turn causes rapid melting of icebergs and glaciers, increasing the level of the sea. It results in the displacement of life and a loss of habitat for living beings. This could have disastrous apocalyptic effects on human life.
When fossil fuels are burnt, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides are released. When it rains, the chemicals mix, and that is what causes acidic rain. Acid rains are harmful to crops, vegetation, humans, and animals.
The burning of fossil fuels also emits carbon dioxide, being the most common greenhouse gas, it traps heat and contributes to the climatic change. Other greenhouse gases that contribute to this change are methane emitted from livestock and landfills and CFCs used in aerosol propellants, refrigerators, etc.
Sulfur dioxide emitted in volcanic eruptions is a component of smog. It reflects light while keeping the sunlight away and creating a cooling effect that can last for years.
Airborne particles also have a direct deteriorative influence on crops, soil, forests, monuments, statues, and buildings.
- Effects of Air Pollution on Animals
When a pollutant that contains high amounts of nitrogen comes in contact with water, it converts itself into algae that affect the fish, plants, and animals adversely. Also, when we get acidic rains, the water species are the most affected by these.
Wildlife species change their habitat and move to a new place due to the presence of harmful chemicals in the air. If global warming affects the smallest plants or insects, then it will surely reflect on the large animals eventually. These animals and insects have evolved together and are codependent. Changes in the life cycle of one animal may completely alter another.
When the rain becomes acidic, the water gets absorbed in the ground and falls in the water bodies. This causes acidification of the oceans and rivers contaminating them.
Corals, which are a foundation of the ecosystem, are ‘bleaching’ due to the rising temperatures of the oceans. Bleaching is the process in which the corals expel the algae living in their tissues, which makes them look whiter or bleached.
Pet dogs that live in the polluted areas of the city as compared to the non-polluted areas have been seen to have inflamed brains. Studies have shown indoor pollutants like cigarette smoke to decrease lung capacity in cats.
There are certain scent molecules in plants that help bees to find them and use them to find their food. Some air pollutants disrupt these scent molecules and so the bees must spend more time looking for these plants, which decreases the average lifespan.
How to Help Reduce Air Pollution?
Air pollution can be significantly reduced if we revise our actions. Small acts like not burning garbage, smoking less, will go a long way. A few simple ways through which air pollution can be reduced are;
- Cars and transport vehicles emit harmful gases but are also essential to moving around. Public transport systems or carpool systems should be used so that carbon emissions can be reduced. This will also save energy.
- In household practices, burning of wood, coal, or other fossil fuels for cooking or in fireplaces should be completely avoided. Gas logs or electric-powered utility should be used instead. Burning trash, leaves, or other materials that may cause open fires should not take place.
- Use sprays and perfume bottles which do not contain CFCs and are environmentally friendly.
- An indirect way of saving the environment is to save energy. A lot of fossil fuels are burnt in order to produce electricity; hence electrical appliances should be turned off when not in use. Furthermore, clean energy resources should be supported. The generation of electricity through wind power or solar power should be promoted.
How to Save Your Health from Air Pollution?
The first and foremost way of saving yourself is to know the air quality in the area. The daily forecast for air quality index should be checked daily.
If the air quality in your area is poor then, you should keep doors and keep the windows closed. If you must travel, then you should set the fan in your car to recirculate the air rather than letting fresh air from outside in. A mask should be worn on your face that prevents you from inhaling harmful particles from the air.
In your household, the filters of your air conditioners and other exhausts should be cleaned regularly. Mold or mildew in ducts and vents should be cleaned periodically. Purify the air in the house with air purifiers and indoor plants. Let fresh air in when the air quality is good.
Small changes in your lifestyle will help you in reducing air pollutions as well as fighting it. It is impossible to fight air pollution in a day or a month, but with constant efforts, the condition can be considerably improved.