• 14 June 2024

Air Pollution: A Global Crisis and Urgent Actions Needed

Jul 27, 2023

In this introduction, we embark on a journey to explore the various facets of air pollution, its causes, impacts, and the urgent need for concerted efforts to mitigate this environmental challenge for a healthier and sustainable future.

Key Summary

  • It causes approximately 7 million premature deaths worldwide each year (WHO).
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a highly harmful air pollutant and was responsible for about 4.2 million deaths globally in 2019 (Global Burden of Disease Study).
  • Household air pollution, primarily from solid fuel use for cooking and heating, caused around 4 million deaths in 2019 (Global Burden of Disease Study).
  • Outdoor air pollution contributes to about 29% of stroke deaths and 24% of heart disease deaths (WHO).
  • Long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
  • Approximately 600,000 children under five years old die each year due to diseases aggravated by polluted air (WHO).
  • The data is based on information up to September 2021, and the impact of air pollution can vary depending on location, pollutants, and changes in pollution levels over time.
  • Urgent global efforts are needed to address air pollution and its devastating health effects.
Top 15 ranked countries according to highest AQI in 2022
Air Quality Index by Country/Region(2018-2022)

Unveiling the Global Impact of Air pollution: A Comprehensive Examination

Air pollution remains a major global health concern, contributing to millions of premature deaths annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the severity of this issue, attributing approximately 11.65% of all global deaths. This study delves into the details of air pollution’s impact on human health, including the significance of particulate matter (PM) and the recommended interim targets by the WHO. By analyzing various research findings, we aim to provide a structured and comprehensive overview of the current state of air pollution and its implications for humanity.

Global Air Pollution Findings:

  • The report by IQ Air highlights alarming findings about it.
  • Roughly 90% of the countries analyzed exceeded WHO’s air quality guidelines.
  • Only six countries and seven territories met the WHO guidelines of 5 micrograms per cubic meter or less of average air pollution.
  • Seven countries, including India and Bangladesh, experienced poor air quality with average pollution levels over 50 micrograms per cubic meter.
Impact on Health:
  • It, particularly PM2.5, poses severe health risks.
  • Around 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016 were associated with PM2.5.
  • Stricter guidelines could have saved nearly 3.3 million lives.
  • Developing countries lack monitoring stations, leading to inadequate air quality data.
Environmental Inequality and Air Quality Data:
  • Developing countries in Africa, South America, and the Middle East lack sufficient air quality data.
  • Only 19 out of 54 African countries had available monitoring station data.
  • Lack of data skews the ranking of polluted countries.
Air pollution and Wildfires:
  • Climate change-fueled wildfires significantly impact air quality:
  • Wildfires worsen air quality in countries like the United States.
  • Rapid erasure of air quality improvements due to wildfires.
Air pollution statistics

Crucial Information : Causes and Effects

Burning of Fossil Fuels:

  1. Primary cause is due to incomplete combustion of coal, oil, and gasoline.
  2. Emits CO2, nitrogen oxides, and toxic pollutants into the air.
  3. Leads to respiratory and heart illnesses, acid rain, and smog formation.
  4. Coal-fired power stations contribute to harmful mercury emissions.
  5. Significant source of SO2 and particle pollution.

Industrial Emissions:

  1. Industries using coal and wood emit PM2.5, NO2, SO2, and CO.
  2. Causes eye and throat irritation, breathing issues, and chronic illnesses.
  3. VOCs from industries can worsen respiratory disorders like asthma.
  4. Industrial emissions contribute to climate change and the greenhouse effect.

Indoor Air Pollution:

  1. Arises from toxic products, inadequate ventilation, and humidity levels.
  2. Smoking, wood stoves, and space heaters contribute to indoor air pollution.6
  3. Indoor air pollution leads to lung cancer and respiratory illnesses.
  4. Household air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths per year, including children.

Wildfires:

  1. Climate change increases wildfires, contributing to air pollution.
  2. Burning stubble and farm residue also worsen PM2.5 levels.
  3. Smoke and toxic chemicals from wildfires cause smog and breathing difficulties.
  4. Wildlife, plants, and animals are affected by wildfires.

Microbial Decaying Process:

  1. Manufacturing and chemical industries release CO, hydrocarbons, and toxins.
  2. Bacteria and fungi decay release methane gas, a toxic gas.
  3. Exposure to methane can lead to asthma aggregation and respiratory discomfort.
  4. Microbes affect air quality and can cause skin allergies.

Transportation:

  1. Vehicle emissions are a major source of pollution, especially in urban areas.
  2. Cars emit CO, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.
  3. Vehicle pollution contributes to ozone layer depletion and smog formation.
  4. Carpooling and public transportation can help reduce vehicular emissions.

Open Burning of Garbage Waste:

  • Generally, burning garbage releases toxins like black carbon and soot, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and climate change.
  • Furthermore, open burning is a significant source of air pollution in cities, leading to a deterioration in air quality and posing serious health risks to the population.
  • Moreover, it causes skin irritation, asthma, and respiratory issues due to the release of harmful particulate matter and gases.
  • For instance, in urban areas, the burning of waste materials, including plastics and organic waste, releases a cocktail of pollutants, exacerbating the overall air pollution levels and impacting public health.

Construction and Demolition:

  • Construction sites generally release PM and other air pollutants.
  • Moreover, this can lead to health issues for workers and nearby residents, such as breathing difficulties.
  • Monitoring air quality at construction sites is essential to comply with standards and ensure a safe and healthy environment.
  • For instance, implementing dust control measures and using cleaner construction equipment can help reduce the impact of air pollution on workers and the surrounding community.

Agricultural Activities

  1. Generally, pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture contaminate the air.
  2. Moreover, livestock and agricultural waste also contributes.
  3. Additionally, agricultural activities release toxins, affecting human health and the environment.

For instance, the application of pesticides and fertilizers can lead to the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia into the atmosphere, while livestock waste produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and ammonia, which can contribute to air quality issues.

Use of Chemical and Synthetic Products:

  • Indoor air pollution is 10 times more harmful than outdoor air pollution.
  • Indoor air pollution, generally caused by VOCs from household products, can lead to health issues, including asthma.
  • Furthermore, it is responsible for over 4 million premature deaths annually.
  • Monitoring indoor air quality is crucial for maintaining health, for instance, to mitigate the risks associated with prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants..

How to Control:

  • Conserving energy, reducing, reusing, and recycling are effective ways to help reduce pollution.
  • Additionally, opting for public transportation instead of private vehicles can significantly decrease vehicle emissions.
  • Furthermore, it is essential to check AQI levels and take appropriate steps to reduce pollution in your location. For instance, limiting outdoor activities on days with poor air quality can protect your health.
  • Moreover, implementing control strategies to curb pollution and improve air quality is crucial. In addition to monitoring emissions from industrial sources, promoting green technologies and enforcing stringent regulations can make a significant difference in the fight against pollution.
Global Greenhouse gas emissions

Global Trends, Top Polluters, and Urgent Measures

  • Transition to Clean Energy: Reducing reliance on fossil fuels and adopting renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
  • Sustainable Land Use: Implementing measures to protect forests and promote sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Energy Efficiency: Embracing energy-efficient technologies and practices in industries, buildings, and transportation.
  • International Collaboration: Governments and organizations must work together to develop effective climate policies and commitments.

Future Predictions on Planet Earth:

  • Generally, without intervention, it predicts a rise in global premature deaths
  • For instance, WHO estimates 4.2 million premature deaths annually due to ambient air pollution.
  • Moreover, the burden of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses from air pollution is expected to increase.
  • Instead, as air pollution-related health issues persist, healthcare costs may substantially rise.
  • Additionally, CO2 emissions contribute to planet warming, leading to extreme weather events and sea-level rise. Therefore, implementing climate-resilient health systems is crucial to mitigate air pollution’s impact on public health.
  • Moreover, that hinders progress toward sustainable development goals.

Special Thanks and Credits

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to www.oecd.org/env,www.who.int , www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution, https://www.epa.gov/  providing valuable insights, data, and images for our blog. Your contribution has enriched our content and allowed us to deliver a more informative and engaging experience to our readers. We sincerely appreciate your collaboration and look forward to future partnerships.

Thank you for being an essential part of our journey.

Also, read https://thelogicalpie.com/index.php/2023/07/18/delhi-floods-2023

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