The presence of pollutants and unwanted chemicals in the air cause air pollution. Air pollution is deleterious for human health.
Air pollution is increasing day by day due to various anthropogenic activities. Air pollution is actually the contamination of air.
It affects the air quality and poses harmful effects. Polluted air can be visible and it can have different smell.
Air is said to be polluted when it contains unhealthy elements, commonly known as “particulate matter” (PM).
According to various research reports, PM is made up of different combinations of organic chemicals, acids, metals, soils, dirt, soot, smoke and dust. The tinier the PM is, the more dangerous is it to the human health.
Air quality index (AQI)
Air quality index is a number that is used by government agencies to tell people that how much the air is polluted in present scenario and how much polluted it can become in future.
As air quality index increases, more percentage of people is affected from air quality. Different countries have different air quality indices.
AQI tells us the health effects that we can experiences after a specific time period after breathing in polluted air.
It is calculated for carbon dioxide, ground level ozone, particle pollution and sulphur dioxide.
Higher the AQI value is; the greater the level of air pollution, and the greater the health concern. An AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to the national air quality standard for the pollutant, which is the level that has been set to protect the public health.
Harmful effects of air pollution
The air quality is deteriorating in most of the larger cities of the world. Big cities like Beijing, New Delhi, Karachi, Lahore, London, and Paris are most severely affected by air pollution.
World Health Organization (WHO) says that, if we reduce air pollution, it would cut rates of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma and respiratory disease.
According to WHO approximations in 2012, some 72% of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were due to ischemic heart disease and strokes, while 14% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.
Long term and short term exposures to fine particle pollution, that is also known as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), can cause premature death and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system including heart attacks and strokes.
Ozone can also cause certain diseases like asthma attacks, shortness of breath and various lung diseases. Developing lungs in babies are most prone to damages caused by bad air quality.
How should be the air quality we live in?
To live healthfully, the air quality should be good enough to breathe in without inhaling pollutants or soot or toxic chemicals.
Environmental watchdogs of most of the countries of the world are working to make information about outdoor air quality easy to find and understand like weather forecasts.
AQI is the result of that effort. By looking at the air quality index of a place, we can easily have an idea about the cleanliness of air of a place and what kind of health effects that air can cause to us.
So we should always try to maintain high air quality so that we can get clean and fresh air and avoid any disease that poor quality air may cause to us.
In 2014, only 8% of the world’s population lived in places where the WHO air quality guidelines were met. Most of us live in areas where air quality is below degraded.
Solutions to upgrade air quality and control air pollution
It is good to express gave concern on declining air quality. But actions speak louder than words so we all should take action to control air pollution. This we can do whenever and wherever we have a chance to do so. The simple actions in this regard are;
- Cleaner fuels should be used in vehicles.
- Laws should be made that promote improving the quality of air. EPAs of every country are doing a great job in this regard and they have made various laws regarding this.
- Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products each and every time possible.
- When buying home or office equipment, look for the cleaner products.
- Use public transport as much as possible and avoid using personal transport.
- Compost organic waste.
- Wear mask in smog.
- Avoid going outdoor in smog and in air having poor quality.
- Environmental protection agencies should evoke emergency plans for places of very high AQI or very bad air quality.
- Avoid burning of fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy sources.
- Raise awareness in people to adopt precautionary measures in extreme pollution periods like smog rises in winter season in polluted areas.
The earth is our planet and this is the atmosphere in which we live and breathe. If we continue to damage air quality, then not only us but our future generations will also suffer.
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