Air pollution is everywhere and it is growing every day! Living in fresh and clean air is the right of every human being, but unfortunately, getting the same has become so difficult today! Let’s find out what exactly air pollution is and how it can be prevented.
Air Pollution: Meaning
Let us understand air pollution through various angles and description.
Air pollution means the existence of pollutants in the atmosphere. Various pollutants arise from various sources. Some of the major air pollutants include ozone (arising from chemical reaction between different other pollutants), carbon monoxide (arising from incomplete burning of organic materials), lead (coming from vehicle exhausts), nitrogen dioxide (resulting from various industrial processes, burning of fossil fuel and other sources), sulphur dioxide (arising from combustion of fuel), etc.
One of the most detrimental forms of air pollution is the particulates. Particulates or particulate matter (PM) are harmful and poisonous atomic particles in solid/liquid form that can go through the lungs and blood, giving rise to most risky diseases and effects on human health.
Air pollution can also be described as the variation of air due to any physical, chemical or biological modification which leads to adverse effects on environment and humans.
Air pollution is nothing but the presence of various gases and particles in an unsuitable and dangerous proportionate that intimidate environment, flora and fauna.
When unsafe gases, smoke or other dangerous particles enter into air, creating a threat for the survival of animals, plants and animals, the air pollution occurs. There are numerous air pollution causes that can be addressed well with simple strategies and planning. Controlling air pollution is a matter of awareness, practical approach and certain measures that should be followed on a regular basis.
- Air pollution is the contamination of air.
- Air pollution is the result of presence of various harmful particles.
- Air pollution is the pollution of air by different gases, smoke & other particles.
- Air pollution is the contagion of Earth’s atmosphere threatening the survival of plants, animals and humans.
- Air pollution is unclean, unsafe and unhealthy atmosphere causing various harmful diseases and conditions.
Air Pollution: Causes
The major causes of Air Pollution are discussed below:
- Fossil fuel based power plants – Power plants that are mainly dependent on fossil fuels is one of the major causes of air pollution. Using fossil fuels for thermal generation and other purposes lead to harmful effects in air and atmosphere. Combustion of these fuels result in production of excessive carbon dioxide. This further adds up to problems like global warming and greenhouse effect.
- Ever-increasing transportation vehicles – Vehicles are growing more and more every day on the roads. All vehicle engines burn fuel and produce dangerous air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, PM (particulate matter), etc., that are responsible for various risky diseases in children as well as adults.
- Urbanization – The ever-increasing urbanization is making way for more cities, more power plants, industries and traffic. All these sources are constantly contributing in air pollution turning it into a major problem today.
- Deforestation – Trees and forests help in purifying the air by taking in carbon dioxide. The cutting of forests leads to presence of carbon dioxide in excess amount and air pollution.
- Massive use of hydrocarbons based fuels pollutes the air – Most of the vehicles use hydrocarbon based fuels in their engines. When this fuel is burnt, pollutants get produced in big quantity, leading to poor quality of air.
- Radioactive contamination – Radioactive emissions like emission of radon is also an important natural cause of air pollution. Radon is an odorless and colorless gas with high density. It is produced when the radioactive decay occurs in the radium of soil. The radioactive contamination in air can cause lung cancer.
- Burning of garbage – Burning garbage is a common cause for air pollution. When non categorized garbage (which contains plastic, clothes or various other materials) is burnt, it produces different harmful gases, adding to air pollution.
- Excessive use of plastic – Nowadays, plastic is everywhere! Be it food, drinks, toys, carry bags or anything else, you find plastic in various shapes and forms. In simple words, using plastic contributes to air pollution. Plastic does not biodegrade and also produces risky gases when burnt!
- Spraying of insecticides and use of chemicals in agricultural activities – Insecticides and pesticides used in different agricultural activities contain chemicals. These insecticides get drifted away from one place to other, degrading the quality of air and resulting in air pollution.
- Emission of greenhouse gases from various sources –Many dangerous gases like methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, etc., are emitted on combustion of coal, natural gas and oil in various factories & industries.
- Forest fires & big volcanic eruptions – Forest fires and huge volcanic eruptions are major natural causes for air pollution. Many poisonous gases enter into air due to forest fires and volcanic eruptions, thus, causing air pollution.
- Mining Procedures – During the mining procedures, big machines are used for extracting minerals that are buried deep down inside the Earth. These extractions’ processes of mining give out a lot of dust and dangerous particles that cause air pollution on a large scale.
- Household products causing air pollution – There are many household products that contribute to air pollution inside our homes. Products like wall paints, detergents, floor cleaners, etc., contribute to air pollution by emitting chemicals that are harmful for our health.
- Dust constantly adding up to air – Dust is continuously adding up to atmosphere causing air pollution. There is not one single reason for this ‘dust addition’ to air! Processes like construction, driving on rough semi-constructed roads, etc., are some of the many reasons that add dust to air, making it polluted and unsafe.
- Dependence on wood-fuel for cooking – Many people use wood fuel for cooking. This is also an important cause of air pollution. Wood fuel emissions contain PM (particulate matter), carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and other dangerous gases.
Effects of Air Pollution
The effects of air pollution can be broadly divided into three categories as given below:
- Effects on Human Beings
- Effects on Fauna and Flora
- Effects on Environment and Atmosphere.
Air Pollution: Effects on Human beings
- Unavailability of fresh and healthy air – It is our right to live in fresh and clean air. Air pollution is deteriorating the quality of air. Due to growing air pollution, it is difficult to find fresh, clean and healthy air.
- Pulmonary and respiratory diseases – Air pollution causes chronic diseases such as COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) which is a complicated pulmonary disease. The rising air pollution also causes many respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, etc.
- Allergies – There are many strong and enough evidence which point towards the fact that air pollution worsen the conditions of various allergies. For example, respiratory diseases like asthma get triggered up when an asthmatic person comes in contact with air pollution. Also, frequent coughing and sneezing are also common allergies that are caused by air pollution.
- Cardiovascular and heart diseases – Arteries blockage, heart failure, occlusion, etc., are some of the many heart diseases that get triggered due to air pollution.
- Poor immune system in humans – Apart from aggravating heart diseases and respiratory diseases, air pollution also weakens our immunity system. The constant invasions of air pollution on our lung, respiratory system, heart and other parts of the body result in poor immunity.
- Growing hair fall problems – Air pollution has worsened the condition of our hair. Dull hair, grey hair, weak hair and falling hair are some of the major hair fall problems that are associated with air pollution.
- Early signs of age and dull skin – Air pollution is not only destroying our health, but our beauty too! Early signs of age like wrinkles, fine lines, and dark circles appear more early when there is a continuous exposure to air pollution.
Air Pollution: Effects on Fauna and Flora
- Damage to Fauna – Air pollution harms animals and wildlife in many ways. The increased ozone level in atmosphere damages the lung tissues in animals. Air pollution also produces acid rain that results in leaching of aluminum from the soil, thus, killing the fish. The harmful particulate particles suspended in the air affects the respiratory, circulatory and nervous system of the animals. Even the migration cycle of birds and animals get disturbed due to air pollution as smog creates confused vision for them.
- Damage to Flora – Plants also get affected from air pollution through different ways including eutrophication, acid rain and ozone at lower atmospheric levels, etc. While acid rain makes the soil poisonous and adversely affects the growth and survival of plants, the ground level ozone causes respiratory problems in plants by blocking the stomata in plants.
- Adverse effects on flowering quality of plants – Air pollution also affects the flowering quality of plants. Due to cement dust and other pollutants in the air, crusts are formed on the flowers, giving them a poor quality and look. Moreover, the plants do not get to grow well in excessive air pollution and give poor flowering results.
- Effect on agriculture – Increased levels of chlorine, ammonia, ethylene, carbon monoxide, and other harmful gases are putting food crops in danger. The decreased food crop and poor quality of crop are also results of air pollution. The harmful effects of air pollution can be observed on the leaves, roots, flowers and fruits of plants.
Air Pollution: Effect on Environment and Atmosphere
- Depleting ozone layer – One of the most dangerous effects of air pollution is depleting ozone layer. Ozone layer protects us from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of sun. The chlorofluorocarbons or the CFC, present in air due to air pollution are damaging the ozone layer. The results of dangerous UV radiation can be seen in the form of skin cancer, eye diseases and many other problems.
- Global warming – Various air pollutants and effects like depleted ozone layer, greenhouse gases, etc., are together forming the problem of global warming. Due to global warming, the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere is increasing continuously. Air pollution has formed a cover around the atmosphere and this cover is capturing the unnecessary heat that would otherwise release from our planet.
- Acid Rain – Acid rain is also a dangerous effect of air pollution on flora, fauna and environment. Just as the name suggests, acid rain is a rain, which is acidic in nature. It is caused by air pollution when processes like burning of coal, fossil fuels, etc., produce harmful gases that mix up with natural precipitation and make soil and water poisonous.
- Harmful effects of smog – Smog is excessive and strong fog that surrounds Earth’s atmosphere. Smog is actually a mixture of different types of air pollutants. Smog actually forms from smoke and fog. Smog affects plants, animals and humans in various ways by causing problems like respiratory diseases, lung diseases, disturbed migration cycle of birds/ animals and other problems too!
Solutions for Air Pollution
The solutions/preventive measures to control Air Pollution are discussed below:
- Use renewable energy – This is one of the best solutions for air pollution. Non- renewable energy sources produce air pollution. Burning of fossil fuel, coal and natural gas produce harmful gases that add up to air pollution. On the other hand, renewable energy sources like sunlight, wind, water, air, etc., produce energy without causing air pollution. Therefore, the use of renewable energy should be enhanced and encouraged.
- Protect forests and grow more tress – If we want to prevent air pollution we should protect our forests. We should also grow more and more trees. Also, reforestation and afforestation should be encouraged. While reforestation will help in setting up a forest on land that had trees on it sometime back, the process of afforestation will help establish a forest on land that has no forest or trees on it for a long period of time. In addition to this, planting trees near the industrial areas will also help in the prevention of air pollution.
- Solar energy based equipment – Solar equipment should be used whenever and wherever possible. Using solar panels, solar cooker, solar lamps, lights, solar cars, batteries, inverter, energy collectors and similar other useful solar equipment can help prevent air pollution at a significant level because solar devices do not pollute the air.
- Share vehicles – Sharing vehicles is also another option to control air pollution. Instead of using individual cars, it would be wise and beneficial to follow the strategy of ‘carpooling’ where a group of people travel in a car and decide a specific route so that everyone can reach the destination with convenience. The concept of carpooling does not only help share the stress of driving, toll taxes, petrol expenses, etc., but also helps in controlling air pollution by reducing the number of vehicles on road.
- Introduce cycle culture for short distance travel – Using bicycles for short distances is also a wonderful and interesting way to control air pollution. Bicycles do not use or burn any fuel and contribute in prevention of air pollution. Moreover, using bicycles also helps you stay fit as cycling is a good exercise.
- Use of electric, hybrid and energy efficient vehicles – It is also recommended that people should use electric, hybrid and energy efficient vehicles as they produce zero direct emissions, thus, helping in the prevention of air pollution. Using green vehicles is also a good idea. Green vehicles are environmental friendly vehicles which produce less harmful effects on environment in comparison of the tradition vehicles. Hybrid cars, which use two or more engines (an electric motor and another traditional engine), also help in controlling air pollution at a certain extent!
- Proper vehicle maintenance – Proper maintenance and servicing of vehicles helps in limiting excessive harmful emissions like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, etc., from vehicles. This also increases fuel efficiency for vehicles. We should always get our vehicles checked for quality and condition from time to time. Vehicles that are in proper condition produce lesser harmful emissions than those which are in bad condition.
- Clean and Efficient garbage disposable system – Efficient garbage disposal systems should be arranged at various public places so that the garbage can be disposed in the right way. Also, the garbage should be thrown and collected in separate containers with categories as plastic waste, liquids and solids so that the waste is managed efficiently without putting harm to the environment.
- Say no to plastic– We should control our dependence on plastic as it causes air pollution and a lot of other harms to our environment. Instead, we should use human-made products. All of us can make individual efforts towards prevention of air pollution by replacing plastic bags with paper bags, plastic containers with steel or ceramic containers, plastic crockery with glass or steel crockery and similar other replacements.
- Measures to control dust – Efficient and appropriate measures should be taken to control dust emission during various activities like mining, building constructions, road constructions, etc. Dust particles add up to atmosphere and degrade the quality of air, causing air pollution.
- Encourage environmental audits at regular intervals – Environmental audits are tools of environment management that ‘investigate’, ‘understand’ and ‘identify’ various human activities and activities of an organization so that our environment remains safe and healthy. The environmental audits are done in an organized document form so that a track record can be established for necessary measures.
- Internal control and audit system in industries to check air pollution levels – Industries and factories should have internal environment audit and control systems so that the harmful emissions causing air pollution can be limited. The environment audit & control officials recommend measures like proper chimneys, cleaning filters, etc., to the factories and industries so that air pollution is controlled.
- Support & encourage the use of human-made products & handicraft items – Human-made products and handicraft items are environmental friendly and help control air pollution. These items are made manually and do not require a processing through factories or industries. Thus, obviously, there are no chances of harmful emissions.
- Use unadulterated vehicular fuels – With the rising price of petrol and diesel, many people have started using adulterated fuel. Adulterated fuel is the unauthorized mixing of foreign substances into the original fuels that causes dangerous results of air pollution. For example, cheap elements like cheaper hydrocarbons are mixed with the original fuel, or doping gasoline with kerosene are some of the commonly found fuel adulteration processes. On the other hand, the unadulterated fuels are comparatively safer than the adulterated fuels as the former produce lesser harmful emissions.
- Create awareness among people – Creating awareness for air pollution is very necessary. If people stay aware about air pollution, its causes and dangerous effects, they will definitely make individual efforts to combat and prevent air pollution.
Conclusion: Our planet Earth is a home for all humans, animals and plants. It is we the humans who have created the problem of air pollution. Hence, it is our responsibility to find and follow the solutions for this problem. Let us pledge to protect and nourish our environment because that is the best gift that we can pass on to our coming generations!