Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems facing human civilization today. An increased contamination of the air by gases and dust reduces the air quality and thus the quality of life. Air pollution also has harmful effects on human health, as it harms, among other things, the human cardiovascular system as well as the respiratory system and can cause serious diseases such as cancer. According to the European Environment Agency, more than 400,000 people die every year throughout Europe as a result of air pollution. Here is a brief overview of the causes of air pollution and its impact on the environment and health.
Causes of air pollution
Today’s air pollution has many causes and is largely due to pollutants from:
- Industry and trade: During production pollutants get into the air
- Transport: Road transport, aviation, shipping and construction machinery cause most of the pollutants that are released into the air
- Agriculture: Chemical fertilizers, the use of pesticides and machinery and cattle breeding produce pollutants in the air
- Private households: Energy is consumed by cooking, heating and lighting, which increases pollutant emissions in the private household
Effects of air pollution on humans and environment
- Smog and soot: Smog or ground-level ozone, arise when there is a reaction between the sun and burning fossil fuels. On the other hand, soot or particulate matter, consists of small particles of soil, chemicals, dust, smoke, and allergens. They come in the form of gas or solids that easily float in the air. Smog can affect your lungs, and it can cause irritation of the eyes and the throat.
- Dangerous air pollutants: These pollutants can be hazardous to the environment or have harsh health risks to humans; even in little amounts. Most of them are law-governed, and they include lead, mercury, benzene, and dioxins.
- Greenhouse gases: Gases in the greenhouses can lead to higher temperatures and other climate changes by trapping the heat in the atmosphere. This means that there will be an extreme weather condition, rising sea levels, heat-related deaths, and increased transmission of infectious diseases like Lyme
- Pollen and mold: Mold or allergens produced by vegetation are easily air-borne. They are then aggravated by climate change, and can be hazardous to the health of humans. Even though the government doesn’t regulate pollen and molds, they are still considered as pollutants.
Health consequences for humans
People rely on clean air. The health consequences of air pollution include:
- Respiratory diseases, e.g. asthma
- Heart attack
- Cancer, e.g. lung cancer
Pollutants in the air affect the entire ecosystem and thus also the human food chain. Since many plants and animals are on the human diet, it has a direct and harmful impact on human health and can lead to further diseases.
How some animals may be affected by air pollution
Just like humans, animals rely on clean air. Air pollution also damages all animals due to the described effects. Here are some examples:
- Pets: Pets usually suffer an increased risk of tumors when they are exposed to polluted air over a particular period. Air pollution can cause cardiac arrest in dogs and other pets.
- Birds: Direct coal production affect the birds, which can damage birds their breathing systems. Mercury will accumulate as it is transferred through the food chain. This means that the predatory birds’ lives will be in danger.
- Fish: When acid rain falls in streams and rivers, it will increase the pH levels. As a result, the fish will be killed due to a fluctuation of the pH level. Acidic water is clearer in most cases, which then increases the penetration of temperature and light in the water. Fish will be forced to relocate to find a cooler habitat.
- Insects: Insects are also vulnerable to air pollution. Any slight change in the air will force the insects to relocate. This will affect animals and plants that depend on the insects to grow and survive. However, there are insects that digest the organic waste without a problem. Such insects are resilient to air pollution.
What can we do about air pollution?
- Cause less fumes and use public transport and your bike regularly or walk
- Support innovative eco-friendly products, such as Electric cars, e-bikes
- Support energy production from renewable energy sources (eg sun, wind, bioenergy)
- Support environmental organizations with donations so they can effectively carry out their duties in this area
- Support the enforcement of stricter pollutant emission standards
- Reduce the consumption of meat, because about 70 percent of the direct greenhouse gas emissions of our diet are due to meat production
- Reduce your energy consumption in the household
As you can see, you can do some things in your everyday life to do your part for a better air. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and help raise awareness of air pollution. Many Thanks!