Pollution Is Choking the Earth
Wed, April 21, 2021

Pollution Is Choking the Earth

Air pollution is a real global problem, with 9 out of 10 people on the planet breathing high-level pollutants. This growing health crisis causes about seven million deaths per year including 600,000 children / Photo by: nEwyyy via Shutterstock

 

Air pollution is a real global problem, with 9 out of 10 people on the planet breathing high-level pollutants. This growing health crisis causes about seven million deaths per year including 600,000 children. Thus, solving this menace is literally a matter of life and death.

 

Global Crisis

With the combined effects of smog suspended over urban cities and smoke inside homes, pollution presents a major threat to climate and health. More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to bad air quality levels exceeding World Health Organization guideline limits, with low- and middle-income countries registering the highest exposures both indoors and outdoors.

The following are current data from the UN Environment, WHO, and the World Bank on the global pollution crisis:

• 800 people every hour or 13 per minute die due to air pollution. This accounts for more than three times the combined number of people dying from tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria each year. Also, 60% of those deaths are among women and children.

• Carbon emissions, fossil fuel burning, and other pollutants contribute to both climate change and local air pollution.

• 3.8 million premature deaths every year are caused by household air pollution, vastly in developing countries.

• 93% of children from all over the world reside in areas where pollution exceeds WHO guidelines. 600,000 children under 15 died due to respiratory tract infections in 2016.

• Air pollution accounts for deaths due to ischemic heart disease (26%), stroke (24%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (43%), and lung cancer (29%). It is closely linked to low birth weight, childhood cancer, asthma, obesity, autism, and poor lung development in children.

• 97% and 29% of cities in low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries, respectively, fall short of WHO minimum air quality levels.

• About 25% of urban ambient air pollution from fine particulates is contributed by traffic, 20% by domestic fuel burning, and 15% by industrial activities including electricity generation.

• The worldwide government pledge to keep global warming "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) under the 2015 Paris Agreement was not attained. This could have saved about a million lives a year by 2050 by reducing air pollution alone.

• It is estimated that the cost of air pollution for public health is more than 4% of GDP in 15 countries emitting the most planet-warming gases. In contrast, only about 1% of global GDP is needed to keep temperature warming limits.

The Major Causes and Disastrous Effects of Air Pollution

There are two types of air pollution: primary and secondary. Primary pollutants are the outcomes of a process or action such as manufacturing plants emitting sulfur dioxide. The interaction and ensuing reaction of these contaminants cause secondary pollutants such as smog. The most recognized causes of air pollution include the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and other factory combustibles as well as pollution emitted by cars, trains, airplanes; and agricultural activities like increased use of insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers with ammonia being a very common byproduct. It is one of the most hazardous gases in the atmosphere. Mining operations extracting minerals cause contaminants (dust + chemicals) to fly into the air affecting workers and nearby residents. As for indoor air pollution, it’s commonly caused by cleaning products and painting supplies that emit toxic chemicals into the air.

According to experts, about 90% of people breathe air with high levels of pollution. High contamination results in adverse effects.

1. Air pollution negatively impacts health. It is associated with immediate lung complications, including shortness of breath, coughing and irritated airways, asthma attacks, COPD flare-ups, stroke risks, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. Several million people have died directly or indirectly from the effects of air pollution.

2. Global warming is another direct effect of air pollution. Increased temperature in sea levels, melting of ice, and displacement and loss of habitat are signs of impending disasters.

3. Acid rain forms during fossil fuel burning. Acid rain makes water toxic and robs the soil of essential nutrients leaving trees and plants vulnerable to cold temperatures, insects, and disease.

4. Pollutants develop into algae (eutrophication) that negatively impacts on plants and aquatic and animal species.

5. The toxic chemicals on the air drive wildlife species to new habitats causing marked decreases in animal populations. The major effects include, among others, deaths, debilitating diseases, and physiological stress.

6. The ozone layer is depleted resulting in the emission of harmful ultraviolet rays that cause skin and eye-related problems. Bad ozone also affects natural vegetation.

Looking Toward the Future

The effects of poor air quality are menacingly scary. If mankind wants clean air, we must act together toward a future where the air we breathe is clean and safe.

Here are a few ways of reducing pollution now and in the future.

- Prevent pollution on land by converting waste products into energy, using biodegradable plastics, and limiting the purchase and consumption of disposables and non-biodegradable products. The zero-waste movement can be adopted and enforced in every country.

- Prevent water pollution by planting trees in both urban and rural areas and by not dumping oils and chemicals down the sink. Use natural drain-clearing options instead.

- Prevent air pollution by investing in renewable and sustainable energy like wind and solar energy and by capturing emissions and turning them into tangible stuff before they escape into the air. Chinese and Dutch innovators turned pollution into bricks and jewelry.

Humankind is still at a loss on how to end pollution. Nevertheless, innovators worldwide are doing their best to come up with effective ways to attain that vision. Preventing land, water, and air pollution is the best way to guarantee a clean and healthy future for mankind. Let us contribute and share to achieve this end.

Prevent air pollution by investing in renewable and sustainable energy like wind and solar energy and by capturing emissions and turning them into tangible stuff before they escape into the air / Photo by: KateandRobby via Shutterstock