Air pollution is currently one of the most severe environmental issues affecting humanity. It is prevalent in all societies, regardless of their level of socioeconomic development, and constitutes a phenomenon that has a marked and insidious effect on our health and well-being.
Before we discuss what can be done, we first need to take a closer look at airborne pollution, discuss the different types, their main sources, and recommend some things you can do to protect yourselves and those you love.
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What Exactly Is Considered “Air Pollution”?
The term air pollution refers to the detectable presence of harmful substances in the air we breathe. These substances, also known as pollutants, can come from natural sources such as large wildfires or volcanic eruptions, as well as from artificial processes such as industrial operations, transportation, and traditional energy production.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, the most common air pollutants are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter (dirt, dust, soot, smoke), and sulfur dioxide.
Why Is Air Pollution On The Rise?
While air pollution is not a new problem, it has become alarmingly severe in the last few decades due to increased industrialization, urbanization, and the widespread use of fossil fuels.
With more and more people living in larger and larger cities, a rise in energy consumption and the burning of fossil fuels has taken place. This has resulted in higher levels of emissions from sources such as factories and power plants.
Not surprisingly, climate change has also contributed to worsening air quality. This is because warmer temperatures have led to more frequent and intense wildfires, resulting in vast amounts of smoke and particulate matter being released into the air.
Multiple factors have caused the air around us to get dirtier and more contaminated with every passing day.
How Air Pollution Can Negatively Impact Our Health and Daily Lives
Air pollution can have considerable negative impacts on both our collective health and daily lives. This is because sustained exposure to polluted air has been linked over and over again to respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
Air pollution can also cause or worsen the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. There have even been studies that link exposure to airborne pollution and the deterioration of our immune systems making us far more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.
Moreover, pollutants in the air around us can diminish the quality of our daily lives by causing irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as headaches, bouts of dizziness, and chronic fatigue. High levels of airborne pollution can even lead to markedly decreased cognitive function and impaired mental health.
This all results in vastly increased healthcare costs and harmful levels of lost productivity across the workforce.
Airborne pollution can also directly harm the environment, including plants and wildlife, and further contribute to the worst aspects of climate change.
Therefore, it is essential that we take action to reduce air pollution and find ways in which we can offer ourselves some protection.
What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves Against Rising Air Pollution?
Protecting ourselves from rising air pollution should be a priority for both personal and environmental health. And while the issue may seem overwhelming, there are many things you and I can do to reduce our exposure to airborne pollutants and improve the quality of the air we breathe.
Here are 10 things you can do to protect yourself from air pollution:
This should be your initial step to protect yourself and those around you from increased air pollution. So, stay up-to-date with the forecast and daily air quality index alerts and advisories in your area through your local news, government websites, or air quality apps.
Limit outdoor activity during periods of high contamination
Try to limit or even outright avoid spending time outdoor exercise during periods when air pollution levels are measurably high. This is especially relevant during hot and humid days when the air tends to be more stagnant, thus trapping airborne pollutants much closer to the ground where they are more easily inhaled.
Use air purifiers
Consider using air filters or air purifiers in your home or place of work to reduce indoor air pollution. Something like this HEPA filter air purifier from LEVOIT (on Amazon) works wonderfully well.
Reduce your energy consumption
Using energy-efficient appliances, switching to renewable energy sources, and reducing your overall energy consumption will help to reduce the levels of airborne pollution that are generated by power plants.
Use public transportation
Whenever possible, use public transportation or carpool instead of taking your private vehicle, as this will help to reduce the number of vehicles on the road at any given time, thus decreasing total emissions found in the air.
Use environmentally friendly products
Choose to use household products that are categorized as environmentally friendly, such as VOC-free paints and cleaning products.
Get plants and plant trees
Plants can be highly effective at removing harmful pollutants from the air we breathe, making them an obvious and cost-effective way to improve the quality of the air inside your home.
Additionally, planting trees and shrubs around your neighborhood can help to reduce levels of outdoor air pollution by absorbing pollutants and producing fresh oxygen.
Trees will also create shade, which can help lower the temperature in urban areas and reduce the formation of smog.
Wear a mask
In areas with high levels of air pollution, wearing a mask is one of the simplest and most effective means of directly lowering your exposure to harmful airborne particles.
Support local policies that reduce pollution
You should support policies and regulatory reforms that aim to lower levels of air pollution.
Advocate for change
Advocate for change at the state, and national level by voting for officials and politicians that will prioritize addressing the problem of airborne pollution.
Air Pollution Is A Bigger Threat Than Most People Realize
Each year, hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer from a variety of respiratory symptoms that can be directly linked to air pollution. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and inflammation of the respiratory tract.
As if that weren’t enough, airborne pollution is also responsible for a noticeable aggravation of pre-existing conditions, as well as the development of new potentially deadly conditions such as cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The sources of air pollution are numerous and can vary by region. In some areas, industrial processes, mass manufacturing, and mining operations are the primary culprits, while in others, emissions from motor vehicles and airplanes are the main contributors to airborne pollutants. Agricultural activities, believe it or not, are also an important source of air pollution in some regions.
The effects of air pollution on human health are well-documented and affect the most vulnerable members of our society the most. This means children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions are particularly defenseless to the negative effects of air pollution.
Efforts to reduce air pollution have been ongoing for many years, with varying levels of success. Governments from all sides of the political spectrum have implemented regulations to try to curb emissions that negatively affect the quality of the air around us.
Conscious individuals have also taken it upon themselves to take steps to reduce their potential contribution to the problem.
However, a sustained effort from all aspects of society will be needed to combat the effects that air pollution has wrought on the environment and on our lungs.
Last update on 2024-02-20 at 14:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API