According to WHO, 92% of the world’s population live in areas where the air quality levels exceed prescribed WHO limits. To add to that, our own capital city of New Delhi has been topping the pollution charts. India’s air pollution level have overtaken even China (the country with the highest level of pollution). It therefore becomes imperative for us to understand a few things related to ‘air pollution’ like, what is air pollution, what causes it, and how can we as ordinary citizens make a difference.
The post below is an attempt on our part to help each one of us understand how a small effort at our end can make a difference.
What is pollution?
‘Pollution’, literally refers to contamination by foreign substances. The contamination could be of air, water, or soil amongst others and is usually responsible for interfering with the well-being and health of humans, marine and wild life, and mother earth.
‘Air pollution’ a term that isn’t alien to us, is transboundary in nature i.e. it travels and affects areas beyond just that of its origin or source. Today, air pollution is considered one of the largest environment risks for humans. Responsible for 1 out of 8 deaths globally, it has been linked to health disorders like cancer, respiratory disorders, stroke, and heart diseases amongst others. While referring to air pollution, it is important to understand that pollution isn’t restricted to outdoor air, the air indoors can be almost as harmful as that outside. Do read our posts on ways to manage indoor air pollution – Purify indoor air with plants and NASA’s list of top 10 air purifying plants.
The pollutants in the air can be either natural i.e. caused by factors like dust and forest fires or synthetic, i.e. man made like smoke from burning fossil fuels. These can be in the form of gases, solids or liquid and can be either primary or secondary in nature:
The pollutants that really pose a major threat to health are particulate matters, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Particulate matter, also commonly referred to as PM or particle pollution, are small sooty deposits that are suspended in the air and can be either solid or in the form of liquid droplets. These are the ones that form a blackish deposit on buildings and can be in varying sizes. While some of these particles can be seen with naked eye there are many others that can’t and when inhaled, these go and settle deep into the lungs, thereby causing various health issues. The main source of these in cities is known to be traffic fumes. (http://www.explainthatstuff.com/air-pollution-introduction.html).
Main contributors to air pollution in cities:
Of course burning of fossil fuels and emission of toxic gases from industries is hugely responsible for air pollution but there are multiple other factors that attribute to it:
Curbing air pollution seems like an uphill climb, but all it needs is a few steps forward by each of us, rather than a thousand steps taken by one person.