Did you know that air pollution contributes to more premature deaths around the world than malaria and Aids/HIV put together? Astonishing, right? These are diseases that we are terrified of, yet we as humans are responsible for creating a bigger killer ourselves.
Most of you will know that the air quality around us will have an effect on the quality of life that we lead but did any of you know just how badly air pollution can affect our health in the long term?
The problem is that many of us are so used to this poor and toxic air quality that we just accept it as being normal. We go to work, earn our living and live in the cities, ignoring what we are doing to our planet.
China and India, in particular, are guilty of doing a lot of damage and not doing much to minimise the damage done but all major cities across the world have played their part in damaging the planet that we live and depend on.
How is Air Pollution Created?
Unfortunately, most air pollution is man-made and despite governments worldwide stating that they are doing all they can to reduce it in numerous ways, it is still responsible for more than seven million deaths a year around the world.
Whether it is manufacturing, energy or the need to get somewhere, we are hurting the environment through it. Every time we start an engine or flick on a lightbulb, we are adding to the damage that has already been caused.
There are five main causes of air pollution, those being:
- Forest fires
Of the five above, the main contributors are certainly industry and traffic and the chemicals, gasses and toxins that they release into the air are subject to a chemical reaction once they meet natural air and the sun. That reaction leads to smog and ground-level ozone which both have short- and long-term consequences for our health.
The Effects That Air Pollution Has on Our Health
Air pollution is just one type of pollution that can have an effect on our health but it is the one that many of us are the most exposed to. Water pollution, soil pollution and radioactive pollution all have their obvious impacts on health, but air pollution is the one that will affect the most people each year.
There have been numerous health impacts that have been linked to the main pollutants that contribute to air pollution and these include:
- Lung Damage – Not only can air pollution suppress the normal growth rate of lungs in children but it can also speed up the decline of lung function in adults and possibly cause lung cancer.
- Pancreas Damage – Air pollution has been linked to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Heart Damage – A number of cardiovascular diseases have also been linked to air pollution including that of heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis.
- Brain – Even fetal brain growth in pregnant women has been shown to be impacted by air pollution. Brain development in young children is also known to be impacted.
Even short-term symptoms can be experienced due to the smog and ground-level ozone, such as painful coughs, difficulty in breathing, headaches and fatigue. However, while those symptoms can be irritating, it is the long terms effects of repeatedly being exposed to air pollution that we really need to worry about.
Those who are more susceptible to the negative health impacts are the usual suspects unfortunately, those with already existing health conditions, the elderly and the young.
Steps We Can Take to Help Tackle Air Pollution
While it may seem that what we do on an individual basis is not going to make much of a difference, the more of us that do try to do our best to tackle air pollution will give us, as humans, a much better chance in the long run.
As factories, power stations and traffic are the biggest contributors to air pollution, we should be doing all that we can to minimise how much we actually use each of them.
- Reduce the amount of energy we use that is generated by power stations.
- Limit the use of our cars and motorbikes.
- Purchase when possible goods and products that are made from renewable sources.
Even little actions like sharing a car to go to work will keep another one off the road, or using public transport can make a small difference. Turning lights off in our home that we are not using or making sure we unplug everything after we have used them will also help to save energy.
We cannot keep having the attitude that what we do will not make a difference because if everybody has that same attitude, we certainly will not.