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Air pollution- All you need to know

Air Pollution
Air Pollution

What is air pollution?

Air is the mixture of gases that fill the atmosphere, giving life to the plants and animals that make earth such a vibrant place to live. Air is entirely made up of two gases (78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen), with a few other gases (such as carbon dioxide and argon) present in absolutely minute quantities.

Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants(including gases, particulate matters) into the air that is dangerous to human health and the planet as a whole. It refers to contamination of the air, irrespective of indoors or outdoor. The main reason for its occurrence is, when any harmful gases, dust, smoke enters into the atmosphere and makes it difficult for plants, animals, and humans to survive as the air becomes dirty.

Air pollution contains a number of pollutants, including:

1. Sulfur dioxide (SO2),

2. Nitrogen oxides (NOx),

3. Ozone (O3),

4. Particulate matter (small suspended particles of varying sizes),

5. Carbon monoxide (CO)

6. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs).



What causes air pollution?

Anything people perform that involves burning things (combustion), using the household material or industrial chemicals (substances that cause chemical reactions and may release toxic gases in the process), or things having the potential to produce large amounts of dust has the potential to cause air pollution.

Now let's look at the key sources of air pollution:

1. Burning of the Fossil Fuels:

Fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and other factory combustibles when combusted emits Sulfur dioxide,  which is one of the major cause of air pollution. Pollution emitted from vehicles including trucks, cars, trains, airplanes causes a huge amount of pollution.

Carbon Mono-oxide emitted by improper or incomplete combustion of fossil fuels which is generally emitted from vehicles is another major pollutant along with Nitrogen Oxides.

2. Exhaust from factories and industries:

Industrial plants and factories that mainly manufactures metals such as aluminum and steel, oil refineries, cement producing industries,  plastic synthesizing plants, or chemical producing industries are among those that can produce harmful air pollution. Manufacturing industries/factories emit a very large amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and chemicals into the air thereby depleting the quality of air.

3. Power plants:

For producing electricity most of the conventional power plants use fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. Burning these fuels causes very huge emission of air pollutants such as as..sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates. Just like car engines, power plants emit unburnt carbon monoxide.

4. Indoor air pollution:

Household cleaning products, painting supplies emit toxic chemicals in the air which are harmful to human health and also cause air pollution.

What is PM 10 and PM 2.5?

Atmospheric particulate matter(PM) is microscopic solid matter suspended in the Earth's atmosphere. The sources of these particulate matters can be natural (volcanoes, dust storms, forest fires etc...) as well as they can be man-made (burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants, and other industries.)

The particulate matter(PM) is characterized on the basis of their size in diameters. Size here means the diameter of the dust particulates in terms of microns.

1. Coarse dust particles (PM10): These are 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter. The source includes dust stirred up by vehicles on roads or grinding or crushing activities etc... These tiny particulate matter which is about 35 times smaller than the width of a hair on your head are small enough to get inhaled passing defensive nose hairs and right into lungs.

2.Fine particles (PM2.5): These are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or even smaller, and can only be seen with an electron microscope. Fine particulate matter(PM) are produced from all types of combustion including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes. While PM 10's reaches the lungs, PM 2.5 can pass from lungs into our blood supply and be carried throughout the whole bodies, thereby making them "the invisible killer".

Effects of air pollution on our health:

World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that Delhi recorded Particulate Matter(PM) 2.5 levels at 143 micrograms per cubic meter, which is 10 times higher than the recommended safe limit set by Who. Surrounding areas such as Jaipur, Chandigarh Bihar, Uttar Pradesh(UP) also have PM 2.5 levels well above safe limits. These smaller air particles are particularly dangerous for health because they enter the lungs very easily and more deeply, resulting in asthma, lung cancers, and other breathing issues.

1. Asthma:

This is one of the most common diseases in the 21st century that affects the humans breathing process in the polluted air. This is a chronic disease which causes inflammation in the air passages of the human body that makes the person difficult to breathe. Heavily breathing while doing normal routine activities and difficult activities are some of the basic symptoms of the disease.

On the eve of World Asthma Day May 1st, 2018 a doctor stated that "One among every ten persons affected by asthma globally is an Indian, with the country having 20 million such patients and the number is on the rise".

2. Lung Cancer:

With the presence of various carcinogens(cancer-causing germs) in the air, the lungs can get overspread with such germs which in turn can lead to lung or pulmonary cancer. The disease involves the uncontrollable growth of the carcinogenic cells in one or both of the lungs causing a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity and default in the complete working of the respiratory system.

According to The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2018, Near About 234,050 new cases of lung cancer have been registered in which 121,690 are men and 112,360 are women and About 154,089 people have died from lung cancer including 83,567 men and 70,522 women.

3. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease):

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is caused by pollution in the air which causes a change in the shape of the air passages and air sacs or the alveoli and they might become expanded as well. Thus, the patient finds it very difficult to breathe even while sitting or relaxing. Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis are the two types of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease which are common in humans and can lead to cancer and premature deaths as well.

According to World Health Organization estimates, around 65 million people have moderate to severe COPD and More than 3 million people have died of COPD in 2005 corresponding to 5% of all deaths globally and it is considered to be the third leading cause of death by 2030.

4. Cardiovascular Diseases:

The presence of a number of poisonous substances such as.. sulfur dioxide,  nitrogen oxides and Carbon monoxide in the air, exhibit a lot of cardiovascular diseases of various kinds. The amount of exposure to the pollutants can determine the degree of the disease and infection on the patient.

WHO(world health organization) in its latest report stated that 40% of the heart disease is caused by outdoor air pollution.

5. Premature Deaths:

It has been studied by many institutions that pollutants in the air can lead to premature deaths owing to different reasons such as asphyxiation and extreme reactions caused by the body to the pollutant matter. Every year a huge number of premature deaths are registered all across the world due to pollution in the air.

Department of Health estimates more than 150,000 premature deaths a year worldwide because of air pollution.

How to protect yourself from air pollution:

1. Check daily air pollution forecasts in your area through local radio and TV weather reports, newspapers and online(applications or websites).

2. When the air is bad, walk indoors in the house or gym or use an exercise machine. when pollution levels are high, Avoid exercising outdoors. And always avoid exercising near high-traffic areas.

3. Walk or carpool. Combine trips. Use public transport like...buses, subways,  railways, commuter trains or other alternatives to reach your destination.

4. Don't burn wood or trash near your or neighbor house. Burning firewood and trash(day to day garbage) are among the major sources of particle pollution (soot) in India. Find an open space to perform such activity.

5. Smoking is also very dangerous for your health, so don't smoke and don't allow anyone to smoke around you.

6. Get involved and Start Fighting pollution in any form. Use eco-friendly methods and use less fossil fuel day to day to create less pollution.

7. Try using sunscreen whenever going out. When ultraviolet radiation comes through the weakened ozone layer, it causes skin problems like... skin damage and skin cancer.

What can you do to fight against air pollution?

1. Save energy: 

Producing electricity in conventional(traditional methods) power plants generates pollution so anything you can do to save energy will help to reduce pollution (and global warming as well). Switch to low-energy lamps, use a laptop computer instead of a desktop, dry your clothes outdoors, and heat insulates your home.

2. Reduce car usage: 

Cars now are considered the biggest source of air pollution in most of the urban areas, so traveling through some other way to reach your destination helps to keep the air clean. very often we use cars, but we can use the bus or a train or walk or cycle(for a shorter distance).  and whenever using your car, drive efficiently to save fuel and money, and cut pollution. 

3. Don't burn woods: 

Did you know that wood burning contains up to 350 times chemical benzpyrene compared to cancer-causing as cigarette smoke? Compost your garden refuse, bury it underground, or dispose of it in some other way.

4. Avoid burning household waste: 

Burning plastic releases horrible toxic chemicals into the local environment, some of which will be sucked up by you and your neighbors. Recycle your trash instead.

5. Cut the use of chemicals: 

Air freshener surely cherishes the surrounding space but at the same time, it contains many chemicals which can harm you. Air fresheners fill your room with perfume, but you're also filling it with chemical pollution. Open the windows of your room to get fresher air instead of using chemicals to perfume your room.

6. Reduce, reuse, and recycle: 

The most basic thing every person must perform to fight pollution. Buying new stuff is enthusiastic, but reusing old things can be just as good.

7. Restrict smoking: 

Cigarettes contain addictive chemicals like.. nicotine that addicts you to smoke them every time. They cause all kinds of health problems, at the same time they also cause localized air pollution. 

So try reducing your smoking habit or stop smoking completely to save yourself from any kind of danger.
Air pollution- All you need to know Air pollution- All you need to know Reviewed by Piyush Narayan on September 18, 2018 Rating: 5

2 comments:

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