Why Should We Care about Air Pollution?

by Aditi

What is air? What importance does it hold in our lives? They are such questions without which you can actually not grow up. We all on this planet Earth is very much aware of why do we need air. But if you will not protect this air, your atmosphere from the pollution most of which is done through the anthropogenic causes. Till we do not realize that we actually need to take steps for reducing these pollutions it will just keep adding to our own disadvantage.

Air pollution is all around us whether it be indoors, outdoors, in urban and even in the suburban and rural areas. We all cannot now this air for granted as we have been doing for so long. There was air, there were smells, there was a cold wind, there was hot air. There is no one reason behind this but various, some of them being like urbanization, overpopulation, rapidly growing industrialization, and these causes of air pollution are both natural as well as anthropogenic.

There are various air pollutants, polluting the environment but some prominent ones or the major contributors to air pollution being, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, surface ozone, nitrogen oxide, lead and suspended particulate matter.

As we now know how our air is actually being polluted so now let’s move forward and see that why should we actually care for this air pollution.

We must all be aware that air pollution is turning in to a global public health emergency. It is causing harm to everyone no matter whether it comes to unborn babies or to children walking to school, or even to women cooking over open fires.

You need to understand that no matter whether the pollution source is indoor or outdoor but actually it is equally deadly. Air pollutants can cause asthma, inflammation of lungs, lung cancer silicosis, other respiratory illnesses and heart diseases like pulmonary malfunctioning, also other problems like kidney damage, irritation in eyes, nose, and throat these being just some of the problems caused due to air pollution. But even in the past if you see history will show you that this has also led to major disasters one of them was Minamata Disease that killed thousands of people in Japan.

As per the data of the World Health Organization, every year around 7 million premature deaths are ascribable to the air pollution — deplorably around 800 people every hour or 13 every minute. As a whole, air pollution is the reason behind these many deaths and the numbers are even higher than any other risk factors including malnutrition, alcohol and drug use and physical inactivity.

Even the air conditioning systems and all the refrigeration systems are too harmful to the atmosphere as they have in them the chemical substance known as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), it is actually responsible for the ozone layer depletion. For this purpose, the protocol famous as the Montreal Protocol was signed back in the year 1987. This protocol stated that all the ozone-depleting substances must be banned in order to protect the ozone layer. This ozone layer is present in the stratospheric zone of atmosphere, which functions as the protective shield for our planet earth by preventing those harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun from directly reaching the earth’s surface.

Globally, 93 percent of all children breathe air that contains higher concentrations of pollutants than the World Health Organization (WHO) considers safe to human health. As a result, 600,000 children die prematurely each year because of air pollution. As if that were not enough, exposure to dirty air also harms brain development, leading to cognitive and motor impairments, while at the same time putting children at greater risk for chronic disease later in life.

Household air pollution is particularly harmful to women and children due to their traditional home-based roles in many cultures. Approximately 60 percent of total household air pollution-related deaths globally are among women and children, and around more than half of all pneumonia deaths in children who are under five years of age can be attributed to indoor air pollution.

Pollution and poverty always go hand in hand. Air pollution goes to the heart of social justice and global inequality, disproportionately affecting poor people.

Air pollution

Also, we need to make our farmers aware about the adverse effects of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and should help them in switching over to other methods of organic farming, or to the usage of biofertilizers and so on.

In homes, air pollution comes mostly from fuels and high-emitting heating and cooking systems. Clean cooking and heating fuels and technologies are out of reach for low-income families, so polluting alternatives are the norm. About 3 billion people depend on burning solid fuels or kerosene to meet household energy needs and 3.8 million of them will die each year from exposure to these pollutants. A lack of awareness of the risks associated with breathing polluted air also contributes to the problem, as well as the cost and difficulty to access healthcare.

Urban areas, overcrowded cities, and suburbs, are originally hotspots for outdoor air pollution maximum through vehicular emissions. Around 4 million of the approximately 7 million people who die from air pollution-related diseases every year live in the Asia-Pacific region. The government too is taking various steps for mitigating the air pollution, like electronic vehicles are being promoted more and more, integration and scaling up of public transport, Bharat Stage IV has also been upgraded to Bharat Stage VI for further controlling the pollution.

When we look into the high-income countries, around 29 percent of cities fall short of meeting the organization’s guidelines. But even in these countries, poorer communities are often those who are mostly exposed to power plants, factories, incinerators and also those busy roads are often located in or near-poor suburban communities.

We all need to know that the right to clean air is the right of every human being. The right to a healthy environment enjoys constitutional status— and it is actually the strongest form of legal safeguard available—in more than 100 countries. But at the same time, we ourselves need to understand that we cannot be completely dependent on the government to take measures rather we also need to come forward and create awareness about the same and follow it ourselves too.

We should take care of this air pollution not only for ourselves but also for our future generations to come and for the sustainable development and growth.

 According to the World Bank, air pollution costs the global economy more than US$5 trillion every year in welfare costs and $225 billion in lost income.

A 2016 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that, if the situation remains unchanged, by 2060 the annual global welfare costs of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution would be US$18-25 trillion, with the costs of pain and suffering from illness estimated at around US$2.2 trillion.

There are other less direct costs, which nonetheless affect us globally. Ground-level ozone is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26 percent by 2030, creating food security and nutrition challenges. Air pollution also degrades materials and coatings, decreasing their useful life and generating costs for cleaning, repair, and replacement. UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook estimates that climate mitigation actions for achieving the Paris Agreement targets would cost about US$22 trillion.

Now the protective measures must be taken by all the countries and the countries have also realized their goals and objectives in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all the members of the UN for the period of 2015 – 2030. Always remember that we have to take this responsibility rather than just relying on the government to do it because the latter will make laws but it will only be a success when the former will participate equally into it