There is no doubt that the air of our planet become polluted everyday. But what does this really mean for each of us? According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates on air pollution, the commitment to new air quality standards and cleaner air will prevent 23,000 premature American deaths, 1.7 million cases of asthma attack or aggravation of chronic asthma, 67,000 new cases of acute and chronic bronchitis, 22,000 respiratory-related hospital admissions, and 42,000 hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease by the year 2010.
The W.H.O defined air pollution as the presence of materials in the air which are harmful to the living beings when they cross their threshold concentration levels. The foreign bodies, gases etc. act as an air pollutant.
Air pollution occurs when the air contains gases, dust, fumes or odour in harmful amounts. That is, amounts which could be harmful to the health or comfort of humans and animals or which could cause damage to plants and materials.
Air pollution is a serious global problem, and is especially problematic in large urban areas such as Mexico City, Mexico, and Athens, Greece. Many people suffer from serious illnesses caused by smog and air pollution in these areas. Plants, buildings, and animals are also victims of a particular type of air pollution called acid rain.
Acid rain is caused by airborne sulfur from burning coal in power plants and can be transported in rain droplets for thousands of miles. Poisons are then deposited in streams, lakes, and soils, causing damage to wildlife. In addition, acid rain eats into concrete and other solid structures, causing buildings to slowly deteriorate.
Air pollutants mainly occur as a result of gaseous discharges from industry and motor vehicles. There are also natural sources such as wind-blown dust and smoke from fires. The pollutants which occur naturally are the pollen, spores, marsh and volcanic gas. In urban areas it is mostly caused by the automobiles. They account for more than 3/4th of the noise and air pollution. In some areas the industries are more in number as compared to the other areas which may lead to the air pollution.
The diseases caused by air pollution include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema.
- Asthma may not be directly caused by air pollution, asthma attacks can be triggered by high levels of air pollution. The health condition asthma can also be caused by air pollution. A pollutant such as sulfur dioxide causes the constriction of smaller airways in the lungs and makes breathing harder even for healthy people.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to recurring episodes of respiratory problems, such as bronchitis. While smoking has long been recognized as the chief factor in the development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, recent research of subjects who lived through the Great Smog of 1952 found significant reductions in breathing capacity and increased rates of respiratory conditions, including emphysema in those patients.
- Cystic fibrosis is a serious disease itself, high levels of air pollution can further aggravate the condition. This hereditary disease affects the mucous glands found throughout the body, including in the lungs. Thick areas of mucous develop in the lungs and allow for certain types of harmful bacteria to thrive there. As a result, these patients have an increased number of lung infections and breathing problems.
People who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes have a higher risk of complications and death when living in areas with higher concentrations of air pollution.
Some factors for preventing diseases caused by air pollution:
For preventing and elimination of air pollution, individuals and organizations concerned with environmental protection recommend the following four direct factors of degrading our environment making a bitter world we live in.
- Coal-fired Boilers: Coal-fired boilers mostly used in thermal power plants are the largest contributors of solid particles, green-house gases and toxic substances in the atmosphere. Another solution lies in reducing electricity consumption in our houses that will curtail electricity generation and hence the pollution from boilers.
- Smoking: In America alone, nearly 4 lac persons die from tobacco-caused diseases, out of these nearly 50,000 are non-smokers exposed to tobacco smoke in atmosphere.
- Firewood burning: In many rural areas, fuels used for cooking food are firewood and cow-dung cakes. Both of these emit a lot of smoke, carbon dioxide and other gases polluting atmospheres in the houses people live in, and thus causing sicknesses of respiratory system and that of vision. Use of natural or LP gas for cooking is a better solution.
- Ocean-going Vessels: Population’s dependence on locally produced goods will curtail need of transportation of goods from one country to another thus curtailing need of container ships and hence reducing pollution.
We can easily prevent air pollution if we do, but if it increase we can’t do anything in future and it will harm us all.