The declining quality of air in the world is a growing global concern. As more and more countries take action against air pollution, one may wonder why it is such an important issue; this is because air pollution not only affects our health but it also affects the planet, meaning that today’s pollution could be felt in future generations, putting humanity as a whole in danger.
In people, air pollution leads to many health issues. The breathing of polluted air puts people at a higher risk of multiple respiratory diseases like asthma. Exposure to ground-level ozone for periods of six to seven hours has been proven to decrease lung function and cause inflammation in the lungs. Cancer is also among the effects of air pollution in people as most pollutants happen to be carcinogens. In cities, coughing and wheezing have been observed as symptoms of air pollution. The damage sustained by the body does not only affect the lungs but also the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems. High levels of particle pollution have also been associated with higher incidents of heart problems. Strokes are also a known result of air pollution according to the World Health Organization. All forms of pollution have some effect on humanity. This article shows the varying effects that the various kinds of pollution have on people.
Smog and soot are the most visible effects of air pollution on the environment. They are a result of particulate matter, from the combustion of fossil fuels, reacting with sunlight. In the United States of America “pollution has reduced the distance and clarity of what we see by 70 percent” according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act. Other than reducing visibility, smog also known as ground-level ozone, can dramatically affect weather patterns in extreme cases like the Asian Brown Cloud which delays the annual monsoon further and further every year.
Greenhouse gasses are another by-product of the use of fossil fuels, as a majority of greenhouse gas is made up of carbon dioxide with the remainder consisting of methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and other various gasses. Methane comes from natural sources such as the keeping of livestock, mainly cattle, and industrial sources – mostly the drilling for oil and gas. Hydrofluorocarbons also appear as the result of industrial actions, namely the air-conditioning and refrigeration industries. These gasses are dangerous as they trap heat within the atmosphere leading to a rise in global temperatures, resulting in higher sea levels with the increased melting of polar ice caps, odd weather like increased heat waves, droughts etc. These then all then affect humans on a large scale through famines and reduced agricultural production in some parts of the world which in turn reduces economic activity, increasing poverty and overall population health.
Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, commonly found in aerosol cans, and hydro chlorofluorocarbons affect the environment in one of the most heinous ways; they deplete the ozone layer. This is bad because the ozone layer protects us from harmful rays from the Sun such as UV rays which are known to cause skin and eye problems as well as affect crops. This leaves many who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle at high risk of health issues further on in life such as young children who enjoy playing outside.
Nitrogen and sulphur in the air also adversely affect the environment and wildlife through acid rain and eutrophication. Eutrophication is when there are excessive amounts of nitrogen in a body of water which causes a dense growth of plant life; the decomposition of the plants depletes the supply of oxygen, leading to the death of animal life. Algae forms on the surface of bodies of water blocking sunlight and killing the underwater plant life as well. Acid rain comes about from chemical reactions with sulphur and/or nitrogen and rain clouds. The falling droplets then damage buildings, plants and even soil, reducing its fertility and fitness as a habitat for living organisms.
Air pollution is clearly a large issue that affects everyone and as such every person should make an effort to reduce air pollution and make sure our planet is still inhabitable for future generations.