Air Pollution define as the release of pollutants into the atmosphere that is injurious to human health & the environment as a whole. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills approximately seven million people per year around the world. Nine out of ten people now breathe air that exceeds the WHO’s pollution guideline levels, with individuals in low- and middle-income nations bearing the brunt of the burden. The Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1970, empowers the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health by regulating the emissions of these dangerous air pollutants.
What Air Pollution is Caused by
The air pollution is caused by energy use & production, says the report. Burning fossil fuels puts gases and chemicals into the atmosphere, and in a particularly devastating feedback loop, air pollution not only causes but also exacerbates climate change. The earth’s temperature rises as a result of carbon dioxide and methane pollution in the air. When the temperature is warmer and there is more UV light, another sort of air pollution, smog, is exacerbated by the increased heat. Mold (due to wet conditions produced by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to longer pollen season) production are both increasing as a result of climate change.
Effects of Air Pollution
The effects of air pollution on the human body vary depending on the type of pollutant, the time and intensity of exposure, and other factors such as an individual’s health risks and the cumulative effects of various pollutants or stressors.
Smog and soot
These are the two most common types of pollution in the air. When pollutants from burning fossil fuels react with sunlight, smog (also known as ground-level ozone) forms. Soot (also known as particulate matter) is made up of microscopic particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergies that are carried in the air as gas or solids. Smog and soot have similar sources. “Both come from automobiles, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines, and anything else that burns fossil fuels like coal, gas, or natural gas.
Smog can irritate the eyes and throat, as well as harm the lungs, particularly in children, the elderly, and those who work or exercise outside. It’s even worse for persons with asthma or allergies, because the additional pollutants can aggravate their symptoms and precipitate asthma attacks. The tiniest airborne particles of soot, whether gaseous or solid, can infiltrate the lungs and bloodstream, worsening bronchitis, causing heart attacks, and even hastening death. COVID-19 mortality rates were higher in areas with more soot pollution than in areas with even slightly less, according to a report from Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health in 2020, demonstrating a link between the virus’s deadliness and long-term exposure to fine particulate matter and illuminating an environmental justice issue.
Hazardous air pollutants
A variety of air contaminates are hazardous to one’s health and can even be fatal in little doses. Almost 200 of them are regulated by legislation, with mercury, lead, dioxins, and benzene being among the most common. These are also commonly emitted during the combustion of gas or coal, incinerating, or, in the case of benzene, in gasoline. The EPA has classed benzene as a carcinogen, which can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and lungs in the short term and blood abnormalities in the long run. Dioxins, which are most commonly found in food but can also be found in minute levels in the air, can impair the immune, neurological, and endocrine systems, as well as reproductive functions, in the short term. The central nervous system is attacked by mercury. Lead poisoning can harm a child’s brain and kidneys in large doses, and even minor exposure can influence a child’s IQ and capacity to study.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another class of hazardous substances, are by-products of road exhaust and wildfire smoke. They’ve been linked to eye and lung irritation, blood and liver problems, and even cancer in big doses. Children of mothers who were exposed to PAHs during pregnancy had slower brain processing rates and more prominent ADHD symptoms, according to one study.
Warmer temperatures result from greenhouse gases trapping the earth’s heat in the atmosphere, which leads to the hallmarks of climate change: rising sea levels, more intense weather, heat-related fatalities, and increased transmission of infectious illnesses. Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned, and methane is produced by natural and industrial processes, including enormous volumes released during oil and gas drilling. The substantial emission of more carbon dioxide, but because methane is far more potent, it is also far more destructive. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a type of greenhouse gas that trap heat thousands of times more effectively than carbon dioxide.
Pollen and mold
Mold and allergens from trees, weeds, and grass are also carried in the air, aggravated by climate change, and pose a health risk. They can be considered a kind of air pollution, although they are not controlled and are less directly linked to human actions. Mold can grow in water-damaged houses, schools, and businesses, producing allergic airborne contaminants. Mold exposure can trigger asthma episodes or allergic reactions, and some molds can even create toxins that are hazardous to inhale.
As a result of climate change, pollen allergies are becoming more severe. Pollen-producing plants, particularly ragweed, grow larger and generate more pollen when the amount of carbon dioxide in which they grow is increased, according to lab and field research. Climate change is also extending the pollen season, and some researchers are suggesting that ragweed pollen is becoming more effective as an allergy. More people will experience runny noses, fevers, itchy eyes, and other symptoms if this happens.