Air Pollution - A Problem in Everyone's Backyard
Air Pollution is quietly becoming a leading cause in health complications for people across the globe and signs are pointing to this not letting up anytime soon. There is expected to be 1.1 million premature deaths in China this year alone with many cities now experiencing such poor air quality that the affects are now likened to the act of smoking tobacco.
An analysis conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) took air pollution readings from almost 3000 cities around the globe. Their findings were quite spectacular. 16 cities were found to be more than 10 times the safe level And out of those 16 most polluted cities, 12 of these cities were found in India.
Typically, developing countries who are going through a period of industrialisation tend to be big emitters of harsh air pollutants. To an extent, this is quite understandable. However, it isn’t just developing cities across Asia, The Middle East and Africa which possess poor air quality. Cities such as London, Melbourne and Barcelona have all been found to have air quality levels which are considered to be less than ideal which brings real concerns about the activities that our cities undertake and the underlying need to adjust our urbanised way of life.
So what are the key factors leading to high levels of pollution?
This is an obvious one. Household consumption such as cooking, leisure, lighting, heating and cooling are the leading causes of pollution by households around the world. Air pollution stemming from household activities in developing countries where open fires and fossil fuels are used to generate heat, light and electricity for the home tend to be worse than in developed countries.
Especially in urbanised areas, the use of cars, trucks and buses can be the leading cause of air pollution.
A study conducted in Melbourne during 2006 found that motor vehicle emissions is responsible for the following:
72 per cent of all carbon monoxide emissions
70 per cent of all nitrogen oxides emissions
28 per cent of all volatile organic compounds emissions
6 per cent of all sulfur dioxide emissions
These pollutants can trigger or increase the risk of asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. Those with chronic health conditions, the young and the old are the most at risk of suffering.
The burning of forests, agricultural waste and the raising of livestock are the major sources of methane production from agricultural sources.
Annual burning that takes place in Indonesia has caused problems in the past for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand who have been blanketed in smog for days and weeks at a time. As air currents work in different directions and channels throughout the world, one country’s issue can also become issues for their neighbouring countries.
The open burning of waste and waste that is delivered to landfill are key sources leading to the release of harmful dioxins, methane and black carbon into the atmosphere. It is quite common for developing countries and their residents to burn their rubbish which leaves not only a foul odour in the air but can leave long lasting effects on the atmosphere and long term health complications for those who breathe in this air daily.
Mining and Energy
The extraction of key minerals and resources and the generation of energy through the burning of coals and other fossils is another major source of air pollution.
In addition to man made pollutants, dust storms, volcanic eruptions and other natural phenomena also contribute to air pollution.
So, what can we do to Improve Air Quality?
There are some relatively simple strategies we can adopt to limit air pollution. Some of the following may apply to you:
Ensure your car is regularly serviced. This will keep your car running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Reduce car use where possible. Adopting alternative methods of transport such as walking, riding or public transport reduces congestion and burning of fossil fuels.
Car pooling can be an effective method of taking cars off the road and maximising the use of your car.
Consider upgrading to cleaner and more efficient heating appliances. Older style heaters are generally very heavy power users and quite poor at heating up a room or house.
Consider using cleaner renewable energy such as solar power.
Cut down on energy consumption by looking at how well your house is insulated and switching off appliances that are currently on while not in use.
Try to lessen your food and consider composting any leftover food scraps that you do have.
Air quality can be greatly improved through planting a home garden or trees around your property.
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