Today is National Clean Air Day and what is more important than the very thing keeping us alive? It should be pretty clear to the majority of this planet’s population that this once healthy world we live in is deteriorating. One of the main reasons this is happening is because of air pollution. To put it simply, air pollution is caused when harmful pollutants are released into the atmosphere. It is not only detrimental to Earth, but to all living species that inhabit it.
So what are the pollutants harming this planet, you ask? The first is called nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and is released into the air from fossil fuels being burned and vehicle emissions. Exposure to this gas can cause serious health issues, like heart conditions. It also has harmful effects on the environment, such as decreasing the growth or amount of crops. Data compiled by the UK government shows that the amount of nitrogen dioxide in our atmosphere has dramatically decreased since 1970 by nearly 2,000 tonnes. Another gas released when fuel is burnt is carbon monoxide (CO), which fuels the heating system inside houses and cookers. When exposued to a high level of carbon monoxide, people can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, which has fatal consequences.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that air pollution kills seven million people around the globe every year. That is seven million families suffering losses because of something that the human race could have prevented earlier. Some reading this may wonder how that many people can die because of air pollution, well here are some of the health problems that are caused because of it:
- Makes ones asthma worse
- Lung cancer
- Wheezing and other respiratory problems
- Cardiovascular disease, which can lead to strokes
To find out more about the health problems that can arise due to air pollution, check out the government’s website.
It is a scary topic to talk about or think about, what will happen to our planet if we do not do something about air pollution? Well, let’s delve into this! If reading the planet’s potentially dangerous and drastic changes will push people into making a change, then let’s do so.
A study by the Environmental Protection Agency states that an increase in carbon pollution results in more hurricanes, storms, floods, droughts and wildfires. Geographically, the UK is relatively safe when it comes to natural disasters as we are not situated on a tectonic plate. However, the population has experienced some extreme storms and flooding. Now imagine those disasters the UK has faced but stronger and increasingly dangerous? That is what other countries around the world face, all the time. Take the Australian wildfires as an example. Your contribution to air pollution does not just affect you but everyone else living on this planet.
So, now let’s move on to what will happen to the population’s health in the future. An article published by WHO states that: “one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.” The more the air becomes polluted, the more that people will suffer and die from these health problems. Another fact, from the same article, that proves air pollution is a fatal killer is that bad air quality: “causes over half of all child deaths from acute lower respiratory infection in children under 5 years in lower-middle-income countries.” From this fact, it’s not hard to figure out that if air pollution gets worse, more children are going to die every year.
Also, there are other ways that air pollution affects people. Evidence displayed on IZA World of Labor’s website shows that increased air pollution makes people’s levels of productivity decrease. While productivity may not seem like the end of the world, this will affect the way people perform at work or the way children work during school, potentially damaging their grades.
How to reduce this?
There are many ways that people can reduce their contribution to air pollution. Some are very subtle changes and some may be life-changing. However, it is important to remember that any switches in your routine that are made today, tomorrow or in the future, will make a difference to the Earth’s health. Here are some simple changes that can be made:
1.Ditch the car – A very common one that will have been mentioned by officials, scientists and pretty much everyone else. Car emissions play a big part in air pollution and climate change, hence why car manufacturers are making big changes to the way cars are fueled. Statistics released by the government suggest that CO emissions from transport have fallen by 19.7% from 2019 to 2020. However, this is still 97.1 million tonnes being produced. So, if you have taken your car to university with you, try and use it for big journeys only. It is unnecessary to drive to campus when it is a short walk. If there are people you know who live relatively close to your parents, why not offer them a lift home when you are driving back home? By car sharing, you are stopping multiple other cars from being used. Additionally, you can start saving money for an electric car when they become mandatory.
2.Shop locally – When people buy from national, or international, stores the items that are bought have to be imported and transported thousands of miles. Statistics displayed on the Clear Seas website show that importing via shipping releases 15% nitrogen oxides per year. Also, Clear Seas have estimated that by 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could increase from 20% to 120%. Obviously, these statistics are not appealing to look at so start shopping at local, independent stores. The products sold in those stores are most probably created or grown by themselves. On the other hand, they may have been grown or made nearby. Even better, try growing your own food, stop convincing yourself that you need more clothes, or be sustainable with the way you use things.
3.Wear more layers – It is approaching summer, so the atmosphere is becoming warmer and more layers are probably unideal in sunny weather. However, it is a tip that should be remembered when autumn and winter come. According to an article published by Air Quality News: “Gas combustion in buildings is a major source of local pollution, accounting for approximately one-fifth of the total nitrogen oxide emissions across Greater London.” If that is just in London, imagine what it is like in other places across the UK. With the global pandemic forcing people to stay home, the number of times people had the heating on last year and this year’s winter must be unthinkable. So, when you find yourself feeling a little chilly try putting on some extra layers or a coat before turning the heating on. Equally, you could do some light exercise to get the blood pumping and make yourself warmer.
4.Turn the electricity off – A lot of the UK’s electricity is created by the burning of fossil fuels. While renewable energy sources are slowly taking over, with “wind, sunlight, water and wood” making up 42% of the UK’s generated electricity in 2020. However, as the statistics show, this is not all electricity that is being produced by renewable sources. Statistics from the government show that 34.6 million tonnes of energy were created during the first three months of 2020, which was 1.8% higher than the first three months of 2019. Although to some that may seem like a small percentage, that is still a lot of unnecessary damage to our atmosphere and planet. So, with lighting, many places and student accommodation has automatic lights, so this may not apply to all rooms in the accommodation or housing. If you do not have automatic lights then be aware of any lights that are on in an empty room. See any switches that have been left on, turn them off. Energy-efficient light bulbs can be bought from a lot of stores now, the boxes that the lightbulbs are sold in should have an energy rating on them.
5.Recycle – Some people may not think that recycling and air pollution correlate, but yes they do. As everyone knows, recycling products means they can be reused and made into new objects. However, if people do not recycle then these products will not be made from recyclable materials, but freshly processed materials. Figures from a Local Government article show that 525,000 tonnes of recycling were rejected in 2019-2020 due to contamination. While it is pleasing to see a lot of people recycling, the contamination is due to non-recyclable products being placed in recycling bins. How many fossil fuels have been burned and damaged this planet because some cannot recycle properly? Make sure that when you are recycling, you have separate bins for different things. For example, have a bin for tins, a bin for cardboard and a bin for glass. Look for the recycle symbol on products that show it can be recycled and place it in the correct bin.
So, now the consequences of increasing air pollution have been made clear, why not try some of these simple ways and make a difference.