We hear about pollution all the time and it’s a word that encompasses a lot of different things. For example, pollution occurs in different forms such as water, soil, air and even things like noise and light.
Being a part of RZ Industries and promoting a product that helps protect people’s lungs has given me an opportunity to learn a lot about air pollution in particular. I’ve heard many people’s stories of how air pollution is affecting their life. This is something that is responsible for more than 5.5 million premature deaths every year worldwide!
Good news is that much is being done today to reduce air pollution and keep people protected, but there is a lot more that can be done. I strongly believe that the more people talk about air pollution, the more we educate ourselves and the more it stays in the forefront of our minds, the sooner the necessary steps will be taken to eliminate it.
In this article, I’m going to touch on 5 things that are important to know about air pollution. These things I feel make up the beginning of a solid foundation for an overall understanding of this topic.
- What is air pollution?
Air pollution is harmful or poisonous substances that are present in the air we breathe. It’s the most dangerous and unfortunately, abundant type of pollution in the environment. It comes in the form of chemical gasses like carbon monoxide or particulate matter like soot.
A common term used when talking about air pollution is PM2.5 which refers to very small particles in the air that are two and one-half microns or less in width. To put this in perspective, there are 25,000 microns in an inch!
- Where does air pollution come from?
The most common source of air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels in oil refineries, power plants, automobiles, and factories. An estimated 50% of all pollution is a result of industrial and manufacturing activities. Other sources include domestic wood burning, agriculture areas, and big cities.
Air pollution also comes from natural sources like windblown dust, smoke from wildfires and volcanoes.
- Who is affected by air pollution?
Everyone breathes air so we all can be affected by air pollution. However, there are some groups of people that can be affected differently and are more at risk.
Children are more vulnerable to exposure to air pollution compared to adults as their lungs are still growing and developing. Also, they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults and they’re more likely to be active outdoors.
Those with respiratory diseases such as Asthma, COPD, or Cystic Fibrosis are more at risk as well.
Other susceptible groups include:
- Older adults
- Athletes who train outdoors
- Pregnant women
- Those who commonly work outdoors
- What are the health risks of air pollution?
There are short-term (hours or days) and long-term (months or years) health risks associated with air pollution.
Short-term health effects on healthy people include burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. For more susceptible groups, it can aggravate lung disease, cause respiratory infections, and trigger heart attacks for those with heart disease.
Damaging health effects due to long-term exposure to poor air quality include decreased lung function and shortened life span. You’re also much more at risk for the development of asthma, emphysema, and cancer.
- What can be done individually to reduce pollution?
So far, it’s clear that air pollution is no joke and we need to be aware of its effects on us. We also need to take proper precautions to make sure we are protecting ourselves when necessary. However, this doesn’t solve our problem of having air pollution in the first place. As a population, we all need to work towards minimizing our individual contribution to air pollution.
There is a ton that can be done and it all starts with understanding how the choices we make throughout our day affect air pollution. The more we consider how much energy we consume and the products we choose to use, the more we can help to reduce air pollution.
There is much more that can be done! Here are just a few examples to get you thinking:
- Turn off lights, computers, and other electronics when not in use
- Limit driving by carpooling, biking, walking, or using public transportation
- Run dishwasher and clothes washer only when full
- Use energy efficient appliances
Knowing where air pollution comes from, who is affected, the health risks associated with it, and what we can do to reduce our own emissions is very important. If more and more people understand these fundaments we will be taking a big step towards a brighter future.