(PC: Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Salt Lake City skyline seen through haze from the mouth of Parleys Canyon on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
Air pollution has always been a popular topic of discussion. Mainly, because it’s borderless, affecting [killing] us all.
Here's a quick refresher on the severity of the problem:
What is it again? Like smog, right?
Air pollution refers to a mix of gases and particles that are harmful to human health and the environment as a whole.
Every day we breathe several hazardous substances coming from both natural and man-made sources.
Some common air pollutants are ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, pollen, mold, smoke, and methane.
Urban air quality is worse as people living in or around urban areas experience adverse effects.
Below are some urban air pollution facts you cannot ignore.
Fact # 1
141 million US citizens reside in places that do not meet NAAQS limits
This is a huge freaking number, guys and we're [USA] supposed to be the leaders in this.
We know that air quality in the US is getting better but there are many places where concentrations of air pollutants exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Do you live in one of the most polluted cities in the US? Click here to check: http://www.stateoftheair.org/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html
Looking at you Los Angles and Salt Lake City!
According to a report published by World Health Organization in 2016, 91% of the world population was living in areas where air quality guideline levels were not met (https://www.who.int/phe/publications/air-pollution-global-assessment/en/).
The declined air quality leads to increased risk of:
Respiratory Diseases like Asthma
Fact # 2
Combustion of fossil fuels is still the number one contributor to urban air pollution
Fossil fuels are being used as a source of energy for quite long.
Their impact on the environment is well known and many alternatives have been proposed by different organizations and individuals. In a perfect world we could all drive Teslas, so it may be a while to solve this one.
There is a growing trend in using renewable energy resources but these have not completely replaced fossil fuels till now.
Fact # 3
The most important urban air pollutant is Particulate matter
The term particulate matter is used for all the microscopic particles that are dispersed in the air.
These are so small that they travel down into the respiratory system and cause severe health issues.
Among these, PM 2.5 and PM 10 are of most concern. PM 2.5 have a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers.
Their small size enables them to penetrate the respiratory and cardiovascular system.
As per the guidelines of WHO, their annual average concentration should be less than 10 micrograms/cubic meter.
But unfortunately, more than half of the world’s population lives in areas exceeding this limit.
Find out the tips on how to reduce the amount of particulate matter released into the atmosphere on https://www.airnow.gov/
Fact # 4
Air pollution is the fourth largest threat to human health
Yes, you read it right! Why isn't this blowing up the news in the US?
After high blood pressure, dietary risks, and smoking, air pollution is the 4th largest threat to human health.
It can cause stroke, lungs, and heart diseases.
And the effect is not only limited to health and public well-being, but the economic cost of air pollution is also a major concern.
Think, medical, insurance, higher rates of asthma, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases leading to
reduced ability to work and lower participation rates in the labor force.
Children susceptible to asthma attacks also miss school days, impacting their learning while healthcare requirements can result in their guardians also taking extra time off work.
Fact # 5
Children, elderly people, and asthmatic patients are the most vulnerable to urban air pollution
The most sensitive to air pollution are children, older adults, and people with existing health issues.
Children are more prone to get affected because their organs are developing.
Two billion children all over the world are exposed to severe urban air pollution.
Long term exposure leads to disrupt brain development in children.
The same is the case with elders.
Exposure to air pollutants may aggravate existing health issues especially in people who are suffering from respiratory illnesses such as asthma and lung cancer.
Special care should be taken to minimize their exposure to air pollutants.
Fact # 6
India and China account for 51% of all deaths caused by urban air pollution
According to WHO’s report, 6.5 million people died of air pollution-related diseases worldwide.
This number is even greater than all the deaths associated with tuberculosis, AIDS, and road accidents combined.
And out of these, more than 90% of deaths occurred in developing countries including India, China, parts of the Middle East, and Africa.
Ironically, some places our renewable energy vehicles come from, like Tesla exploit their atmosphere. But, we'll get into that in another article.
2018 State of Global Air report stated that China and India experience the most adverse effects as half of the deaths caused by air pollution are reported in these two countries alone.
Although strict actions have been taken by governments to decrease air pollution levels; developing cities like Delhi, Mumbai and as we know, Beijing are still among the top 10 most polluted cities (https://www.iqair.com/world-air-quality-ranking).