Air Pollution and What We Can Do
Our world is covered with pollution
Air quality has continued to worsen over the years in most of the developed and developing nations. People are cashing in fortunes for personal benefit at the expense of Mother Nature. Taking a toll that is irreversible such as thinning of the ozone layer and prolonged haze. Heavy reliance on automobiles further increases the pollution level from the emission from fossil fuel.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 7 million people die every year due to pollution. WHO published that pollution is the fifth main cause of mortality in India after high blood pressure and cigarette smoke. Developing countries such as Indonesia has been battling pollution for many years over the peat and forest fire on palm plantation and also other farming lands.
Years of open burning has taken a toll on the nation as the air quality has gone down to a toxic level making it almost impossible to live in and they will experience high risk of health problems due to haze. This does not affect Indonesia alone as the smoke travels across neighbouring nations such as Malaysia and Singapore.
China is also another country that is being greatly affected by air pollutants. Growth in the economy has seen mushrooming of manufacturing plants across China and heavy reliance on coal burning. The nation and its people prosper very well on the growth, however not so on the environments.
China has now experienced an all-year-round of air pollution in its big cities. According to a research performed by Greenpeace, the pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province has caused an alarming number of health-related issues. A total of 9,900 premature deaths and around 70,000 outpatient or hospitalization was recorded in year 2011 due to pollution. Similarly in Indonesia, the haze is not just confined in China alone but it also affects Hong Kong and Macau.
A strong regulation and strict enforcement is necessary to control air quality from further deteriorating. They also need to have a better research and development to shift the reliance from coal to alternative renewable energy. Growth in economy at the expense of nature is not sustainable and it may backfire when the economy slows down.
The two example of pollution from Indonesia and China are more on the extreme side. The truth is pollution is everywhere, and the difference is only the concentration and severity of the pollution on the world we live in. Pollutants consist of harmful chemicals, biological, and physical particles suspended in the air.
Chemical pollutants can be from benzene, asbestos or carbon monoxide from car combustion. Biological can be from viruses, germs, bacteria or mold. Physical-form of pollutants can be in forms of dusts and pollens. Some who has health complications such as low immune system, asthma or allergies may experience greater impact due to pollution as compared to healthy ones.
Although you may have a healthy body and do not experience any discomfort due to pollution doesn’t mean that you should take this lightly. Similar understanding and precaution is also necessary for all of us to continue to maintain optimum health.
Indoor and outdoor pollution
Pollution can exist in both outdoor and indoor. Most of us have greater understanding on the pollution outside rather than indoors. Air freely moves in our surroundings so it will carry pollutants from outdoor into indoor through big or small openings around our confined space.
Besides that, there are pollutions generated from the outside such as smoke from cooking, smoke from cigarettes, cleaning chemicals we used in the house and many more. The level of pollutants indoors can be more alarming compared to the pollution outside if the building is not well ventilated.
Types of pollutants
Dusts are particles that comes from human dead skin cells, fibers from fabric materials such as carpets, burnt particles and materials from construction such as stone or sand. It is heavily concentrated in our air especially if we live near a construction area.
Industrialization and growth of the mining industry accelerates pollution from dust due to increase in fossil fuel burning and mining activity. Prolonged exposure to dusts is even more dangerous to the health of people who are suffering from lung and heart diseases. Dust pollution also affects those who have sinus problems because it will block their airway and can cause heavy sneezing.
Pollen is produced by plants and transported by air in order to reproduce. This wonderful act of nature is to ensure that the plants will continue to grow in population in our planet. However, some people who are allergic to pollen.
High concentrations of pollen might lead to hay fever, a symptom experienced by people who have an allergy. Hay fever can cause allergic reactions on the nasal airway causing symptoms such as uncontrollable sneezing, nose blockage and itching.
Sudden changes in weather such as storms can break pollen particles making it even more dangerous to people who inhale it. It will be even more dangerous for people who are suffering from asthma when they are exposed with hay fever and pollution especially during dry season.
Surely, most of us have experienced sitting beside someone who’s sneezing without covering their nose and mouth. That person is polluting the air near us with biological contaminants which can be transmitted and be harmful to our body. Biological contaminants are micro living organisms that suspend on air which can be harmful to health when inhaled.
These consist of viruses, germs, bacteria and mold. It is so small that you will not be able to detect it without using a microscope therefore we easily contact harmful microorganisms without us knowing. It can enter our body through the mouth, nose, eyes, and wounds on skin.
Some pathogens are not harmful to our body while some can cause serious damage. Most of us might still remember the use of anthrax as a biological weapon to create terrorism in year 2001. The spore infected many who had direct contact through inhalation. Once the spore is activated, it will secrete toxin in the body which will cause death.
Another form of pollution comes from chemical components which are toxic to our health. It is emitted from various activities such as from burning of fossil fuel, agriculture and usage of industrial chemicals. The burning of fossil fuel produces gas such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
Ozone is another major contaminant which is created from the combination of volatile organic components with nitrogen oxides and oxygen molecule. It requires the presence of light for the ozone process to be developed. Ozone is used to produce bleach, deodorizing materials and to sterilize air and also water for drinking.
As for agriculture, major gas pollution is from the emission of methane and ammonia. Livestock such as cows produce high level of methane gas from its digestion during enteric fermentation. The production of manure from raising livestock was the cause of high ammonia production. Fertilizers used in plantation also contains a lot of ammonia.
There are many types of our common household products contributing to the pollution. Items such as paints, aerosols products such as air freshener and beauty products, chlorine-based bleach, and washing detergent secretes harmful gases onto the air.
If you have respiratory problems, try to avoid buying chemicals that emit pollutants and it can be done by carefully reading through the product label. Products that contain volatile materials such as fragrance, irritants and flammable materials are harmful to the air.
Making a difference
We can always make a difference to improve our air condition regardless of whether you are suffering from any medical conditions related to respiratory or just wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle with few simple ways. You can improve the condition in active or passive ways. You can be proactive to have a better lifestyle by performing regular exercise.
Exercise can strengthen your immune system to fight harmful things from attacking your body. Besides that, there are also exercises that can improve your respiratory health. Cardio exercises such as jogging and brisk walking helps improve your breathing, hence, strengthens the lungs and also other respiratory muscles. Improving your breathing technique also allows more oxygen into your lungs which is essential to your brain. However need to be wise when choosing the right spot when performing exercise.
Avoid areas that are heavily polluted like places that are next to roads with high traffic or industrial areas. Otherwise, you may be inhaling too much pollutant while exercising. Instead of getting healthier, it may even make your body worse. If there are no suitable areas to perform outdoor exercise, you may consider going to the gym or doing it in your house.
The right amount of exercise, good nutrition, and regular detoxification helps strengthen the immune system to battle against pollution. You may be surprised that proper nutrition is also one of the major contributions to improve health to fight air pollution.
To improve health and minimize the risk of pollution, one has to strengthen the lungs and liver because both of these organs are affected the most by pollution. Inhaling polluted air into our body generates huge amounts of free radicals. Some equate the amount of free radical as radicals produced in smoking 300 cigarettes a day.
The free radicals present are dangerous because it will attach to our healthy cells and cause permanent damage. Many diseases associated due to the damage of free radicals such as cancer, heart disease, and aging. It is scientifically proven that food rich in antioxidants that is high in vitamin C and vitamin E such as orange, avocado and spinach are able to neutralize free radicals in our body.
Research shows that consuming broccoli helps eliminate toxins that are caused by ozone. Diets that are high in anti-histamine properties are very useful to fight allergic reactions. This includes ginger, holy basil, turmeric, garlic and omega-3 oil contains anti-histamine properties. Consuming natural food not only provides therapeutic properties, it will also reduce dependency on synthetic drugs in our body.
On the passive side, we can improve our environment from pollution by using air purifier indoors. An air purifier is a device that filters particles from the air and remove all the pollutants before releasing it back into the environment. This helps us create a cleaner air our surroundings. The particles that can be trapped in the filter are in form of dusts, pollens, pet dander, germs, bacteria and smoke that exists in 0the air.
The device function by sucking in the air from the area, using a fan then allowing the air to pass through a filter that has the ability to trap larger particles such as dusts, pollens, and pet dander. After that, it will be passing through a filter with smaller mesh size that is able to trap micro-organisms such as bacteria and germs.
The second filter is mainly made from HEPA filter or HEPA-like filter. The difference between these two is that the former has the ability to trap 99.97% of particulates at 0.3 micron and above while the latter do not have such guarantee. Some air purifiers are equipped a UV light which function is to kills germs and bacteria so that it will not continue to reproduce and populate the filter. Some of the filters are also made with activated charcoal with the function to absorb unpleasant smell such as smoke from cigarettes or smoke generated from cooking.
Air purifier comes with various forms and sizes that fit according to the user’s needs and also the size of the room. Smaller room only requires a smaller device while larger room will need to have a purifier with a bigger capacity. This machine doesn’t only give a cleaner air inside a room; it also provides ventilation to ensure air movement.
Proper ventilation is essential to ensure that pollutants do not accumulate in stagnant air and it also replaces stale air with fresher air from the outside. The only troublesome part of getting an air purifier is that the filter needs to be changed every 6 to 8 months, depending on the severity of the air. Hence, you will need to prepare extra filters so you can simply replace it once it is filled with dust.
To those who are tight on budget or not in favour of frequent maintenance can opt for a machine that comes with permanent filter that can be wiped or washed. Also look for models that is certified by energy STAR. It is because most likely you will be turning on the air purifier most of the time; hence, you can save a lot of the machine operate effectively and efficiently.
There are many suitable models available in the market so it best to do research first before purchasing one. It is because some models deliberately generate ozone into the air that claims as an air purifier. Ozone is made from three oxygen atom, highly reactive, and also potentially toxic. It exists in nature and has an especially high concentration during summer.
One research shows that mortality associated with ozone is at its highest during summer months because it is at its highest concentration. Prolonged exposure is said to be able to cause lung damage, it also increases the risk of asthma, chest pain, coughing and breathing problem.
There are many articles and warning that has been issued regarding the danger of ozone producing devices. However there are still many places that sell this dangerous device to the public that does not provide information on its danger. So we should take great precaution when choosing the right air purifier, making sure that it is from a reputable manufacturer and does not produce ozone.
Create a sustainable future
We are living in a world that is badly polluted after many decades and century of abuse to our Mother Nature. It is not somebody else’s problem, but something that happens right in front of our door step. All of us need to play a part to get this place back to where it used to be when it is first created.
Let us all make a difference by reducing dependency on chemicals and bring back the natural way of living. It can be done by walking instead of drive, eat natural food instead of process food and recycle waste. Cost of healthcare will be greatly reduced when we have a better immune system. Hence, if each of us contributes to protect the environment, then the world will be a much better place to live in.