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Air pollution kills faster than COVID-19. Why is what we breathe so dangerous?

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7 million people die from air pollution every year. To understand how huge this figure is, approximately 5 million people have died in the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hi-Tech explains why air pollution is a global problem and what can be done about it.

Air pollution affects the environment, climate and most importantly, our health. Not only government leaders, but also ordinary people can turn the tide if they adhere to a few simple rules.

Who is affected by air pollution?

Hazardous emissions are mainly generated from fuel combustion and forest fires. These processes affect 90% of residents around the world, this is the percentage of people who breathe dirty air. In total, according to the WHO for 2021, annually about 7 million people die prematurely due to polluted air, this can be compared with the number of deaths from smoking.

Most of the deaths from dirty air occur in regions where the level of income is at medium and low levels, primarily in Asia and Africa.

In these areas, air pollution levels are increasing due to active urbanization and also because the main fuel is usually a fossil fuel such as gasoline. This is because almost half of the world’s population (over 40%) cannot use modern fuels, for example, gas, biodiesel and hydrogen: they are minimally harmful to the environment.

The Swiss manufacturer of air purification systems IQAir conducted a study and presented a rating of cities in the world with the worst air quality, in the first place was Bosnia and Herzegovina – the city of Sarajevo, then Lahore in Pakistan and the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk. Air quality indices (AQI) in these cities were in the region of 150–160 – this concentration is considered detrimental to health.

According to statistics, about 120 thousand people die in Russia every year due to air pollution.

How does polluted air affect a person?

The smallest air pollutants, regardless of our body’s defense systems, can enter deep into the respiratory and circulatory systems, where they destroy the lungs, heart and brain.

The WHO notes that this is a global problem, accounting for 24% of all deaths of adults due to heart disease. A quarter from stroke, and 29% from lung cancer.

Researchers from the University of Chicago found that the life expectancy of people living in India is reduced by six years every year from the influence of polluted air. Depending on the region, this figure can rise to nine years.

But, according to a UN report that was released in September 2021, 43% of countries do not have a definition of “air pollution”, these states do not have air quality standards.

How are different countries tackling air pollution?

To combat global pollution, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana program was launched. After two years of work in India, she helped bring free gas to the homes of 37 million people who live below the poverty line. This fuel, according to the WHO, significantly less impact on the environment and will help reduce emissions.

Mexico City is developing new environmental standards for vehicles and introducing special buses with soot-free emissions. Also, the authorities are thinking of banning passenger cars with diesel engines: the sanction should come into force from 2025.

At the end of September 2021, WHO published new “Guidelines on air quality” in which representatives of the organization reduced the permissible level of concentration in the air of fine and coarse particles: this is the smallest dust that forms on industrial plants, highways and when burning coal.

In 2020, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping said during a speech at the UN General Assembly that the country will reach a peak in carbon emissions by 2030, and will come to carbon neutrality by 2060.

Major causes of air pollution include waste of energy, industrial production, agriculture, urban transport, and coal and thermal power plants. All these conditions can be controlled, as much as possible, reduce the volume of work and increase its efficiency at the same cost.

But there are factors that are more difficult to control, such as sandy air pollution and dust, natural disasters, and meteorological and seasonal conditions.

How do I know how dirty the air is in the place where I live?

The UN has created a portal where you can find out the level of cleanliness of the atmosphere in the place where you live. For example, as of October 26, 2021, the air quality in Moscow has gone beyond a safe level. Most often, residents of the capital die from coronary heart disease caused by polluted air.

The air quality index can still be tracked on the IQAir website. Also in Russia there is a public air quality monitoring system.

What can I do to reduce air pollution?

There are a few rules to help you make the air around you cleaner. First, reduce gasoline costs. If possible, walk as much as possible, ride public transport or take a scooter.

It is also necessary to reduce the level of electricity consumption, as it also produces emissions. Buy goods that are made in your area or region: this reduces the carbon footprint from transporting goods from abroad and domestically.

In addition, you can reduce the impact of polluted air on the body by avoiding walking along the road during rush hour and trying not to be at the wheel of a car in the middle of traffic jams, staying away from motorways and highways, and not burning waste.

If you are worried about the quality of the air with which you ventilate the room, then you can install supply ventilation with a filter that “brings” air from the street into the room and purifies it. Experts also recommend purchasing a humidifier if the air is too dry. You can also use a purifier to filter out suspended particles and gases.

Not only our life depends on the quality of the inhaled air, but also the health of children and grandchildren: their lungs are just beginning to develop, and the body cannot yet process chemicals and harmful elements.

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