Air pollution is not only an urban phenomenon in industrial countries.
The problems have spread and it is influencing our health.
Today, more than a billion people live in communities were the air quality is so bad that it does not meet World’ Health Organization’s standards. A wide range of technological solution have been implemented yet the effects have often sadly been negated by growth. A range of strategies are used to restore air quality such as restructuring the energy, industrial as well as transportation systems. Common technological solutions are filters and catalytic converters but in many parts of the world these are almost never used. Levies and taxes are also used to encourage efficiency and the use of renewable sources.
The focus for actions have usually been on human health but air pollution also poses a severe threat to the environment itself. Acid rain may lead to the death of lakes, and estuaries and many forests have been damaged by air pollution. Crops may also be lost due the air pollution damage.
Air pollution is not fixed and it knows no national boundaries. It changes throughout the day and depending on the time and location the risks linked to breathing in the air can vary. Smart phones and sensor technology was used in a study by Mark J. Nieuwenhuijsen and colleagues where the level of exposure and activity were track. The study found that school children received most of their exposure to black carbon (13%) while traveling to and from school. However, only our percent of the time in their day were spent travelling to and from school.
Collecting these types of data can help to ensure that children and other high risk individuals such as people suffering from asthma can avoid times of high air pollution. Better urban planning where attention is given to the air quality can also help to minimise the health risks linked to exposure.
Nature’s answer to air pollution is trees. Planting trees is increasingly becoming more important in urban areas. Most of the pollution may be removed in rural areas, nevertheless trees planted close to where people are living have the greatest impact on people’s health. The benefits of plating trees will be explored in another blog post.
What do you really know about the air that fills your lungs up?