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According to WHO data, around 90 percent of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds the WHO air quality guideline limits. Air pollution is one of the world’s leading risk factors for death, attributed to millions of deaths per year. People worldwide are slowly becoming aware of the severe impacts that air pollution has on human and planetary health. Afraid of future consequences, people are likely to ask the question: How can I contribute to the reduction of air pollution?
Firstly let us understand what exactly Air Pollution is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the contamination of outdoor and indoor air by physical, chemical, and biological agents that change the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Air pollution is caused by motor vehicles, industries, household combustion devices, forest fires, etc. Air pollution has become a severe health hazard and environmental issue in the 21st century.
There are several ways to reduce one’s contribution to air pollution and, thus, mitigate global warming and climate change. Change first begins with an individual. If you are ready to change for the planet, so will others.
Here are a few ways you can contribute to the reduction of air pollution:
Passenger vehicles are a major cause of air pollution, especially in urban areas and cities. Motor vehicles generate significant amounts of particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NO2), and other pollutants. In 2013, transportation caused around half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide and about a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into the atmosphere. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, estimates suggest that motor vehicles contribute almost 75 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in the United States.
Private transportation is one of the biggest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases globally. Every time one goes for a drive, pollution is emitted directly into the atmosphere causing significant risks to public health. How we choose to travel to our place of work, school, market, etc., is one of the biggest day-to-day climate decisions we face.
Currently, half of the world’s population focuses more on private vehicles for transportation. An average passenger vehicle in the United States releases approximately 650g of CO2/km. The larger the car, the higher the emissions. The way we use transport today can make a big difference to the environment.
Using public transport is a simple and sure way of contributing to the reduction of air pollution. Public transport usually requires less energy, gas, and money. Compared to using private transport, public transport reduces CO2 emissions by 45 percent, reducing air pollutants in the atmosphere and improving air quality.
Human waste, like plastic bags, wrappers, bottles, electronic trash, thermocol, etc., can cause air pollution due to emissions of chemicals and gases from the waste. Most of the waste around the world lands in oceans or at dumping grounds. The waste that lands up at dumping grounds is generally burnt, causing the emission of harmful pollutants. Air pollution from incinerators is dangerous as it releases toxic gases that can even contribute to acid rain.
The garbage burnt in landfills releases a large amount of carbon dioxide into the air. In 2020, approximately 109.3 million metric tons of CO2 were released into the United States atmosphere. Dumping grounds also release a toxic gas called methane as waste decomposes. Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. In 2020, it accounted for about 14.5 percent of methane emissions.
Reusing is the first step to preventing waste from landing up at landfills and, thus, reducing air pollution. Reusing items like plastic containers and boxes to store spices, pulses, or grains, upcycling old clothes into dusters and mops, using plastic bottles and tin cans to plant seeds and indoor plants, etc., can significantly help the environment.
Recycling is the next step after reusing items for as long as possible. Recycling products prevent emissions of greenhouse gases and water pollutants and save energy. Recycling generates less solid waste and, thus, helps to reduce air pollution caused by landfills.
Air conditioners contain a potent greenhouse gas known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). According to research, global emissions of HFCs rose by more than half between 2007 and 2012. It is likely to increase further as the earth becomes warmer.
Air conditioners require a lot of energy to function. They consume so much energy and electricity and, thus, release pollution. While fossil fuels are burned to power air conditioners, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, one of the major contributors to ozone depletion and air pollution.
Three-quarters of all houses in the United States have air conditioners; they use around 6 percent of the electricity produced. As a result, approximately 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every year.
Avoiding the use of air conditioners can significantly help reduce air pollution, particularly during summer. Using fans and coolers instead of air conditioners is a good alternative. Using air conditioners only during summer months or during warm parts of the day instead of using them all day long is also helpful.
Trees and plants around urban areas act as the lung of our cities and towns. Trees play an important role in mitigating the environmental issues we face in urban areas.
Trees soak in all odors, pollutants, and gases like ammonia, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ozone, etc., through their stomata or pores. They also filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their bark and leaves. Trees and plants help improve the air quality in an area in many ways. However, urban areas lack vegetation cover, especially in developing countries. The average global urban tree cover had a slight but significant decline from 26.7 to 26.5 percent between 2012 to 2017. Trees are cut down in cities to make way for new constructions, roads, etc.
As trees remove CO2 and other pollutants from the air, they are vital in reducing air pollution. Thus, planting trees around cities, towns, houses, gardens, and where ever possible can help to reduce air pollution and improve air quality.
Indoor plants provide the same benefits that outdoor trees and vegetation offer. Growing indoor plants is the next step if there are no available spaces outside your home or locality to plant trees. Indoor plants will help reduce air pollution inside the house and is also effective in reducing overall pollution.
So hopefully, now you must have got your answer to the question How Can I Contribute To The Reduction of Air Pollution? Always remember there is no Planet B. Make a positive impact on the environment and breathe easier. Start contributing today!
Also Read: How Clean Should Air Be?