Pragati Adhikari: Air pollution refers to the condition in which the existence of toxic substances in the atmosphere, generated by various human activities and natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, results in damaging effects on the welfare of human beings and the living environment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), outdoor air pollution is classified into four main categories: particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Additionally, air pollution is further divided into primary and secondary pollutants. Primary pollutants are released directly into the atmosphere from a source, where secondary pollutants occur as a result of complex chemical reactions taking place from two pollutants reacting with each other.
In the 1970’s, the United States government formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to growing concern of our impact on the environment. Ever since then, an entire industry has opened, focusing to remediate what was done before as well as maintain a sense of responsibility for what we do to the environment now. Unfortunately, since this is a relatively new concern, there is very little history of how air pollution has been dealt with in the past. Through current research, we are now making history.
Clean air is necessary for human health. Human body needs approximately 25 kg of air per day to keep up its requirement of oxygen. It replicates signifies the importance of air to human beings and any contamination in the air will have a direct impact on our health. Pure air consists 21% of oxygen, 78% of nitrogen and 1% other gases. If the air composition is altered by the increase in concentration of certain gases or by intrusion of non-gaseous components like particulate matters, then the air is understood to be polluted and the components that alter the inherent compositional property of air are termed as air pollutants. Air pollution affects almost all aspects of the environment including the biota and the physical components where they strive on. A variety of sources have been identified as the components of the air pollution and they include both the natural and anthropogenic sources of origin. However, the anthropogenic sources of air pollution are more pronounced. Anthropogenic air pollutants are more harmful and include Particulate matter (PM), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Carbon monoxide (CO), Lead (Pb), Ozone (O3) and Hydrocarbons (HCs).
The basic cause of pollution is Sulfur dioxide emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum for energy in power plants, factory combustibles, industrialization and rapid growth of population. The population is growing rapidly. To fulfill their unlimited demand they use the limited resources haphazardly. As a result, population has led to the environmental changes that have become harmful to all living beings.
Sources of air pollution can include but not limited to industrial factories, automobile exhaust, construction, and natural disasters such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions. Particulate matter air pollution is what first comes to mind when considering air pollution because it has an unlimited number of sources.
Effects of air pollution
Like people, animals, and plants, entire ecosystems can suffer effects from air pollution. Haze, like smog, is a visible type of air pollution that obscures shapes and colors. Hazy air pollution can even muffle sounds. Air pollution particles eventually fall back to Earth. Air pollution can directly contaminate the surface of bodies of water and soil. This can kill crops or reduce their yield. It can kill young trees and other plants.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide particles in the air, can create acid rain when they mix with water and oxygen in the atmosphere. These air pollutants come mostly from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles. When acid rain falls to Earth, it damages plants by changing soil composition; degrades water quality in rivers, lakes and streams; damages crops; and can cause buildings and monuments to decay. Like humans, animals can suffer health effects from exposure to air pollution. Birth defects, diseases, and lower reproductive rates have all been attributed to air pollution.
Ways to reduce air pollution
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to outdoor air pollution contributes to as much as 0.6 to 1.4 percent of the burden of disease and 4.2 million deaths every year. So, we have to take proper step to reduce the pollution. Both, public and government should take proper step to reduce pollution. For that they have to create awareness in people, they have to aware people from the cause and effect of pollution. There’s no doubt that we have to take proper step to reduce it if we want to live continue. The cause of pollution is human beings and they themselves suffered from the effect of pollution. It’s all because of lack of awareness of air pollution people, unemployment, poverty, failure plan of government and many more.
The present condition should be improved at any cost. To prevent this pollution, the citizens should be made aware about the harmful effects of polluted environment. The forests should be protected. The garbage and waste materials should not be thrown into the water resources. Old vehicles should be replaced by the new ones and the vehicles should be used in the industries to make the smoke less harmful. The use of electronic vehicles should be emphasized. Drains and waste products must not be thrown into river or amid its bank. Animals and other things must not be washed or cleaned in local water resources such as lakes, rivers, streams etc. Surrounding must be kept clean. Rubbish should be stored in one particular place. Usable things should be reused. Many things are burnt for electricity. Green plants should be grown for the filtration of the air. Factories should be established far away from residential areas. Strong laws and their implementations should be brought for the conservation of the environment. There should be punishment for laws breakers. Crowd from small areas should be avoided to other places. Banners and posters with warning should be hung on the walls of factories, airport, walls besides roads and bus stations. People should be made more conscious towards the of pollution. Local awareness programs about the causes, adverse effects of pollution should be organised.
Pragati Adhikari, Food Technology – Pokhara Bigyan Tatha Prabidhi Campus