According to the statistical data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 7 million people in the world died due to environmental air pollution in 2012.
Source: 2014 WHO Report
Source: 2014 WHO Report
Air pollution is a phenomenon wherein the release of harmful chemicals in the atmosphere results in contamination of air, thus making it unsuitable for various lifeforms. It is considered one of the most serious environmental issues in the world, which is not surprising, as it doesn't just lead to various health disorders in humans, but also destroys the ozone layer, which, in turn, has its own share of harmful effects. Taking that into account, it is more than obvious that prevention of air pollution should be our priority, and it should begin at the grass root level, i.e., from our side.
Why It's Important to Prevent Air Pollution?
Air pollution is caused when various chemical substances are released in the Earth's atmosphere, as a result of natural occurrences or human activities. Natural causes include volcanic eruptions, release of methane gas, wildfires, etc., while anthropogenic causes (i.e., human activities) include power generation, waste deposition, use of automobiles, solvents, etc., and a lot more.
The list of chemical substances which have the tendency to contaminate air include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), ammonia, etc. The high concentration of these substances in the atmosphere makes humans and animals vulnerable to their hazardous effects. In fact, the effects of air pollution are more intense than we think. Studies reveal that as many as 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year-that's 1 in every 4 deaths―caused as a result of inhaling fine particles in the atmosphere.
Natural hazards such as global warming and acid rain are also associated with air pollution to a significant extent. These harmful effects of air pollution call for urgent implementation of various preventive measures, and the earlier we do it, the better it is for us.
How to Prevent Air Pollution
As the anthropogenic causes of pollution far exceed the natural causes, the onus is on us to take necessary steps to ensure that we don't contribute to this hazard―directly or indirectly―any more. Given below are some simple steps that you can take to do your bit to save the planet.
Reduce the use of vehicles either by resorting to public transport, or switching over from vehicles to other means such as cycling or walking. Car pooling is yet another efficient option that can be considered. In fact, the US Department of Transportation says that carpooling can help you save over USD 1,000 per year.
If the use of vehicle is inevitable, make sure that you use it efficiently; drive within the speed limit recommended by the manufacturer, turn the engine off on red light, and pay attention to the overall maintenance of your vehicle. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regular maintenance can improve fuel efficiency of the vehicle by as much as 19 percent.
Buying a fuel-efficient vehicle is also an option that you can ponder upon. Nowadays, car manufacturers are resorting to advanced technology to come up with vehicles which minimize harmful emissions. A vehicle that gets 30 MPG will cost you $430 less to fuel each year than one that gets 20 MPG (assuming 15000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $1.72).
Resort to alternative energy sources, like solar power and wind power, whenever possible. Owing to their low carbon emissions, it is safe to say that they are environment friendly. As for the efficiency aspect, which has long been under the scanner, it is slowly picking up. You don't have to go off the grid; simply using solar or wind power as secondary source will also help.
Though indirectly, saving energy by resorting to energy saving appliances and not wasting electricity will also help in curbing air pollution. If our energy requirements are reduced, energy production will invariably come down, which, in turn, will reduce the amount of air pollution caused by power plants.
Don't burn the waste that is generated in your home; instead, resort to other means of garbage disposal. The same rule applies to disposal of garden waste. A much better way out is to opt for traditional methods such as composting. In fact, composting will not just improve the quality of soil, but will also help you save resources and money.
You can also resort to technologically advanced air pollution control equipment, like fabric filters and wet scrubbers. While fabric filters will help you remove the dust particles in a process referred to as 'bag filtration', wet scrubbers will help you remove acid gases, like sulfur dioxide, present in the atmosphere.
Use a programmable thermostat in your homes to ensure that your heater or air conditioner is automatically switched off when it is not required. By lowering you thermostat settings from 75° F to 70° F alone, you will save 10 percent on overall heating costs.
You should replace standard light bulbs (incandescent light bulbs) with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs are up to four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs. You can replace a 100 watt incandescent bulb with a 22 watt CFL for the same amount of light as CFLs use 50 - 80% less energy than incandescent lights.
Follow all the rules and regulations meant to stop environmental pollution and try to spread awareness about the existing environmental hazards. The numbers may seem far from impressive when taken individually. In the long run, however, their cumulative effect will be good for both, the environment and you.
Bringing everything to halt in a bid to stop environmental pollution is not a feasible option. What we can do is, reduce its intensity gradually by resorting to simple measures to prevent pollution. They may seem too simple to tackle a problem of such intensity, but when millions of people practice them, the end result will definitely be amazing.