Does Air Quality affect plants?

In this blog post, we will discuss “does air quality affects plants?” The report will first briefly share essential details of air pollution. This will be followed by more information about how air pollution affects our Earth’s green cover. In the end, the article will focus on the solutions to control air quality.

Does Air Quality Affect Plants?

Yes, air quality plays a vital role in vegetation, plants and forests. Air pollution affects our Earth’s green cover through the following:

  • Acid deposition
  • Eutrophication
  • Ground-level ozone

First, let’s see what air pollution is all about.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

WHO has suggested some revised guidelines on 22 September 2021 to improve the overall air quality. This organisation has decided to implement permissible limits of the earlier significant pollutants.

These permissible limits of ambient air quality are as follows:

PollutantsHourly mean concentration (ug/m-3)Annual mean concentration (ug/m-3)
PM2.5155
PM104515
NO22510
SO240
CO4
O38 hour: 100Peak season: 60

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

What are the causes of air pollution?

There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution and anthropogenic pollution. Here’s tabular information about it. This table will also show you a general comparison.

ParametersNatural PollutionAnthropogenic pollution
Definition Air pollution, which occurs due to natural phenomena, is called natural pollution.Air pollution, which arises due to human activities, is called anthropogenic/artificial pollution.
CausesTransportationCombustion of fossil fuel Cooking activitiesEnergy generation and consumptionAgriculture Improper Solid Waste ManagementIndustries and factoriesHousehold pollutionCelebrations Construction and demolitionVolcanic Eruption WildfireDust storms

What are the sources of air pollution?

The sources of air pollution are as follows:

● Mobile sources such as cars and buses and other different commutes

● Stationary sources such as oil refineries and factories

● Area sources such as agricultural areas and cities

● Line sources such as roadways and railways

What are the types of air pollution? 

There are two types of air pollution – ambient pollution and household pollution. The below represented tabular form will give you a general idea about these types.

ParametersAmbient PollutionHousehold Pollution
Definition Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution/outdoor pollution.Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution/household pollution.
CausesTransportationCombustion of fossil fuel Cooking activitiesEnergy generation and consumptionAgriculture Improper Solid Waste ManagementIndustries and factoriesHousehold pollutionCelebrations Construction and demolitionHousehold activities Perfumes and fresheners Cooking fuel/activitiesCigarette Radon Poor ventilation Uncleaned furniture Pets Asbestos

Effects of Air Pollution on Plants

I will elaborate on the effects of air pollution on plants in detail.

Acid deposition is the process in which the mixture of air pollutants in the atmosphere and then it’s deposited on the soil and water bodies. This deposition leads to the acidification of these resources. This process occurs due to pollutants produced by the combustion of fossil fuels. These pollutants, such as sulphuric acid and particulates, mix with water droplets to form clouds. However, this rainfall is acidic. This whole process is known as ‘acid rain’.

Overall, such acid deposition causes alteration in the nutritional value of soil. In addition, air pollutants such as heavy metals get deposited in the ground. These contaminants affect the root functioning. As a result, plant growth is hampered.

Air pollution can shift the equilibrium between the competitive balance among the present species. Moreover, it can lead to changes in the composition of biodiversity. In the agricultural sector, such acid deposition may result in reduced crop yields.

Chemical cocktails in the atmosphere create ozone holes in it. Holes in the upper atmosphere gives passage to excess ultraviolet light. These extra ultraviolet lights, when in contact with the green cover, leads to its damage. Ozone, alone or either combined with sulphur or particulates, have a destructive ability to prevent photosynthesis. Further, these toxic elements obstruct the ongoing stomatal function, which restricts respiration and stunting plant growth.

Other pollutants such as black carbon, sulphur dioxide, fluorides, peroxy acyl nitrate and nitrogen oxides show damage in various ways. The visible signs of damage are necrotic lesions and chlorosis. Chlorosis includes discolouration (yellow leaves), reddening, bronzing and mottling.

When O3 and NOx closely interact with leaves, they affect the metabolic function of the leaves. Additionally, they interfere with net carbon fixation by the plant canopy.  Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced from car exhaust emissions. As a result, some evergreen trees will drop their leaves when wholly exposed to them.

Plants’ immune system behaves just like how the human immune system weakens due to air pollution. This can lead to an increased risk of insect infestation. The University of Colorado recently informed that pine trees are more sensitive to damage from pine bark beetles. Newsweek story in 2008 reported that pine beetles were responsible for destroying around 22 and 1.5 million acres of pine trees in Canada and Colorado, respectively.

 What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What are the causes and consequences of air pollution?

What Happens When We Breathe in Polluted Air?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of air pollution?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “does air quality affects plants?” The report first shared briefly about essential details of air pollution. This was followed by a detailed discussion about how air pollution affects our Earth’s green cover. In the end, the article also focused on the solutions to control air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Does Air Quality Affects Plants?

Does poor air quality affect plants?

Yes, poor air quality negatively affects plants. Many pollutants enter the plants’ leaves and attack their metabolic function. They also interfere with net carbon fixation by the plant canopy.

Which air pollutant affects plants cover?

Nitrogen dioxide affects the plants cover the most. This toxic gas in high quantities stunts plant growth. When combined with ozone and sulphur dioxide, this contaminant can affect the growth and development of plants.

What are the effects of air pollution on plants?

The effects of air pollution on plants are:

  •  Necrotic lesions
  • Hampered plant growth
  • Discolouration

What is the effect of air pollution on vegetation?

Air pollution alters the nutritional qualities of vegetation.

How do trees reduce air pollution?

Trees reduce air pollution by absorbing harmful carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Trees can absorb it by the photosynthesis process. Such a technique can reduce the ‘greenhouse effect.

Which of the following plants are sensitive to air pollution?

The plants which are sensitive to air pollution are:

  •  Spinach
  •   Squash
  •   Sweet corn
  • Tobacco

Which trees clean the air best?

The trees that clean the air best are silver birch, yew, and elder trees, which are the most effective at capturing particulate pollution.

Which pollutants causes chlorosis in plants?

Ozone causes chlorosis in plants. This is because ozone enters into leaves through stomata during typical gas exchange. As ozone is a strong oxidant, it causes several types of symptoms, including chlorosis and necrosis. 

References

Grahams, A., 2021. How Does Air Pollution Affect Plants?. [online] eHow. Available at https://www.ehow.com/info_7998656_air-pollution-affect-plants.html

Greentumble. 2017. Effect of Pollution on Plants | Greentumble. [online] Available at https://greentumble.com/effect-of-pollution-on-plants/#:~:text=The%20effects%20of%20air%20pollution%20on%20plants%20are,the%20pollution%20include%20carbon%2C%20sulfur%2C%20and%20nitrogen%20oxides.

Hongfa, C., 1989. Air Pollution and Its Effects on Plants in China. The Journal of Applied Ecology, 26(3), p.763.

Mathewson, C., 2017. Healthfully. [online] Healthfully. Available at https://healthfully.com/list-of-diseases-in-plants-caused-by-viruses-12280881.html

Planning Tank. 2015. Effects of Air Pollution on Plants. [online] Available at https://planningtank.com/environment/effect-of-air-pollution-on-plants

Reference.com. 2020. How Does Air Pollution Affect Plants?. [online] Available at https://www.reference.com/science/air-pollution-affect-plants-1b23b1557b8c692  

Weber, J., D. Tingey, AND C. Andersen. PLANT RESPONSE TO AIR POLLUTION. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/A-93/050 (NTIS PB93167260).

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