Effects of poor air quality on the environment

In this blog post, we will discuss “Effects of poor air quality on the environment”. Firstly, we will talk about air pollution. Then, the article will analyze the effects of poor air quality on the environment in depth. In the end, the report will share practical solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Effects of poor air quality on the environment

The effects of poor air quality on the environment are disastrous and can cause a detrimental impact on the environment. The following results are:

  • Adverse effects on human health
  • Soil Degradation
  • Acidification
  • Loss of wildlife
  • Economic Losses
  • Deterioration of structures
  • Greenhouse effect
  • Global Warming
  • Climate Change

Before learning about the effects of poor air quality on the environment, let’s briefly see air pollution.

What is air pollution?

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 is indoor and outdoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution or outdoor pollution. Some of the examples are the transportation sector, energy generation, industries, dust storms, etc. Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution or household pollution. Cooking activities, cleaning and dusting of house, use of scents and perfumes, etc., are examples of indoor air pollution.

What are the types of air pollution? 

There are two types of air pollution – ambient pollution and household pollution. Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution or outdoor pollution. Its examples are vehicular pollution, energy consumption, etc. Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution or household pollution. Its examples are cooking activities, the use of perfumes, etc. 

Now let’s dive in to see how air pollution can affect nature.

Air pollution and its impact on the environment

Adverse effects on human health

Human Health

Air pollution causes detrimental effects on human health. The pollutants, especially particulate matter (PM2.5), can deeply penetrate your lungs, and through them, they can be dissolved into the bloodstream. Such a dissolving process can make your blood oxygen-depleted and can result in various dangerous effects. While the short-term effects recover quickly and can be treatable, long-term effects take much more years. WHO has already declared particulate matter as a carcinogen. The impact on human health are:

  • 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.

Vulnerable section of the world

Women and children in rural areas of developing countries are more vulnerable to lung diseases due to high exposure to biomass such as animal dung, wood, etc., during cooking.

WHO has also claimed that low and middle-income countries suffer significantly due to pollution as the air quality standards pass the safe guideline limits.

Mental Health

 Air pollution has also taken a toll on mental well-being. Severe deterioration in air quality can result in damaged cognitive skills in children and adults. It can also lead to depression. In addition, the researchers in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural resources and Environment have studied that air pollution can also affect children’s academic performance.

Soil Degradation and acidification

Acid precipitation

Air pollution can considerably affect the soil and water health of the Earth when the toxic pollutants develop into clouds and condense to form acid rain. Acid rains are also called acid precipitations. Acid precipitation is completely acidic. When it comes in contact with land surfaces and water bodies, Acidic precipitation changes the soil’s pH level.

Even the warmer air alters the temperature of the soil, which changes the composition of the bacteria. The acidic deposition is of two types, namely, wet and dry. Acid rain is a wet type of acidic deposition that causes soil erosion and affects the ecosystem. In contrast, dry deposition occurs when small acid particles and gases such as sulphur dioxides and nitrogen dioxides fall on the Earth’s surface.

Soil degradation

 Now, acidic precipitation results in soil degradation. The soil acidic in nature decreases the ability to retain many nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K). The agricultural run-off or water on the soil gets absorbed and seeps through the soil. As a result, the aquifers or groundwaters are also gets affected.

Acidification

On the other hand, the acidic rain falling on the water bodies pose a significant threat to aquatic life. The constant fluctuations of water temperatures and the nutrient composition imbalances fish population and other wildlife depending on it.

The aquatic life in the oceans has been at significant risk due to air pollution. Corals, mangroves and seaweeds are degrading due to air pollution. In addition, fishes are dependent on these habitats for survival, posing a threat to their population.

Additionally, fishes are finding it difficult to breathe because of depleting oxygen supplies. World Meteorological Organisation says that around 90% of the greenhouse gases get trapped in the oceans.

Loss of wildlife

Harmful pollutants produced from the industries results in a direct impact on the wildlife. Just like humans, air pollution also affects animal health. Industrial air pollution causes considerable damages to the animals, such as:

Inflammation of eyes and other vital organs

  • Respiratory ailments and cardiovascular diseases
  • Bioaccumulation and disturbance in a food web
  • A disrupted pattern in migration pattern and reproduction activities
  • Physiological stress and anaemia

Some pollutants even change the distribution patterns of the existing species making them endangered.

Recent studies have shown that indoor air pollution affects dogs’ health severely.

Prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution can increase the risk of tumours. Particulate matter pollution can lead to cardiac arrest in pets. Increased ozone levels in the air can cause an impaired immune system in toads.

Air pollution can also affect amphibians’ physiology and behavioural pattern. For example, coal power plants are affecting the respiratory systems of birds.

The acidification of wetlands and other water resources have resulted in the depletion of fishes. This has affected populations of birds depending upon wetland systems or fishing.

Insects are also vulnerable to air pollution. Even the slightest change in the air quality forces insects to relocate, which disrupts the —some ecosystems food chain of the insects which are resilient to air pollution digest organic waste less effectively.

Economic Losses and Deterioration of structures

Air pollution also creates a hindrance to the growth of the economy. For example, poor air quality makes you less productive at work. In addition, less visibility due to dust pollution affects the business’s logistics and supply chain management.

Smog conditions in cities can also lead to a one-day lockdown in the region. Finally, the contact of harmful pollutants with structures can lead to deterioration.

This can eventually lead to additional costs of restoration or demolition. In addition, fishing and agricultural communities can receive a lot of economic losses due to less productivity in crops and fish farming.

The constant impact of air pollutants on the structures can permanently damage the buildings. In addition, the soot produced from coal accumulates on the structures, causing an unpleasant appearance on them.

Air pollution in the form of acid rain has not even spared beautiful structures like the Taj Mahal. Acid rains have caused discolouration of the marble-made Taj Mahal, making it turn yellowish in appearance.

Acid rains are also responsible for the corrosion of metals used in the structures. Other materials which get affected due to air pollution are limestone, nickel-plated steel, galvanized steel, marble and paints.

Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

Many human activities are emitting various greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Moreover, green cover on the Earth is insufficient to absorb carbon dioxide. Therefore, the surge in greenhouse gas pollution leads to excess heat-trapping, causing the climate and temperatures to become warm. Such a process is called the greenhouse effect and global warming. These two giant monsters are capable of changing the whole balance of the Earth. In addition, they can change the wind and oceanic currents, resulting in a drastic change in global meteorology.

Climate Change

Another vast, nasty human-made monster is climate change. Air pollution is directly linked to climate change. As the GHG effect and global warming increase, it also poses a risk to the changing weather pattern, as described earlier. Climate change can result in intense heat waves and flash floods at the same time. You might experience snowfall or hailstorms in springtime. Extreme heatwaves cause wildfires, resulting in significant loss of lives and wildlife.

Each of the components, as mentioned earlier, is a mere puppet of air pollution. Everything is interlinked, and thus, if the equilibrium of the ecological system is not balanced, it can eventually create a threat to the existence of the whole world.

If we all overhear the consequences of air pollution, we might end up in the scenarios depicted in the apocalyptic sci-fi movie.

The effects, as mentioned above, may sound way too severe, but don’t get panic. We still have time to save our world. Even little effort can significantly contribute to the betterment of the environment. The following are the practical tips to mitigate air pollution.

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.

Does poor air quality make you tired?

Does air pollution affect water?

Do Candles Clean the Air?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Effects of poor air quality on the environment”. Firstly, we talked about air pollution. Then, the article analyzed the effects of poor air quality on the environment in depth. In the end, the report shared effective solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Effects of poor air quality on the environment

What are the five disastrous effects of air pollution?

The five disastrous effects of air pollution are:

  • Respiratory and heart ailments in human beings
  • Global Warming
  • Acid Rain
  • Depletion of the ozone layer
  • Food insecurity

What is the primary cause of air pollution and its effect on the environment?

The burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of air pollution. Combustion of fossil fuel is needed in the transportation sector, energy generation, and cooking activities. Such activities release a tremendous amount of carbon monoxide and other toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. These contaminants cause harm to human health, hampers flora and fauna growth, and create food insecurity.

What is the effect of air pollution on animals?

The effect of air pollution on animals consist of:

  • Lung damage
  • Heart ailments
  • Inflammation of eyes and other organs
  • Cancer
  • Congenital disabilities

How does air pollution affect crops?

Air pollution affects crops negatively. Pollutants present in the air, such as O3 and NOx, interfere with the plant’s metabolic activities and mess with carbon fixation by the plant canopy.

What effect does air pollution have on food crops and biodiversity?

Pollutants such as sulphur can result in excess acidification of the water bodies such as lakes and streams. This pollutant can also damage trees and fertile land. The atmospheric nitrogen can create an imbalance in biodiversity and can harm overall plant communities and aquatic life. Moreover, ozone can damage the tree leaves.

How does air pollution affect global warming?

Air pollution also releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This contributes to the greenhouse effect. In addition, the carbon dioxide emitted traps a tremendous amount of heat into the atmosphere. This process results in global warming.

References

Canada.ca. 2021. Air pollution: effects on soil and water – Canada.ca. [online] Available at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-pollution/quality-environment-economy/ecosystem/effects-soil-water.html 

Mackenzie, J. and Turrentine, J., 2021. Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know. [online] NRDC. Available at https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know

National Geographic Society. 2021. air pollution. [online] Available at https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/air-pollution/ 

Shi, Z., 2014. Why air pollution reduces crop yields. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/air-pollution-reduces-crop-yields/

Unece.org. 2021. Air pollution and food production | UNECE. [online] Available at https://unece.org/air-pollution-and-food-production 

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment