How does Air Pollution affect Animals?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does Air Pollution affect Animals?” Firstly, we will discuss air pollution. Then, we will briefly discuss the animals. After that, the article will majorly outline the effect of air pollution on animals. In the end, the article will provide detailed solutions the minimize air pollution.

How does Air Pollution affect Animals?

As if deforestation and rapid urbanization were not enough, researchers have examined that air pollution severely affects animals. The inhalation of toxic airborne pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and ozone can negatively impact animal health. Some of the common health effects faced by all animals due to air pollution are as follows:

  • Respiration Problems
  • Cardiovascular Ailments
  • Mental Disorders
  • Lower Reproduction Rate

First, let’s understand the basics of 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. 

What is Outdoor and Indoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called outdoor pollution. The examples of outdoor pollution are as follows:

  • Transportation
  • Combustion of fossil fuel
  •  Cooking activities
  • Energy generation and consumption
  • Agriculture
  •  Improper Solid Waste Management
  • Industries and factories
  • Household pollution
  • Celebrations
  • Construction and demolition

Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution. The examples of indoor pollution are as follows:

  • Household activities 
  • Perfumes and fresheners 
  • Cooking fuel/activities
  • Cigarette 
  • Radon 
  • Poor ventilation 
  • Uncleaned furniture 
  • Pets 
  • Asbestos

 There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution (happened due to natural events like dust storms) and anthropogenic pollution (happened due to human activities like combustion of fossil fuels).

After getting the information about the air surrounding you, let’s know more about yourself, which means animals.

What are animals?

Animals are multicellular organisms that can move quickly and are receptive to their environment. They survive by consuming other organisms such as plants or other animals. They belong to the Animalia Kingdom. They consume oxygen through the air and other essential nutrients to grow and survive.

The Animalia Kingdom is further classified into vertebrates and invertebrates. Vertebrates are the ones that have the spinal cord, and invertebrates don’t have any. Invertebrates and Vertebrates are further classified into the following:

Invertebrates:

  • Arthropoda
  • Mollusca
  • Echinodermata
  • Nematodes

Vertebrates:

  • Fish
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Mammals

As per scientists and nature enthusiasts, about 8.7 million known species exist in this world. Although there are still many species that have not been identified yet and classifying everybody would take all scientists more than 1000 years, isn’t it unbelievable?

Animal Creatures in North America

 North America is home to diverse wildlife species. Researchers say over 457 species of mammals, 914 different varieties of birds, 662 types of dangerous reptiles living in North America. Besides, there are more than 300 fascinating amphibians and 4000 known arachnids currently living with you on the same continent. Some of the commonly known animals in the continent are as follows:

  • Jaguars
  • Beavers
  • Mountain Lions
  • Raccoons
  • Bald Eagle
  • Alligators
  • Bark Scorpions
  • You (Humans)

However, these beautiful creatures are under threat due to the following factors:

  • Habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation
  • Introduction of the invasive species
  • Deadly diseases
  • Climate Change
  • Air pollution

Such challenges can cause danger to the species and even extinction. So now let’s discover the connection between poor air quality and animals.

Does poor air quality affect Animals?

Yes, poor air quality affects animals in dangerous ways. Besides, poor air quality can harm ecological resources such as water bodies, foliage and soil quality. Moreover, air pollution can, directly and indirectly, affect animals.

The ever-growing emissions from natural phenomena and human activities have led to many complex issues such as climate change, unpredictable seasons, and extreme weather. All these challenges are undoubted, affecting all the animals, including us all. 

Now let’s discuss in detail how air pollution affects animals.

Effect of air pollution on the animals

Invertebrates

Well, there are almost 140,000 types of invertebrates found in the United States alone. Many researchers have exclaimed that air pollution hasn’t even spared these tiny beings. So let me share some exciting facts about arthropods and echinoderms.

Arthropods, like insects, are responsible for creating the biological foundation for all the terrestrial ecosystems. Insects also balance the nutrient cycle of the environment. Some insects like earthworms and dung beetles aid to maintain soil structure and enhancing soil nourishment. However, air pollution can cause disturbances in the insects’ reproduction rates, respiration system, and central nervous system. In the environment, the majority of the insects are herbivorous; they all rely on plants for their survival. I believe the plant-insect relationship is the main backbone of the living organism’s survival. Many biologists like D.N. Alstad and G.F. Edmunds, Jr, in 1982, have already observed that air pollution degrades the quality of the plants. As a result, many pollinating insects like moths experienced industrial melanism due to the decline of light coloured lichens.

Air pollution has also resulted in the declination of the population of herbivorous insects. Thus, secondary insects and other animals suffer from insufficient food and malnourishment. Furthermore, the particulate pollution affects honeybees brutally inside out. Scientists around the globe have observed that the particles stick to the honeybees’ hind legs, wings, and antennae. When examined from inside, they observed that particulate matter had seriously affected the heart functioning of these creatures. In addition, exposure to a high level of particulate pollution from the urban areas also caused problems in the respiration and neurological parts of the bees. Thus, all these ailments can cause delays in the pollination process and can lead to food insecurity.

Recent research done by Jonny Lupsha claims that Echindorms like starfish are facing death warrants due to air pollution. The study further said that more than 30 species of sea stars exist on the West Coast, but, unfortunately, their numbers are rapidly going down. In addition, Dr Sean K. Todd said that usage of DDT to fight the mosquitoes had created a negative impact on ocean life.

Even though DDT was banned in the 1970s, its effects are still traced in aquatic organisms such as starfish. The spraying of highly toxic DDT has decreased the ability of marine animals to fight any diseases; this is because the chemicals present in this fertilizer has weakened their immune system. As a result, these beautiful creatures are falling short to fight illnesses such as Sea Star Washing Syndrome. It is a syndrome where they suffer the loss of limbs and the inability to reproduce effectively, leading to their population decline. Starfish are necessary because they keep control of the sea urchins’ population.

Vertebrates

There is ample evidence that tells us about the detrimental effects of air pollution on humans. 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:

Besides, the World Health Organisation (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. 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.

Recent studies have shown that indoor air pollution affects our furry pets’ health severely. For example, prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution can increase the risk of tumours in dogs and cats. In addition, particulate matter pollution can lead to cardiac arrest in pets.

In the case of amphibians, increased ozone levels in the air can cause an impaired immune system in toads. Zoologists have warned that air pollution has affected their physiology and behavioural pattern. Frogs and toads are vulnerable to airborne pollutants because of their skin. The skin of an amphibian is porous. Thus, it becomes easy for the toxins to enter into their vital organs. The field and experimental studies conducted by the scientists have noted that these organisms are susceptible to typical insecticides, pesticides and herbicides.

Other amphibians, such as salamanders, are also affected by toxic pollutants. One such research done by biologists from Penn State University has examined that contaminants released from the common herbicide and atrazine might be responsible for the declining rate of in-stream salamanders. In addition, the scientists discovered that exposure to atrazine increased the risk of mortality among salamanders.

The chemical pollutants disturb the production of hormones essential for proper body functions. They also observed that atrazine concentrations cause the development of male and female organs in the frogs, thus affecting reproduction. In addition, 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.

Among the Animalia Kingdom, birds are more susceptible to particulate pollution than humans. This is because birds have a higher breathing rate. Besides, these birds are more exposed to the ambient air. Ultrafine and fine particles are so minute that they can dwell inside the deepest branches of those tiny lungs.  Also, for instance, carbon monoxide released from coal power plants affects birds’ respiratory systems.

The researchers from the University of Chicago also extensively researched some 1000 wild birds flying over the Rust Belt states over the past 135 years. During World War II, they observed that the birds’ white and yellow feathers were stained into jet black due to routine flying through pollutants such as black carbon and dark particulate matter. In the past years, the population of Bald Eagles was declining, and they were declared as endangered species. However, the banning of DDT in the 1970s proved beneficial to bald eagles, and they have not been threatened anymore. 

Your other counterparts are going through a lot, just like us all. However, it is your responsibility to conserve and restore the natural habitat so that the homes of these animals would be safe. You should also avoid creating any mess in the forest campsite. Avoid plucking of flowers. Let the insect world enjoy it. Say a big no to plastics.

 After all, animals are not humankind’s enemies, and you, me, and everyone need to learn to exist symbiotically to save this world. I can help you minimize air pollution, keeping you and the other members of the animal kingdom.

 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.

How can air pollution be reduced on health?

What can bad air quality do to you?

Can poor air quality irritate your throat?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “How does Air Pollution affect Animals?” Firstly, we discussed air pollution. Then, we briefly discussed the animals. After that, the article majorly outlined the effect of air pollution on animals. In the end, the article provided detailed solutions the minimize air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does Air Pollution affect Animals?

How many aquatic animals are killed each year because of air pollution?

Over 1milion seabirds and as many as 100,000 sea mammals are killed due to air pollution. Besides air pollution, they also threaten uncontrollable plastic dumped into the oceans and land surfaces. Sea Turtles are at higher risk due to plastic pollution.

How does air pollution affect animals?

Exposure to elevated levels of air pollution can affect animals very severely. The inhaled pollution accumulates in their tissues and bloodstream, disrupting proper metabolic activities and weakening their immune systems. This makes them more vulnerable to diseases mainly related to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Air pollution can even mess up the food chain and reduce the reproduction rate.

How has air pollution affected the US?

The health effects observed in the United States due to air pollution are critical. One-third of deaths occurring in the region are due to stroke, lung cancer and heart disease and air pollution is the main reason for causing these diseases. Microscopic pollutants such as PM2.5 penetrate deep into the lungs and can also absorb in the bloodstream. These conditions can compromise the immunity to fight illnesses and damage the lungs, heart and brain.

Who is most affected by air pollution?

The groups that are most affected by air pollution are as follows:

  • Old Adults
  • People of Colour
  • Children with existing medical conditions
  • Women and babies
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults with preexisting medical conditions
  • Socio-economically marginalized people

What are the effects of air pollution on animals?

The significant effects of air pollution on animal species are as follows:

  • Industrial related injuries and disease
  • Physiological Stress
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Anaemia

What are the effects of air pollution?

The effects of air pollution are as follows:

  • Environmental Degradation
  • Global Warming
  • Ozone layer depletion
  • Greenhouse gas effect
  • Climate change

References

Black, R., 2011. Species count put at 8.7 million. BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-14616161#:~:text=The%20natural%20world%20contains%20about,take%20more%20than%201%2C000%20years.  

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 

Huling, R., 2020. Air pollution is animal cruelty. time to hold polluters responsible for all their victims. USA Today. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/01/28/air-pollution-quality-animal-cruelty-column/4589293002/

Karuga, J., 2020. What animals live in North America? WorldAtlas. Available at: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-animals-live-in-north-america.html

Lupa, J., 2019. Starfish are dying at an alarming rate, and pollution is to blame. The Great Courses Daily. Available at: https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/starfish-are-dying-at-an-alarming-rate-and-pollution-is-to-blame/

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/ 

Rising pollution is endangering species. The Ecologist. Available at: https://theecologist.org/2019/oct/04/rising-pollution-endangering-species  

Salamanders suffer delayed effects of common herbicide. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070323104654.htm  

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