How does air pollution affect the economy?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does air pollution affect the economy?” Firstly, we will discuss the basics of air pollution. Then, the article will outline the association of air pollution with the economy. In the end, the article will provide comprehensive solutions to mitigate air pollution.

How does air pollution affect the economy?

Humans face the impacts of air pollution severely. In addition, the high exposure to air pollution disturbs economic progress. Other than the economy, the elevated concentrations of air pollution affect the following:

  • Human Health
  • Work Progress
  • Structures
  • Food Production
  • Ecological resources

 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).

Let’s first talk about air pollution.

Since the stone age, Humankind has always strived hard to achieve stability and comfort in their life. Finally, we succeeded, which led to the industrial revolution, followed by urbanization and much-needed changes in the lifestyle. However, in the process of progression, somewhere we left behind the great values of nature, we forgot the support and symbiotic existence of the environment.

While human inventions, no doubt, have always helped us to save our lives, it has also given birth to much inevitable stuff. One such thing is air pollution. Humans have tremendously exploited natural resources such as fossil fuels in the constant chase of becoming the best in every term and during the development of energy and manufacturing sectors. But, unfortunately, such combustion of fossil fuels for various purposes such as transport and energy releases lots of toxic gaseous and solid contaminants such as carbon monoxide, noxious gases and particulate matter. 

The ever-growing menace of air pollution has also created other challenges such as global warming, greenhouse effect and climate change. These challenges have affected the whole world greatly.

Does poor air quality affect the economy?

Yes, poor air quality severely impacts human health and the economy. Many economists have noted that poor air quality damages are concentrated mainly in various, small economic sectors. The top four economic sectors responsible for damages due to air pollution are as follows:

  • Agriculture
  • Utilities
  • Manufacturing 
  • Transportation

The sectors mentioned above account for roughly 20% of GDP. However, these sectors are responsible for 75% of air quality-related damages.

As per the World Bank, air pollution-related diseases causes expensive expenditures on hospitalization bills and medical treatments. The organization further stated that premature deaths because of air pollution caused more than US$5 trillion in 2013; this includes $225 billion in lost labour income.

The main reasons for economic losses due to air pollution are:

  • The decline in human resources
  • Productivity loss
  • Depletion of ecosystem and biodiversity
  • Damage to historical monuments

Let’s see these reasons briefly.

The decline in human resources

Declination of workforce occurs due to chronic illnesses and high risk of diseases due to polluted air. Such ailments lead to more absenteeism in the workplace. The health impacts of air pollution on humans are as follows:

The highest number of deaths occurring in the United States is fine particulate pollution. High levels of air pollution can cause premature deaths.

As per the World Health Organisation records, air pollution kills around 7 million people every year. In the year of 2013, such deaths cost USD$ 225 billion globally. The WHO also reported that nine out of ten people breathe highly polluted air. Overall, in the countries like the United States, air pollution resulted in economic damages of $131 billion in 2011.

Around 134 million people had suffered from inhalation of poor air quality in 2015. Such people are more vulnerable to respiratory problems. Medical experts further claimed in 2018 that air pollution also caused dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Productivity loss

Work productivity also decreases due to constant exposure to ambient air pollution or even poor indoor air quality in the office. Moreover, some airborne pollutants, such as dust, pollens, carbon monoxide, etc., can generate allergic reactions and asthmatic symptoms. These conditions further cause headaches, irritation and congestion of sinuses. In addition, such stuffy feelings and head pain make you feel tired and clumsy.

Researchers claim that inhalation of such pollutants circulates less oxygen to the nervous system and messes up cognitive functions. The decline in cognitive functions naturally leads to productivity loss. Moreover, less expected work outcomes can affect a single day’s economy.

Poor air quality also affects school performances. A theory discovered that air pollution decreased the productivity of pear packers in Northern California. Another scientists’ investigation found out that days with the worst air quality affected call centres in China. Air pollution compelled Chinese call centre workers to take more leaves and breaks. As the air pollution due to transportation is more significant in the regions like Texas, high levels of carbon monoxide led to more absences in schools.

One of the research done by Chen S et al. has stated the relationship between air pollution and labour productivity in a prison factory. The study observed that increased polluted air significantly reduced labour productivity by 4%. Pollutants such as particulate matter 2.5 were primarily responsible for the reduced productivity. Another investigation led by Archsmith et al., 2018, showed the impact of short-term exposure to air pollution on labour productivity of high-skilled labours. The research team observed the decision making of American professional softball referees. The results depicted that high levels of air pollution increased the chances of making wrong decisions for softball referees.

Depletion of ecosystem and biodiversity

Air pollution affects the ecosystem and natural resources severely. For example, acid rains are caused due to sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions and natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions. Such pollution infused rains degrade water and soil quality. Polluted soil and water bodies reduce their ability to function correctly, and thus it affects the other living organisms dependent on it.

Local authorities must implement remediation and restoration methods to improve these natural resources. However, studies show that many expenses are required to adopt such techniques. Moreover, polluted soil will reduce crop yields. As a result, these crops will tend to produce less nutritional value. Thus, people will avoid buying such food products frequently, and the sales of these items will be reduced. All this leads to economic losses in the agricultural sector.

The increasing emissions of airborne pollutants into the atmosphere exacerbate other issues such as climate change. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, fluorocarbons and methane gases are global warming. These gases cause extreme weather fluctuations like flash floods, wildfires and droughts.

Environmentalists have noted that almost 59,000 spontaneous wildfires occurred in 2020. They further revealed that such wildfires burned more than 10 million acres. Also, many economists suggest that each day of exposure to smoke can majorly lead to economic losses; it reduces people’s salaries by about 0.04% over two years.

Wildfires have a significant impact on health and lead to loss of life. For example, economists in the United States have noted that fires in 2019 resulted in about 3700 civilian deaths, and approximately 17000 people were injured. In addition, some of the victims were permanently unable to work on their jobs, leading to unemployment.

Unpleasant landscapes and disturbed natural beauty can affect the tourism sector also. A decrease in air quality influences the tourism demands around the world. Many tourists will likely prefer visiting national parks and less urbanized areas for avoiding haze conditions and the sleekness of pure air. Phycologists said that people would like to avoid severely polluted regions. 

Historical monuments and other structures

Air pollution also damages the historical monuments and the houses we live in. In 2019, again, the wildfires considerably caused damages to the properties. The damage was around $14.8 billion. One of the costliest wildfire in American history, 2018’s Camp Fire have cost $10 billion of property loss. 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. Thus, engineers must restore reinforced bars and other materials to avoid any loss of human lives. However, such restoration methods result in added expenditure in the construction activities. Thus, restoration can be considered an economic loss due to air pollution.

Economic Statistics around the World

In Europe, air pollution led to 600,000 premature deaths, which resulted in US$ 1.6 billion economic losses in 2010. This loss amounted to 10% of the region’s GDP. As per the United States reports in 2014,  air pollution has cost up to 5% of the country’s annual GDP. In 2013, welfare losses from poor air quality were about $2.3 trillion in the East Asia and Pacific region, and South Asia accounted for US$604 billion.

Indoor air pollution has equally proved expensive for regions like Africa. In 2013, poor indoor air quality had resulted in premature deaths and cost US$232 billion. Also, ambient air pollution resulted in a loss of US$215 billion. Although global healthcare industries might have benefited from respiratory and cardiovascular ailments, medical treatments and hospitalization bills have burdened ordinary men’s lives. As per the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), economic losses due to ill health resulted in US$21billion in 2015. They have further predicted that it will annually rise to US$176 billion by 2060.

Traders and economists worldwide are concerned due to the association of air pollution with the stock market. Many researchers were shocked to discover that around a 12% reduction in stock returns happen whenever the air quality dips down. They further revealed that prolonged or short-term exposure to filthy air quality affects the emotional state and productivity of the person. This ultimately results in a decrease in cognitive abilities. A dull atmosphere added with mental confusion and fatigue causes fear of taking a risk in the stock market and thus contributes to the declination of stock returns.

Below, I will give you a comprehensive solution 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.

How does air pollution cause acid rain?

How Does Air Pollution Affect the Immune System?

How Does Air Pollution affect the Climate?

Conclusion

We discussed “How does air pollution affect the economy?” in this blog post. Firstly, we discussed the basics of air pollution. Then, the article outlined the association of air pollution with the economy. In the end, the article provided comprehensive solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does air pollution affect the economy?

What are the famous effects of air pollution on humans?

The famous effects of air pollution on humans are asthma, lungs disorders, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, low birth weight, heart diseases and improper fetal growth.

How does air pollution affect humans, animals and plants?

Air pollution can affect humans, animals and plants in severe ways. For example, air pollution can result in the development of acid rain and can raise the acidity level of water bodies and land surfaces. These consequences cause hindrance in plant growth and decline crop productivity. In addition, inhalation of air pollution by animals can cause similar health effects as humans. These effects include inflammation of the body, soreness in the eyes and reproduction issues.

What are the symptoms of poor air quality?

The symptoms of poor air quality are as follows:

  • Wheezing, sneezing and coughing
  • Dryness and irritation of nose, throat, eyes and skin
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Sinusitis
  • Sore throat

How does indoor air pollution affect human health?

Indoor air pollution can cause redness, dryness and irritation of the eyes. In addition, it can make you cough or sneeze frequently. Sometimes, you may feel dizzy and get headaches. These symptoms can further make you feel sluggish and irritated.

Who is most affected by air pollution?

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

  • Elderly residents
  • Children
  • Women
  • People of colour
  • Economically backward section of the society
  • Pregnant women

How does air pollution affect the economy?

Air pollution negatively impacts the economy. Economic losses occur due to less workforce, affected work productivity, deterioration of ecological resources and biodiversity, and exacerbating climate change and global warming issues. These all aspects are interconnected and related to air pollution.

Reference

Air Pollution and Economic Development. UNECE. Available at: https://unece.org/air-pollution-and-economic-development

Amadeo, K., The rising costs of pollution and what can be done about it. The Balance. Available at: https://www.thebalance.com/pollution-facts-economic-effect-4161042  

Chen, S. & Zhang, D., Impact of air pollution on labor productivity: Evidence from prison factory data. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666933121000216. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ceqi.2021.04.004  

Heinecke, R., 2021. The direct economic impact of improving air quality. Breeze Technologies. Available at: https://www.breeze-technologies.de/blog/direct-economic-impact-of-improving-air-quality/  

Reiff, N., 2021. How fire season affects the economy. Investopedia. Available at: https://www.investopedia.com/how-fire-season-affects-the-economy-5194059  

Robinson, E., 2019. How much does air pollution cost the U.S.? Stanford Earth. Available at: https://earth.stanford.edu/news/how-much-does-air-pollution-cost-us#gs.igev8n

The psychological, economic, and social costs of Air Pollution. MIT Sloan. Available at: https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/psychological-economic-and-social-costs-air-pollution  

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