In this blog post, we will discuss “How does air pollution harm the environment?” Firstly, we will discuss the basic information about air pollution. Then, we will address the effects of air pollution on the environment. In the end, we will provide a detailed solution to minimize air pollution.
How does air pollution harm the environment?
Air pollution harms the environment severely. Air pollution can be so disastrous that its effect can raise a question on the world’s existence. The impact of air pollution are as follows:
- Depletion of Water Bodies and Land Surface
- Disturbances in Meteorological Changes
- Food Insecurity
- Loss of biodiversity
- Depletion of the Ozone layer
- Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming
- Climate Change
First, let’s know 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:
- Combustion of fossil fuel
- Cooking activities
- Energy generation and consumption
- Improper Solid Waste Management
- Industries and factories
- Household pollution
- 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
- Poor ventilation
- Uncleaned furniture
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 dive in to know more about the effects, as mentioned earlier, of air pollution.
Effects of Air Pollution on the Environment
Air pollution has shaken the balance of our ecosystem. 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. Let’s see in detail how air pollution has affected the environment.
Depletion of Water Bodies and Land Surface
Air pollution causes harm to the water cycle. As a result, this results in the depletion of various natural resources. The two primary resources which get deteriorate are water bodies and land surfaces. Let’s know more about it below.
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. Acidic precipitation changes the soil’s pH level when it comes in contact with land surfaces and water bodies.
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.
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.
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 biodiversity and Food Insecurity
If air pollution is not taken seriously by you and your friends or your elected political leader, it will cost you scenic beauties, biodiversity and natural resources. Your vast lush green natural grasslands or green rich forests might be replaced arid and barren lands. Unfortunately, it sounds depressing. But, here’s why I am telling you.
Flora and fauna are all dependent on natural resources such as water and soil to thrive on the Earth. However, as explained earlier, the unnecessary involvement of airborne pollutants in the water cycle and their accumulation in the ground and other natural resources leads to the depletion of their nutrients.
The animals and plants relying on these resources then come under a significant threat. The indirect and direct impact of air pollution affects plant growth and reduces the production of fruits and flowers. Herbivorous animals relying on the plants will not get a sufficient amount of greens to fulfil their stomach, which will lead to a decline in their population. Their declining rate will affect the primary, secondary and tertiary predators and the apex predators. As a result, air pollution affects the food web of an ecosystem. Besides, the lowering rate of insects is alarming as the insect-plant relationship is the backbone of nature.
Insects are responsible for the creation of the biological foundation for all the terrestrial ecosystems. Insects balance the nutrient cycle of the environment. Some insects like earthworms and dung beetles aid to maintain soil structure and enhancing soil nourishment. Insects like honeybees also significantly play a role in increasing fruit and flower plants. Again, this is because of the pollination process. Thus, this helps in balancing the food chain.
On the other hand, some insects like ants help to keep your surroundings clean and odourless. In addition, these insects help in the decomposition process of plants and animals. Some insects are badass because they help keep control of the pests or nasty bugs that harm our environment. However, particulate matter (PM2.5) affects the antennae, wings and hind legs of pollinating insects like honeybees. Its inhalation also messes up with their brains which makes them confused and delays the pollination process. Such issues will burden the food security of the world.
As we are also a vital part of the ecosystem, these pollutants also cause harm to our health and well-being. Much scientific evidence has proved that exposure to elevated pollutant concentrations causes respiratory and heart diseases such as lung cancer, heart attack and stroke. It also damages our nervous system and develops mental disorders such as dementia, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia. Besides, it also causes issues in reproduction and defects in birth.
More than humans, birds are most exposed to these toxic contaminants. Such exposure impacts their respiratory functions. Pollutants such as black carbon and soot can transform a beautiful bird into an ugly stained one. Also, amphibians such as frogs are vulnerable to herbicides and insecticides because of their skin permeability. Their skin absorbs such poison, and it transfers their vital organs such as the heart, lungs, gills and brain. Moreover, indoor air pollution causes danger to furry pets; they can get respiratory ailments and tumours.
Depletion of the Ozone layer
The ozone layer is exceptionally beneficial for the proper functioning of the Earth. The main job of the ozone is to protect the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UVB rays) from the Sun. Without the ozone layer, humans will acquire many dangerous skin diseases such as skin cancer, cataracts and compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, this ozone layer is vulnerable to hazardous air pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This chemical may be present you very nearby you, wonder how? This chemical is used as the refrigerant in your refrigerators, and it is made up of chlorine atoms. When the chlorine atoms are released into the atmosphere, they can destroy ozone. A single chlorine atom has the power to kill thousands of ozone molecules.
Meteorological Changes, Global warming and Climate change
The high levels of particulate matter and ozone can cause the sky to be hazy and smoggy, creating less visibility. Sometimes, the high concentration of particulates can cause darkness and reduce the expected amount of sunlight to the Earth. Such less sunlight can affect the photosynthesis processes in the plants, leading to fewer crops productivity. Besides, hazy skies are also responsible for the alterations in the weather and climate.
The greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour and fluorinated gases are mainly produced from various human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels, industries, and the agricultural sector. These gases get trapped inside the Earth’s atmosphere and cause warm temperatures. In addition, these gases also fluctuate with the seasons and weather. Finally, global warming is boosted by the tremendous presence of gases.
Global warming and the greenhouse effect has led to another huge challenge known as Climate Change. Climate change is a worldwide challenge to the Earth’s climate because of the natural causes and human activity. Climate change has globally negatively impacted the climatic patterns. It also causes the north and south poles to melt rapidly, which increases the sea level. Such a rise in the sea level can pose a threat to coasts and island nations. Besides, climate change has caused more extreme meteorological changes such as intense heat waves, prolonged droughts, flash floods, wildfires and harsh winters.
Intense fluctuations in the weather and climate give rise to multiple diseases such as cholera, typhoid, etc.
Thus, our responsibility is to create awareness about air pollution and its effects amongst your friends and loved ones. After all, nobody wants to experience like those scientific fiction movies showing apocalypse.
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. In the next section, I will provide you with detailed solutions 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 MASK||EAPI 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 mask||Four layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe|
|BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face Mask||Three 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.
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.
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.
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 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:
- Snake plant
- English Ivy
- Peace Lily
- Red-Edged Dracaena
- Boston Fern
- Spider Plant
- Weeping fig
- Bamboo Palm
- Rubber Plant
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:
|Name||Why I recommend it|
|Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier||99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured.|
|AIRMEGA 400S||Reduction 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 121||Includes 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.|
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 Humidifier||Portable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate|
|LEVOIT Humidifier||It can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control|
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 Dehumidifier||Can extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor|
|HOmeLabs Dehumidifier||Eliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank|
|TCL Portable Dehumidifier||20 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.
In this blog post, we discussed “How does air pollution harm the environment?” Firstly, we discussed the basic information about air pollution. Then, we also addressed the effects of air pollution on the environment. In the end, we provided a detailed solution to minimize air pollution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does air pollution harm the environment?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why air pollution is a problem?
Air pollution is a problem because it harms crops, animals and plants simultaneously. Air pollution also contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer and can aggravate climate change. Some of the environmental effects of air pollution are smog, hazy skies and eutrophication.
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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