How does sunlight affect air quality?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does sunlight affect air quality?” Firstly, we will discuss the basics of air pollution. After that, we will learn the importance of sunlight. Additionally, we will also emphasize the impact of sunlight on air quality. Conversely, the article will also reveal how air pollution affects sunlight briefly. In the end, we will provide you with a detailed solution to lessen air pollution.

How does sunlight affect air quality?

Sunlight can play a significant role in determining air quality. Intense sunlight, less wind speed, and other geographical conditions can react with the hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen with the atmospheric oxygen to form photochemical oxidants such as ozone.

 Different weather conditions can increase its levels and cause photochemical smog. In addition, intense heatwaves and sunlight, and climate change can aggravate wildfires that generate particulate pollution.

The health effects caused due to such challenges are as follows:

  • Asthma
  • Decreased lung functionality
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin diseases

First, let’s see what air pollution means.

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 see the importance of Sun. 

Why do we need Sun?

The answer is pretty straightforward; you need Sun as it gives light, heat, and solar energy for living matter on the Earth. Plants need sunlight for developmental growth and photosynthesis. Then, you also need sun rays for your physical and mental well-being. In addition, Sunlight supplies necessary amounts of vitamin D, promoting your bone health, maintaining blood pressure, and preventing other skin diseases.

Doesn’t a sunny day make you happy and you feel most energetic and lively at that time? It’s because sunlight also keeps your mental health good. Besides, the heat generated from the Sun holds the temperatures on the Earth regulated. The power of the Sun also plays a significant role in maintaining the Earth’sEarth’s meteorological conditions. There would be no winds, ocean currents, clouds, and even a water cycle without the Sun.

But do you know, sunlight can affect the air you breathe? Let’s know-how.

Can sunlight affect the air I breathe?

Yes, sunlight affects the air quality. As mentioned earlier, the Sun is essential for the Earth—the sun rays coming from the Sun help many organisms on the Earth to survive and function the weather system properly. However, many aspects of meteorological conditions can influence air quality. These aspects, other than Sun, are as follows:

  • Winds
  • Rains
  • Temperatures
  • Snow

Let’s know about the influence of sunlight on air quality.

The amalgamation of the airborne pollutants and the sunlight received by the Earth can deteriorate the air quality. The heat and sunlight can alter the primary air pollutants into secondary ones. For example, toxic contaminants like nitrogen oxides are emitted from vehicular engines. The oxygen present in the air reacts with the transport-released pollutant to become ground-level ozone. Thus, the relationship between sunlight and heat is directly proportional to ozone production; the higher the sunlight and heat, the more ground-level ozone formation.

While the atmosphere, natural, ozone is beneficial for the Earth’sEarth’s survival, the artificial ones aren’t healthy at all. Ground-level ozone is a highly reactive molecule that can impair lung functionality. Being a very active oxidant intensifies other lung diseases such as asthma and causes breathing issues even in healthy individuals.

Moreover, the particulate matter generated from various man-made and natural events can crucially react with the sunlight. For example, a typical hot day has high intensity of sunlight. As a result, microscopic particulates such as PM2.5 react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemical reactions create a challenge known as smog and haze.

While the above was the brief information on the effect of sunlight on air quality, I will provide a deep take on the association from below onwards.

What does the association between intense sunlight and air pollutants cause?

As explained earlier, this association causes the unwanted terrible condition known as smog or haze. Photochemical smog can create havoc in day-to-day lives. Besides, such smog can reduce visibility and can lead to economic losses. It can also cause less productivity. Photochemical smog is a brownish-grey haze. As per the ‘Handbook of Air Pollution from Internal Combustion Engines’ of 1998, a photochemical smog occurs when ultraviolet radiations of Sun react with hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.

If you are living in a modern, urbanized area, a metropolitan city, you should know what your air majorly contains. Along with oxygen, such air contains anthropogenic or artificial pollutants such as ozone, nitric acid, and organic compounds. Such contaminants are stuck near the ground surface because of temperature inversion. Such smog has an unpleasant smell and causes ill-effects to living matter. 

You must have noticed such nasty odor in Los Angeles city. It’s because cities like Los Angeles get photochemical smog due to the combination of air pollution, topography, and weather conditions. The primary source of air pollution in Los Angeles is vehicles- you need cars to commute to various destinations. Such vehicles produce high emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. Moreover, wind pressures also play a vital part in this region. During fall or spring, there is subtropical high pressure with clear and calm air conditions, which initiates and intensifies the stagnant air.

According to M.L. Brusseau, a researcher noticed very notable changes occurring in metropolitan cities like Los Angeles. First, he stated that the primary pollutants formed from the vehicular emissions are transformed into secondary ones due to heat and sunlight. Secondly, the stagnant air or lower wind speed makes such pollution linger near the ground level. Additionally, the temperature inversions (a process where the air near the cold ground surface cools down than the overlying atmosphere) hinders the turbulent mixing of the air. Besides, the presence of fewer clouds causes higher ultraviolet radiations from the Sun on the Earth. Such conditions exacerbate the transformation process of the vehicular pollutants. He also lastly pointed out that the complicated coastal mountain terrain slows down pollutant dispersal.

Such smog condition was also first observed in this city in 1944, and people in Los Angeles breathed the filthiest air in the world. Unfortunately, this city still experiences smog. However, its intensity is lowered, especially after 1975, when the catalytic converters were designed to reduce hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emissions and were fitted in the old model vehicles.

However, on September 10, 2020, Los Angeles Times reported that the city suffered the worst smog after almost 30 years. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District monitoring data, the ozone levels were high up to 185 ppb in downtown Los Angeles. At that time, the air quality officials reported that degrading air quality was due to intense heat and sunlight pooled with stagnant air conditions or lower wind speeds. The record-breaking high temperatures in Los Angeles County at that time. This was because of the high-pressure system created in the region. The environmentalists also further said that such conditions trapped the vehicular pollution close to the ground surface and caused the growth of smog.

Such type of smog is also experienced in Denver and Mexico City. These mentioned cities act as a natural pollution trapper because of their geographical location. These cities are located in the valley. Besides, the poor visibility in such smog is due to the presence of particulates in the air. The sunlight coming received by the Earth gets scattered due to particulates and causes deterioration of the visibility.

The air quality experts around the globe are claiming that climate change is deteriorating the air quality on the Earth. Much scientific evidence has found out that rising temperatures and climate change phenomena give create intense heat waves. Such high temperatures and sunlight intensify the smog conditions; the higher intensity of sunlight accelerates the photochemical reactions to produce ozone gas.

Intense heatwaves also cause another destruction known as wildfires. Nowadays, wildfires are becoming more intense and destructive due to the ever-growing warming climate. Yifang Zhu, a professor of environmental health sciences at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said that the combination of massive wildfires and extreme heat and sunlight could turn into a dangerous variety. Such a combination can exceptionally increase the levels of ozone on the Earth. Along with ozone, wildfires also produce particulate pollution, which makes it almost impossible to breathe. Such pollution can get transferred to other distant regions too.

The health officials of the United States have expressed concerns about growing ozone and particulate levels. They said that as the ozone is a corrosive and highly reactive gas, it inflames the lungs and aggravates asthma attacks and other health issues. Such issues are not only causing due to direct exposure to vehicular emissions but their fatal alterations to the secondary pollutants due to intense heat and sunlight. Zhu also added that everyone should get aware and mitigate climate change to stop such hazards.

Lastly, the U.S. White House Report stated further that heat through excess sunlight can cause increased dispersion of natural allergens such as pollens. Thus, people sensitive to allergies can get throat irritation and sinus congestion.

Now that you have got to know about the effect of sunlight on the air quality. Do you know that air pollution can also affect sunlight? Let’s learn more about it below.

How does air pollution affect the Sun?

There are also theories where air pollution has affected the quality of sunlight received by the Earth’s surface. Air pollution absorbs and disperses the sunlight and reduces the light reaching the Earth. One of the studies published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reported that microscopic particles could be significantly harmful. The researchers said that increased levels of fine particulate matter such as dust, dirt, soot, and ash could prevent the direct incidence of solar radiation to the Earth.

Such reduction can affect the renewable energy sector; it could potentially affect the solar panels to gain more heat and energy to produce solar energy.

In the below section, let’s know about the solutions to lessen 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 the air get polluted?

How does pollution affect the rain?

How Does Pollution affect the Earth?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “How does sunlight affect air quality?” Firstly, we discussed the basics of air pollution. After that, we learned the importance of sunlight. Additionally, we will also emphasize the impact of sunlight on air quality. Conversely, the article will also reveal how air pollution affects sunlight briefly. In the end, we will provide you with a detailed solution to lessen air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does sunlight affect air quality?

How does air pollution affect sunlight?

The amount of sunlight that the Earth receives fluctuates most of the time. This is because it depends upon the aerosols carrying particulate matter such as dust or ash. They disperse or scatter sunlight, resulting in less amount of sunlight on the Earth.

Why is air quality worse on hot days?

Air quality degrades as temperatures rise. This happens because chemicals released from tailpipe emissions react with sunlight to form photochemical compounds. Such compounds later transform into smog.

What does improve air quality and why?

Rain improves air quality. Showers help to wash off most of the common pollutants and pollens. Thus, air quality is good on rainy days. 

Does humidity make air quality worse?

Yes, humidity makes air quality worse. High humidity levels increase the rate of harmful contaminants, dust mites, etc. It can also increase airborne pollutants such as respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, etc. 

How does the Sun affect our weather?

Sun is the support system of the Earth. The solar radiation emitted from the Sun helps to warm the atmosphere. Besides, it also aids in the atmospheric composition. In addition, the distribution of solar heating across the Earth produces global wind patterns and develops clouds, storms, and rainfall.

What affects air quality?

The following factors affect air quality:

  • Sunshine
  • Rain
  • Higher temperatures
  • Wind speed
  • Air turbulence
  • Mixing depths

References

Scied.ucar.edu. 2021. How Weather Affects Air Quality | UCAR Center for Science Education. [online] Available at https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/air-quality/how-weather-affects-air-quality

Teqoya. 2021. Air Pollution: The Heat Factor. [online] Available at https://www.teqoya.com/air-pollution-the-heat-factor/

Venta North America. 2021. High Heat and Air Quality: What’s the Connection?. [online] Available at https://www.venta-air.com/en_us/high-heat-air-quality-connection/

Walsh, B., 2011. Why Bad Heat = Bad Air | TIME.com. [online] TIME.com. Available at https://science.time.com/2011/07/22/why-bad-heatbad-air/

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