How does sunlight affect air quality?

In this blog post, we will discuss “how does sunlight affect air quality?” First and foremost, this article will share brief details of air pollution. Secondly, it will examine the relationship between sunlight and air quality. Thirdly, the blog will also highlight human health effects due to air pollution. In the end, the article will provide solutions to reduce air pollution.

How does sunlight affect air quality?

Yes, sunlight does affect air quality in the wrong way. In addition, the high temperatures and heat may lead to high levels of air pollution. But first, let’s look at what air pollution is.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution and anthropogenic pollution. Examples of natural pollution are volcanic eruptions, dust storms and wildfires; whereas examples of anthropogenic pollution are the combustion of fossil fuels, industries, transportation, etc. 

Do you know that meteorological parameters can also affect the air you breathe in? For instance, the cold weather is worst in terms of air quality. Due to temperature inversions, a lot of pollutants still thrive on the ground level, making it impossible to breathe properly. Whereas, monsoons are best for air pollution. Rain showers almost help to wash off the pollutants.   

Find out, how the sunlight affects the air surrounding you.

Does sunlight affect air quality?

Yes, sunlight does affect air quality. This is because the surface of the Earth absorbs the energy received from the sun. As a result, the air near the ground surface is warmer than in the troposphere. Air temperature affects the movement of air and air pollution.

Different natural and man-made sources of air pollution produce various toxic elements such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM) or soot, carbon monoxide, NOx, SOx, etc.

These sources are transportation, household activities, power plants, wildfires, dust storms, etc.

So, the contaminants released from the tailpipe emissions are nitrogen dioxides oxygen. These two contaminants can chemically react together in the presence of heat and sunlight. Thus, such a reaction produces ground-level ozone.

Now, you must be wondering how ozone can be a harmful contaminant? The atmospheric ozone or the ozone present in the upper atmosphere is essential for our survival on the Earth. However, ground-level ozone possesses detrimental side effects on our bodies.

On the other hand, particulate matter (PM) originates from various activities such as cooking, vehicles, smoking, etc. These PM and VOCs react with each other on such typical hot days, having maximum sunlight. All such chemical soup creates a new monster known as smog.

Smog has degrading effects on everyday lives. For example, smog causes less visibility; thus, it reduces work productivity. As a result, such conditions lead to economic losses. It also attacks our lungs and heart. You will see detail in the other sections about how it can affect your health.

Another reason is that excess sunlight or heat in the summer seasons can develop heat waves. Heatwaves cause constant drought-like conditions and contain slow hot winds. Such conditions are very much prevalent for wildfires. As a result, massive wildfires cause a tremendous amount of particulate pollution, which releases black carbon, brown carbon, soot, carbon monoxide, and of course, particulate matter. 

All such pollutants don’t limit to one specific area. The winds transport such contaminants to the neighbouring regions as well. Sometimes, such heatwaves also create high atmospheric pressures. Such pressures create a stagnant environment. The pollutants become stagnant in the air due to light winds and no precipitation. As a result, the pollution remains accumulated above the ground. 

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.

On the other side, scientists have also observed that air pollution has the ability to scatter and disperse and absorb the sunlight. Thus, air pollution can reduce the amount of sunlight you are expected to receive. The studies published in the Advances Atmospheric Sciences say that fine particles are responsible for blocking the sunlight to the Earth. 

Such incidence can negatively impact the renewable energy sectors and thus can create a huge burden on fossil fuels and economic conditions. 

Thus, all the above-mentioned factors can affect crop productivity, disturbances in biodiversity, etc. 

In the below section, let’s discover the health effects of air pollution. 

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

Don’t worry; I have a bag full of solutions to your problems, as mentioned earlier. The below-mentioned section will provide you with the answers to prevent air pollution.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Does Air Quality affect plants?

Does air quality get worse with Heat?

What are 8 types of pollution?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “how does sunlight affect air quality?” First and foremost, this article shared brief details of air pollution. Secondly, it addressed the relationship between sunlight and air quality. Thirdly, the blog also highlighted human health effects due to air pollution. In the end, the article provided solutions to reduce 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 sun 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 affects air quality?

The following factors affect air quality:

Sunshine

Rain

Higher temperatures

Wind speed

Air turbulence

Mixing depths

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.  

What weather conditions other than summer aggravate air pollution?

Other than summers, cold weather can aggravate air pollution.

Does rain improve air quality?

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

References

Hao Luo, Yong Han, Chunsong Lu, Jun Yang, Yonghua Wu. Characteristics of Surface Solar Radiation under Different Air Pollution Conditions over Nanjing, China: Observation and Simulation. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. October 2019, Volume 36, Issue 10, pp 1047–1059. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-019-9010-4

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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