What is pollution?
A simple description of pollution is anything that humans introduce into the environment and endanger human health or the ecosystem. Therefore, there are many kinds of pollution in the air, water and soil, which can be in the form of gas, heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria, and even noise.
Let us focus on air pollution here. Outdoor air pollution includes the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) and wildfires. They produce harmful gases, smoke (produced by ground-level ozone) and soot (fine particles), which are harmful to breathing. Indoor air pollution is caused by fireplaces and household stoves, which use natural gas, coal or biomass fuels, such as wood or crop waste sometimes used in low-income countries.
Air pollution is a complex vicious circle. Increased temperature will exacerbate its toxic effects. Higher temperatures in turn increase the risk of uncontrolled wildfires and energy use (think air conditioning). Both can release greenhouse gases and further promote climate change, which in turn will raise the temperature and contribute to other extreme weather around the world, a cycle of deteriorating repeats.
In the United States, air pollution has improved a lot since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970. However, the level of some air pollutants has risen in the past few years, and air pollution continues to have a serious and sustained impact on the health of the country and the world.
How does air pollution affect your health?
Numerous studies over the years have repeatedly shown that the increase in the amount of fine particles in the outdoor air corresponds to the increase in the number of hospitalizations for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other serious health problems. Both long-term exposure and short-term exposure seem to be important.
A study published this year looks at global models of pollution levels and risk assessments of the world’s population over the past 14 years. It only links the burning of fossil fuels to nearly 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2018—one in five deaths—including more than 350,000 people in the United States. Most of these deaths were due to heart attacks and strokes.
Who is particularly vulnerable to the potential effects of air pollution? Anyone who is old, young or pregnant, and anyone who suffers from underlying diseases such as heart or lung diseases. In addition, people living in low-income communities (usually located near factories or high-traffic areas) are particularly affected.
What can you do to reduce the harm of pollution?
Use the Air Quality Index (AQI) as a guide to help you. EPA has developed AQI to measure air quality. You can specifically track your place of residence in AirNow. When the air quality index is in an unhealthy zone, try to avoid outdoor activities, especially near areas with heavy traffic. If possible, stay indoors and close windows when using air conditioners and fans to avoid overheating. Or, wear a mask when you go out: cloth masks and surgical masks may help filter out larger particles, but only certain masks (such as N95) can filter out fine particles. Changing clothes after returning home is also very helpful.
Consider traffic. Whenever possible, consider healthier driving alternatives. Purchase local agricultural products (if you have the option) to further reduce global shipping and transportation that cause air pollution. When driving, don't let the car sit idle. It is estimated that this wastes 3 billion gallons of fuel and produces 30 million tons of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, in the United States every year.
Replace the gas stove. When you need to replace a new stove, choose an induction stove or an electric stove instead of a gas stove. The induction cooker not only avoids indoor pollution, but also uses the least energy.
Consider using an air purifier. Although they cannot remove all pollutants, they can improve indoor air quality. Choose an air purifier with a high clean air delivery rate (CADR) that matches the size of your room.
Replace the filter. Regular replacement of air conditioner and air purifier filters will improve your air quality and reduce energy consumption.
Promote clean and renewable energy. Whether choosing a 100% renewable energy plan or voting for leaders who prioritize renewable energy, taking measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels has the dual benefits of tackling climate change and air pollution, and is ultimately committed to building a healthier planet And a sustainable future you are healthier.