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Air Pollution

A Major Threat To Environment

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09th-Apr-2020       
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Md. Arafat Rahman :
The introduction of harmful or excessive quantities of substances into earth's atmosphere is known as air pollution. Sources of air pollution include gases (such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane and chlorofluorocarbons), particulates (both organic and inorganic), and biological molecules. It may cause diseases, allergies and even death to humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural or built environment. Both human activity and natural processes can generate air pollution.
Air pollution is a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases, including respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body's respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, and the individual's health status and genetics.
Indoor air pollution and poor urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst toxic pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Polluted Places report. Outdoor air pollution alone causes 2.1 to 4.21 million deaths annually. Overall, air pollution causes the deaths of around 7 million people worldwide each year, and is the world's largest single environmental health risk. Productivity losses and degraded quality of life caused by air pollution are estimated to cost the world economy $5 trillion per year.
An air pollutant is a material in the air that can have adverse effects on humans and the ecosystem. The substance can be solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. A pollutant can be of natural origin or man-made. Pollutants are classified as primary or secondary. Primary pollutants are usually produced by processes such as ash from a volcanic eruption. Other examples include carbon monoxide gas from motor vehicle exhausts or sulfur dioxide released from factories. Secondary pollutants are not emitted directly. Rather, they form in the air when primary pollutants react or interact. Ground level ozone is a prominent example of a secondary pollutant.
Because of its role as a greenhouse gas Carbon dioxide has been described as "the leading pollutant and "the worst climate pollutant". Sulfur oxides - particularly sulfur dioxide is one of the causes for concern over the environmental impact of the use of these fuels as power sources. Nitrogen oxides, particularly nitrogen dioxide are one of the most prominent air pollutants. Carbon monoxide creates a smog type formation in the air that has been linked to many lung diseases and disruptions to the natural environment and animals. Chlorofluorocarbons - harmful to the ozone layer; this allows harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth's surface. This can lead to skin cancer, eye disease and can even cause damage to plants.
The health effects caused by air pollution may include difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, asthma and worsening of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. These effects can result in increased medication use, increased doctor or emergency department visits, more hospital admissions and premature death. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body's respiratory system and the cardiovascular system.
Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, and the individual's health status and genetics. The most common sources of air pollution include particulates, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Children aged less than five years that live in developing countries are the most vulnerable population in terms of total deaths attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution.
The World Health Organization estimated in 2014 that every year air pollution causes the premature death of some 7 million people worldwide. Studies published in March 2019 indicated that the number may be around 8.8 million. India has the highest death rate due to air pollution. India also has more deaths from asthma than any other nation according to the World Health Organization. In December 2013 air pollution was estimated to kill 500,000 people in China each year.
Urban outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year. Children are particularly at risk due to the immaturity of their respiratory organ systems. Air pollution is also emerging as a risk factor for stroke, particularly in developing countries where pollutant levels are highest. A 2007 study found that in women, air pollution is not associated with hemorrhagic but with ischemic stroke. Air pollution was also found to be associated with increased incidence and mortality from coronary stroke in a cohort study in 2011.
Research has demonstrated increased risk of developing asthma from increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution. Additionally, air pollution has been associated with increased hospitalization and mortality from asthma. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Various pollution control technologies and strategies are available to reduce air pollution. At its most basic level, land-use planning is likely to involve zoning and transport infrastructure planning. In most developed countries, land-use planning is an important part of social policy, ensuring that land is used efficiently for the benefit of the wider economy and population, as well as to protect the environment.
Because a large share of air pollution is caused by combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, the reduction of these fuels can reduce air pollution drastically. Most effective is the switch to clean power sources such as wind power, solar power, hydro power which don't cause air pollution. Efforts to reduce pollution from mobile sources includes expanding regulation to new sources (such as cruise and transport ships, farm equipment, and small gas-powered equipment such as string trimmers, chainsaws, and snowmobiles), increased fuel efficiency (such as through the use of hybrid vehicles), conversion to cleaner fuels or conversion to electric vehicles.

(Md. Arafat Rahman, Asst Officer, Career & Professional Development Service Department, Southeast University; email: Arafat.bcpr@seu.bd)

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