Global air pollution is a significant environmental hazard related to other similar issues. Human activity constantly fuels the phenomenon, be it an individual or a whole industry. While some processes causing pollution are essential for sustaining humanity’s existence, and others may not be life-saving but still benefit humans, the outcome hurts the planet regardless. Air pollution affects one’s health and the environment, including animals and plants, although people acknowledge the issue and attempt to alleviate it through alternative energy sources, improvement measures, and afforestation.
Human Health Effects
The human body is extremely vulnerable to air pollution, considering the necessity to breathe. The urban population is at an increased risk of contracting adverse particles through inhalation, which can happen both indoors and outdoors (Kulshreshtha, 2019). One of the pollutants, carbon dioxide, makes vulnerable individuals susceptible to cardiovascular diseases (Kulshreshtha, 2019). Meanwhile, sulfur dioxide aggravates them in people who already have the condition (Kulshreshtha, 2019). The suspended particle matter can have a devastating effect on the respiratory system, impacting all of its elements, lowering infection resistance, and increasing the occurrence of lung conditions, including cancers. Simultaneously, nitrogen dioxide triggers lung irritation and acute respiratory illness (Kulshreshtha, 2019). Ozone in particular and other pollutants in general cause oxidative stress, leading to various skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and cancer, and accelerating aging (Singh, 2020). Overall, air pollution is detrimental to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and skin.
However, its effects are not restricted to particular organs because the whole body is affected on the cellular and molecular levels. Other areas include the nervous system, exemplified by such consequences as neurological disorders and strokes, the digestive system, which outcomes involve gastric cancer and appendicitis, and the reproductive system, manifested in infertility for both sexes (Singh, 2020). As for appendicitis, at one point, it was discovered that urbanization greatly increased its incidence, so certain air quality control measures were implemented, which visibly improved the situation (Singh, 2020). Air pollution also impacts various pregnancy stages and may lead to issues with fetus development and even miscarriages, although the exact effects depend on exposure periods and the contracted pollutants (Singh, 2020). The last point can apply to all the discussed diseases, but the fact that living in a city is a hazardous factor remains valid, and even rural areas are not entirely safe nowadays (Singh, 2020). Overall, air pollution has diverse harmful impacts on the human body, which may vary depending on the surroundings.
Air pollution is harmful not only to humans but to nature at large, including plants and other animals. Such environmental effects as acid rain, eutrophication, and ozone layer depletion cause great damage to living organisms (Sonwani & Maurya, 2019). The first phenomenon makes plants vulnerable to infections and sun radiation, hindering their role in performing photosynthesis (Sonwani & Maurya, 2019). Acid rain also destabilizes nutritional channels and weakens high trees to the point that they cannot survive under low temperatures (Sonwani & Maurya, 2019). Aquatic animals experience significant detrimental effects by acid rain, as their environment becomes unsustainable, but those dependent on the affected source and sensitive to changes in liquid composition are also endangered (Sonwani & Maurya, 2019). Eutrophication, characterized by excessive nutrients in the water, leads to an algal bloom, a hazardous phenomenon decreasing flora and fauna diversity by disturbing the oxygen level (Sonwani & Maurya, 2019). Ozone layer depletion affects yield and makes vegetation vulnerable to external factors (Seddon et al., 2019). Altogether, air pollution causes several environmental effects, negatively impacting biodiversity.
In addition to flora and fauna, air pollution also damages the environment in general, including soil, water, and atmosphere. For instance, acid rains cause acidification in the first two substances, altering their composition (Sonwani & Maurya, 2019). Certain atmospheric pollutants, for instance, black carbon, are responsible for advancing global warming (Seddon et al., 2019). Haze is another example of air pollution’s effect, reducing visibility, although the primary victim is humans, as the phenomenon mostly affects settlements (Seddon et al., 2019). Furthermore, rainfall also tends to change, intensifying in some areas and becoming less frequent in others (Seddon et al., 2019). Thus, the environment can suffer great damage from air pollution and fail to recover from it.
People’s Actions to Fight Air Pollution
The described effects have not gone unnoticed, and people from various countries attempt to amend the situation. One solution that is being gradually implemented throughout the world is electric vehicles, which use batteries instead of petrol or diesel (Smedley, 2019). They produce zero emissions and generally contribute to the idea of a clean city (Smedley, 2019). However, the issue is that their mass production may nullify the positive effects unless it is also sustainable (Smedley, 2019). Simultaneously, solar and wind energy is becoming more prominent, and even the ways to store its excesses have been discovered, but not all countries or regions can fully rely on such a source (Smedley, 2019). Biomass, or unfossilized fuel, is another safer alternative, an example of which would be agricultural residues, and less urbanized areas could use it (Smedley, 2019). The alternative sources are yet to replace the ones majorly responsible for air pollution, but their usage is increasing.
People also use various air quality improvement measures targeting outdoor and indoor pollution. For instance, purification towers exist in several Chinese cities, helping resolve the haze issue. Dust control during constructions and precipitators for industrial buildings are other tools (Pipal et al., 2020). Those measures are implemented through policies on the local and national levels, as it is within the government’s interests to protect the population (Pipal et al., 2020). The air in the indoor environment can be improved through source control, which involves safer cooking, ventilation (natural and mechanical), and air cleaners (Pipal et al., 2020). Those means may not have the same effect as completely overhauling the damage done by fuel emissions, but they still benefit individuals.
Afforestation is another solution, and while it is conducted by humans, the overall mechanism is natural. It means establishing forests at locations with no previous history of tree cover (Chen et al., 2021). The initiative leads to improved carbon storage, although other beneficial effects, such as temperature moderation, wind speed reduction, and enhanced soil humidity, also occur (Chen et al., 2021). Ultimately, afforestation will partially compensate for the damage done to existing forests and decrease air pollution.
Air pollution is a topical issue closely intertwined with climate change and human health. It causes many severe conditions, including cancers, and affects pregnancies. Nature is also impacted, as other animals, plants, and the environment suffer damage from air pollution products. Those devastating effects can be prevented, and people are implementing alternative energy sources, air improvement tools, and afforestation to alleviate the situation. The outcomes are not immediate, and it remains unknown whether the planet will survive the ordeal.
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