Air pollution is a widespread problem that is most pressing in countries with rich urban infrastructure and robust manufacturing sectors. The exhaust gases emitted by planes and cars during daily commuting are another significant source of pollution. Air pollution is part of global warming, which is caused by excessive emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere of our planet. According to studies, air pollution is also a risk factor for 95% of natural-cause mortality and mortality from cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases (Stieb et al. 2). Air pollution by ultrathin particles that enter the air from aircraft exhaust is a significant risk factor that increases preterm birth chances by 14% (Konkel 74003). The latest research has found a link between pollution in the regions and the mortality rate from COVID-19 (Pansini and Fornacca 1). This observation proves the alarming harmful effects of air pollution on the human body. Observations also suggest that polluted air can carry the virus that is causing the pandemic. Modern international agreements are mainly aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are the cause of global warming, but less attention is paid to reducing air pollution (Aines and Peridas 80). The population shows low awareness of the consequences of everyday environmental choices, including the adverse effects of commuting (Chaney et al. 8). This paper’s thesis is that air pollution has numerous detrimental effects on human health and longevity and should be addressed by increasing awareness, introducing legislative shifts, and implementing innovative initiatives.
Detrimental Effects on Human Health
Stieb et al. presented a systematic review, the results of which illustrated the seriousness of the impact of air pollution on natural cause mortality. According to scientists, “long-term exposure to NO2 was significantly associated with mortality from all / natural causes, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, respiratory disease, and ischemic heart disease” (Stieb et al. 1). It means that the effects of air pollution are systemic, and all health systems become damaged by air pollution, which is proved by the 95% association between air pollution and mortality from listed diseases. The scientists aimed to determine whether long-term exposure to outdoor nitrogen dioxide was associated with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. They found comprehensive proof of such association, based on the analysis of 79 studies (Stieb et al. 1). Such a broad coverage of the topic demonstrates the unambiguous conclusion about the great harm that air pollution has on health.
There are no particular groups or organizations that defend the human rights against air pollution. However, people who are frivolous about the consequences of air pollution sometimes make arguments that appeal to the alleged relative harmlessness of pollutants or ignore the potential dangers. Opponents, including shareholders of car industries, and owners of oil, steel, and plastic manufacturing companies, often declare that production and technological progress is an integral part of the evolution of civilization. Often, advocates of “progress” deliberately underestimate the importance of air pollution for the environment and its harm to human health.
However, given the presented arguments regarding the adverse effects of air pollution on human health, the issue can no longer be ignored. Opponents of the message about air pollution dangers should think about the economic losses that businesses experience due to high mortality rates. They should also consider what percentage of taxes governments spend on treating related diseases instead of channeling this money towards developing the economy and creating more favorable conditions for businesses. The opinion about the inevitability of technical progress does not stand up to criticism since the essence of progress lies in improving existing production models, and the opponents defend the status quo. Opponents should consider the positive consequences of production modernization and the fact that consumers’ health is directly related to their purchasing power.
Pansini and Fornacca found that air pollution levels are a risk factor for illness and death from COVID-19. According to the authors, “air pollution appears to be a risk factor for this disease, despite the traditionally assumed influence of human mobility on the dynamics of the disease from the place of the first occurrence, Wuhan” (Pansini and Fornacca 1). It means that air pollution may be an even more critical factor in the spread of the virus than the population density. In particular, scientists noted that the regions’ population density was less associated with the incidence of COVID-19 than air pollution (Pansini and Fornacca 1). On the one hand, these findings may indicate that nitrous dioxide particles are carriers of the virus, which requires further study. On the other hand, the study presents a strong argument confirming the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health.
Scientists examined situations in 10 provinces in China, including Wuhan and Hubei. They also cited data from similar studies that proved the link between air pollution and the prevalence of COVID-19 diseases in the Po Valley of Italy and in the Bergamo district, which are among the areas that were most affected by the pandemic in Europe (Pansini and Fornacca 10). Similar data from other studies have been obtained concerning the relationship between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths in the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Iran (Pansini and Fornacca 10). It means that air pollution significantly reduces immunity and aggravates susceptibility to viral and respiratory diseases, and can also contribute to the spread of viral infections.
Opponents, as a rule, do not associate COVID-19 with air pollution and may be skeptical about the information presented, referring to the fact that it is too early to approve the credibility of evidence about the spread of the virus by particles of nitrous dioxide. Nonetheless, the arguments present the unambiguous negative impact of air pollution on the COVID-19 mortality rates. Opponents should reflect on how many innocent people have died due to frivolity about the dangers posed by air pollution.
Konkel presented a study that examined the effects of air pollution by the small UFP particles, which can be detected within ten kilometers of airports. According to the study, pregnant women in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) area was 14% more likely to give a preterm birth (Konkel 74003). According to Konkel, “just over 11% of babies worldwide are born preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), putting them at risk for problems with their heart, lungs, eyes, and brain development” (74003). Scientists hypothesize that UFPs cause inflammation and oxidative stress associated with preterm labor (Konkel 074003). It means that air pollution has detrimental effects on the health of future generations. The findings also imply that air pollution by UFP bore a particular danger for pregnant women and prenatal child development.
Opponents usually dismiss calls from the public to control airport emissions or move airports out of town. However, the data presented indicate that the problem of air pollution from airports requires an immediate solution. Children’s health determines their subsequent medical history and lays the foundation for the rest of their lives. Therefore, opponents should consider the consequences of air pollution produced by airports for the most vulnerable population segments, such as young children and pregnant women.
Chaney et al. studied people’s understanding of air pollution and their awareness of their carbon footprints. Noteworthy, study participants showed low awareness of their carbon footprint related to commuting habits. The scientists note that “participants ranked active modes of commuting (walking and bicycling) as being less exposed to air pollution than automobile and public transportation modes, while actual exposures indicated that walking and bicycling yielded the highest exposures” (Chaney et al. 8). This finding implies that despite the widespread belief that it is possible to reduce emissions by switching from car to bicycle, cyclists and pedestrians are responsible for more vehicle emissions. The reason is that these emissions occur while drivers give way to cyclists or pedestrians and during the speed slowdowns. The broader findings regarding a low level of awareness imply the need to educate the public about the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint during commuting and other daily activities, such as sorting waste and making fewer purchases.
Opponents tend to underestimate the importance of public participation in practices aimed at combating greenhouse gases and the value of their actions in the framework of environmental protection. However, each individual’s conscious choice affects the aggregate outcomes of a community, area, city, and country. Switching to vehicles that use batteries or electric power is a wise and timely decision. Opponents also criticize cyclists and pedestrians, noting that their choice leads to an increase in emissions. However, opponents should remember that the primary source of nitrous dioxide pollution is cars, which contribute to global warming and air pollution. The solution to the problem should be the construction of bicycle and pedestrian paths and the general adaptation of urban infrastructure, rather than cyclists’ displacement by other road users.
Aines and Peridas presented California’s overall program to achieve zero carbon footprints by integrating systematic changes through statewide infrastructural and legislative changes. The program aims to reach the goal of creating a carbon-neutral economy by 2045 (Aines and Peridas 80). The scholars say that the state will implement practices to remove carbon dioxide from the air, “including increasing uptake and storage of carbon in the soil; converting carbon dioxide into long-lived products such as carpet or building materials, and speeding up natural processes in the earth that absorb carbon dioxide (such as mineralization)” (Aines and Peridas 80). Other potentially effective practices are reforestation, direct air capture, and direct carbon capture from waste biomass fuel utilization to create carbon-negative fuels (Aines and Peridas 80). Noteworthy, the scientists suggest storing the captured carbon dioxide permanently underground in deep geologic formations.
Critics and opponents are often skeptical of such innovations, calling for traditional paths to reduce pollution and emissions. However, innovative solutions can be more effective as they offer broader and more immediate solutions such as direct carbon dioxide capture. Extracting the carbon dioxide from fuels made from waste is a unique and practical solution for wastelands’ negative impacts. Opponents should think about the potential benefits of the implementation of innovative solutions, given the relatively low investment required against the background of existing problems such as global warming and adverse impacts on human health.
Thus, the arguments proving the urgent necessity for implementing solutions aimed to decrease air pollution were presented. Possible solutions may include educational campaigns promoting more conscious everyday choices among the population. Another way to air pollution is the implementation of practices aimed at carbon footprint reduction. Air pollution has plenty of detrimental effects on human health, including increased all-causes and specific-causes mortality, COVID-19 mortality, and increased levels of preterm births. Therefore, action should be taken immediately to improve the population’s everyday habits, change manufacturing choices, and introduce innovation.
Aines, Roger D., and George Peridas. “Getting to ZERO and Beyond: California’s Aspiration to Become the First Carbon-Negative State Appears to Be Achievable and Affordable.” Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 36, no. 3, 2020, p. 80. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Web.
Chaney, Robbie A., et al. “A Comparison of Perceived and Measured Commuter Air Pollution Exposures.” Journal of Environmental Health, vol. 82, no. 4, 2019, p. 8. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Web.
Konkel, Lindsey. “Move Over, Traffic: Aircraft Emissions and Preterm Birth.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 128, no. 7, 2020, p. 74003. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Web.
Pansini, Riccardo, and Davide Fornacca. “COVID-19 Higher Mortality in Chinese Regions with Chronic Exposure to Lower Air Quality.” Frontiers in Public Health, 2021, p. 1-13. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Web.
Stieb, David M., et al. “Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies of Long Term Outdoor Nitrogen Dioxide Exposure and Mortality.” PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 2, 2021, p. 1-12. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Web.