Climate & clean energy programmes at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) director John Walke says that energy use as well as production is the primary source of air pollution. In the process of burning fossil fuels, gases and chemicals are released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, air pollution is not only a contributor to climate change, and it is also aggravated by it. A rise in Earth’s temperature is a direct result of carbon dioxide as well as methane emissions from human activity, according to Walke. Smog, another form of air pollution that is worsened by increased heat and more ultraviolet radiation, can form as a result. Mold (due to the damp conditions caused by severe weather as well as increased flooding) and pollen production are also increasing as a result of climate change.
Air Pollution’s Negative Effects on Human Health
Exposure duration and level, as well as other factors such as a person’s personal health risks and multiple pollutants or stressors, all have an impact on the human body’s response to air pollution.
Smog and Ash
In terms of air pollution, these are two of the most common types. Fossil fuel combustion emissions react with sunlight to produce smog (also known as ground-level ozone). In the form either of gas or solids, particulate matter (also known as soot) is carried in the air by tiny particles of compounds, soil, smoke, dust or allergens. Smog and soot originate from the same sources. Walke explains that “everything that catches fire fossil fuels like coal, gas, as well as natural gas” is a source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Children, the elderly, and those who spend a lot of time outside working or exercising can be particularly affected by smog, which can cause irritation to their eyes and throats as well as lung damage. Asthma and allergy sufferers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of these additional pollutants, which can worsen their symptoms as well as trigger asthma attacks. Toxic effects of soot’s tiniest airborne particles, whether gaseous as well as solid, include worsening bronchitis, causing heart attacks, or even hastening death.
People living in low-income neighbourhoods and communities of colour have historically been more affected by pollution from highways as well as polluting facilities because of this. On average, Asian Americans were exposed to soot at a 34 percent higher rate than other Americans, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2019. For African Americans, the rate of exposure was 24% higher, and for Latinos, 23% higher. Visit here to know about Methods for Disposing of Household Waste.
Pollutants in the atmosphere can cause health problems
In small amounts, an amount of air toxins pose a health risk and can be fatal. Mercury, lead, dioxins, as well as benzene are just a few of the hundreds of substances that are subject to federal regulation. When burning gas or coal or incinerating, “these are also emitted,” says Walke. “In the case of benzene, they are also found in gasoline.” Eye, skin, as well as lung irritation can occur in the short-term due to exposure to benzene, which is classified as just a carcinogen but by EPA. Acute exposure to dioxins, which are more predominantly reported in food but can also be found in small amounts there in air, can have a detrimental effect on the liver and other organs in the short term, as well. The brain and spinal cord are both vulnerable to mercury’s effects. Lead can harm children’s brains and kidneys in large doses, and even small amounts can have a negative impact on a child’s IQ as well as ability to learn.
Aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are another class of car exhaust and wildfire smoke contaminants. When consumed in large quantities, they have been shown to cause irritation of the eyes, lungs, and blood and liver, as well as cancer. People exposed to PAHs all through pregnancy have children with slower brain processing velocities and more prominent symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Climate change’s hallmarks, such as rising sea levels, extra frequent and intense storms and heat-related deaths, are made possible by greenhouse gases trapping the planet’s heat in the atmosphere. Methane made up 10% of the country’s total emissions in 2018, accounting for 81% of the total. Methane is released all through oil and gas drilling, and carbon dioxide is released when fossil fuels are burned. “Carbon dioxide comes from fossil fuel combustion, as well as methane comes from industrial and natural sources,” says Walke. Carbon dioxide is a more potent greenhouse gas, but methane is even more destructive because of its potency. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a different class of greenhouse gas with thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. Over 140 countries signed an agreement in October 2016 to decrease the use of such chemicals in air conditioners as well as refrigerators and develop more environmentally friendly alternatives in the future. In 2020, a bipartisan committee of senators overrode President Trump’s objections to this agreement and set the The Us on a path to reduce HFC emissions 85 percent by 2035. “The agreed-to HFC phasedown would then avoid the equal amount of more than 80 billion tonnes of co2 over the next 35 years,” says David Doniger, high ranking strategic director of NRDC’s Climate as well as Clean Energy programme.