Reasons why you should care about Air Pollution

Updated: Nov 24, 2020 12:59 PM

Remember the last time you saw something strange floating in your glass of water? Just hand it back, and wait till you get home to drink clean, safe water. Unfortunately, there’s no such option for air. Like it or not, you’re forced to breathe the air you’re surrounded by, and there’s often no guarantee on how clean it is.

Air quality data helps visualize and quantify the ambient air pollution of any given location down to the postcode and neighbourhood level.

By Akshay Joshi

Remember the last time you saw something strange floating in your glass of water? Just hand it back, and wait till you get home to drink clean, safe water. Unfortunately, there’s no such option for air. Like it or not, you’re forced to breathe the air you’re surrounded by, and there’s often no guarantee on how clean it is.

Of course, when air quality hits abject levels of pollution, it becomes visible as haze. This haze, often referred to as smog – smoke and fog – is particularly visible in the winter months in New Delhi and a host of other cities across the world. This present situation is a collective result of human actions over the past few decades. Today, the world’s future is threatened by climate change and global warming. At the epicenter of these issues is air pollution.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds the WHO standard limits. The first step towards solving any problem is acknowledging and understanding the issue at hand. Air quality data helps visualize and quantify the ambient air pollution of any given location down to the postcode and neighbourhood level.

Human health-related risks: Asthma and more

At this juncture, people and businesses have realized the harm human activities have caused to the environment. Air pollution has created a public health emergency around the world. From kids, adults, senior citizens, to even unborn babies, it impacts everyone. The Global Asthma Report 2018 reported finding a 3.6% increase in Asthma patients since 2006. Other ailments like pulmonary diseases (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases are also on the rise. Around the world, 7 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution-related diseases. Those with weaker immune systems – children, older people, and pregnant women – are at a higher risk.

Economic loss

Like everything else, air pollution comes with a price tag. Public welfare costs from sickness caused by pollution are over US $5 trillion annually. The loss of global productivity also amounts to US $225 billion yearly. The impact is severe in developing nations that are prone to higher pollution levels. If the situation continues, these losses are estimated to rise to $25 trillion by 2060. Immediate action and policymaking to mitigate air pollution and its impact is possibly the only defence we have against a bleak future.

Environmental impact

The list of effects of air pollution reads like a rogues’ gallery of issues – climate change, ozone depletion, and acid rain are just the start. The earth’s atmosphere is imbalanced due to the high concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane emitted due to human activity, from vehicular emissions to intensive cattle breeding. This is responsible for the greenhouse effect, trapping more of the sun’s heat, leading to an increase in global temperatures known as global warming. As a result, we’re now looking at everything from rising sea levels to a possible mass extinction of various species.

Clean air is a human right.

Breathing clean air is a fundamental human right. Our legal system recognizes the right to live and thrive in a healthy and clean environment. Each citizen is entitled to hold the government accountable for a disruptive change towards a healthier environment with clean air to breathe for you and your future generations.

So, what steps can you take to prevent air pollution? First, be aware. Make the effort to check your local air quality. A free tool like indianairpollution.com is often useful for those interested in better health, despite prevailing levels of pollution.

Now that you know why caring about air pollution is essential, you’re equipped to try and make the world a better place. Awareness is the first step to bring change. Make smart lifestyle choices today for a better, healthier future.

The columnist is CEO and Co-Founder, Ambee. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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