Beat Air Pollution – World Environment Day 2019


World Environment day is the United Nations day for creating awareness and encouraging public to take a step forward to protect the environment. On each year it is held under a theme that draws the attention to a worldwide pressing environmental concern. The Environmental day 2019 is themed as Air pollution to give a red alert to the community about our current air quality status

“All things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man…  The air share its spirit with all the life it supports.”   -Chief Seattle

Air is an essential component that fuels our existence. In its absence we might not last more than a couple of minutes. Unlike in Chief Seattle’s time, at present, air not only share its spirit with ourselves, but it also share POLLUTANTS!! A huge load of chemicals, dust and other particulate matter. Our air quality is failing day by day and we are heading towards a planet where all living beings are forced to breathe poisonous air just to save the moment, knowing that its consequences anyway going to kill them shortly.

Worldwide Air pollution

Air pollution in major cities around world

Inhalation of polluted air imposes a serious threat on human health than ever before. Both outdoor and indoor air qualities drop drastically along with the urbanization and motorization. Particulate matter(PM10 and PM2.5), ground level ozone, Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Carbon monoxide (CO) are considered to be the most common air pollutants. Many refer air pollution to smog that hang over heavily industrialized cities, and forget that the smoke from their cooking hearth or igniting garbage dump in the backyard can create similar health problems. WHO data reveals that nine out of every ten breathe polluted air. Out of total world population 91% live in places where air quality exceed WHO guidelines.

The combined effects of ambient and household air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million premature deaths every year. Ambient air pollution causes nearly 4.2 million deaths and household pollution causes nearly 3.8 million deaths every year. Polluted air can cause breathing difficulties, dizziness, irritation in skin and eyes upon immediate exposure. It can also aggravate conditions like Asthma and cough. Prolonged exposure to low quality air can cause long term responses with deadly disease conditions.

  1. Strokes24% of all stroke deaths are related with Air pollution. Contribute for 4 million deaths every              year.
  2. Heart disease25% of all heat disease deaths are related with Air pollution. Contribute for 2.4 million            deaths every year
  3. Lung diseases and cancers – Air pollution accounts for 43% of all lung disease and lung cancer deaths.

                                                                          Air pollution related deaths – WHO records

Air pollution in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka pollutant concentrations in the air are in a rapid rising trend. Increase in the emission of particulate matter and noxious gases from vehicle traffic, Industrial emissions particularly from thermal power plant generations, rapid urbanization and trans-boundary transport of atmospheric contaminants from Asia continent are considered to be the possible causes for increase in air pollution.

Particulate matter is considered as the primary air pollutant in Sri Lanka that is always present in higher concentrations than WHO guidelines. Eventhough SO2 levels exhibit a rising trend it still remain close to US EPA guidelines. In the other hand NO2 levels remain in line with WHO and US EPA guidelines. According to a study carried out by Sri Lanka’s ministry of Environment in 2011 transport sector emissions are responsible for 55 -60% air pollution, while 20 – 25% is due to industries and 20% is from domestic sources.

Norochcholai coal power plant in Sri Lanka

How can we take actions against air pollution?

In every country government should shoulder the responsibility for providing quality air to its people. But that does not mean government alone can do it.  Taking action in your own small ways can create a big impact. Here are few examples provided by UN environment agency to beat Air pollution.

  • Use public transport or car sharing, cycle or walk
  • Switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle and request electric taxis
  • Turn off the car engine when stationary
  • Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy to help cut methane emissions
  • Compost organic food items and recycle non-organic trash
  • Switch to high-efficiency home heating systems and equipment
  • Save energy: turn off lights and electronics when not in use
  • Choose non-toxic paints and furnishings

On this year World Environmental campaign invites everyone to become influencers, advocates and living examples on this pressing issue. Let us care for our air!!

References and Image Credits

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