Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants.
- Man-made – Most air pollution is created by people, taking the form of emissions from factories, cars, planes, or aerosol cans.
- Natural – Some types of air pollution, such as smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes, occur naturally.
Air pollution is most common in large cities where emissions from many different sources are concentrated. For instance, China is one of the most rapidly developing nations in the world with one of the highest rates of air pollution. According to World Health Organization (WHO), some of the world’s most polluted cities are Karachi, Pakistan; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Lima, Peru; and Cairo, Egypt. However, many developed nations like Los Angeles, California, is nicknamed Smog City.
Effects of air pollution on human and environment:
- Short-term effects, include illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis, discomfort such as irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin.Air pollution can also cause headaches, dizziness, andnausea.
- Long-term effects- include heart disease,lung cancer, and respiratory diseases such as emphysema. Air pollution can also cause long-term damage to people’snerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. Some scientists suspect air pollutants cause birth defects.
- It can cause great damage to ecosystem. Air pollution can directly contaminate the surface of bodies of water and soil which can kill crops or reduce their yield. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide particles in the air create acid rain when they mix with water and oxygen in the atmosphere thereby damaging plants by changing soil composition, degrades water quality in rivers, lakes and streams. Animals suffers health effects such as Birth defects, diseases, and lower reproductive rates.
- The biggest culprits for indoor air pollution in countries like India are solid fuels like wood crop wastes, charcoal and coal used in open fires for cooking, Globally about 3 million people cook this way.
- With more than 50% of premature deaths among children due to pneumonia caused by inhaling this soot and 3.8 million premature deaths annually due to non-communicable diseases like stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer attributed to exposure to household air pollution, indoor air pollution is the cause of high levels of maternal and infant mortality.
- WHO estimates state outdoor pollution was responsible for 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012, of which 88% were in countries in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific due to burning of agricultural waste, forest fires and charcoal production.
Steps taken by the govt. of India:
- Bharat stage-IV emission norms have been implemented in 13 mega cities including NCR for new 4-wheelers from 2010. •
- Mass emission standards (Bharat Stage III) have been notified for two, three wheelers and diesel driven agricultural tractors from April 1, 2010 throughout the country.
- Stringent Emission Standards have been implemented to regulate emissions from in-use vehicles from October 2004.
- Supply of improved diesel and gasoline.
- Operating Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) mode public transport in Delhi.
- Introduction of metro in Delhi to promote use of mass public transport system.
- Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards are implementing the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 to restore air quality.
- A mutually time targeted programme is implemented under Corporate Responsibility for Environment Protection (CREP).
- Special drives for prevention and control of pollution in 17 categories of highly polluted industries • Union health ministry had set up a committee in January 2014 to examine the health effects of air pollution.
Why recently in news?
World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently released its news estimated data- “One-eighth of the total death in the world is caused by air pollution”. Acc. to WHO, 7 million deaths worldwide in 2012 were due to air pollution.