In this article we shall peep into the fact that whether air pollution is a silent killer. In order for this, we will look into how air quality is measured, the major air pollutants, and its effects on humans. We will also analyse the vulnerable groups affected by air pollution and how air pollution becomes our killer.
Air pollution is a very common term these days which is known for even kids. Therefore, we know how common it has become and we are actually suffering the consequences of this. Air is the most essential need of a human and moreover a living organism. But what if we are not getting that good quality air that is required for our existence. Let’s look in to how this air pollution is being the killer.
Here in this website, we have dealt with air pollution, its causes, consequences and many other aspects. Can air pollution kill a living organism is the main point what we are looking into in this article. Our understanding is that any living organism needs air to survive, please excuse for the exceptions.
Death is definite for a human when he is absolutely deprived of oxygen for more than 11 minutes, 36 seconds. But it doesn’t mean that all human can hold their breath for such a duration. Most of them are not able to hold breath for not more than 1 or 2 minutes. Right to live is a basic right of a man but what about all other living beings in this World. They too have the same right. And this right to life includes right to good quality air.
How to know the quality of air?
Every country has an Environmental protection agency and that agency is responsible to monitor the air quality on a daily basis. They maintain a record of the air quality and have an index to understand the pollution rate. Air quality index is the numerical value assessor to know the quality of air in consideration with the environment and the health of human. The increased air quality index alarms of the air pollution and adverse effects of pollution on human health.
Considering this Air quality index (AQI), as ranging from 1-500, of which the lower the index the cleaner air we have. As the range go up in the scale, the more polluted the air becomes. The AQI value less than 100 is considered satisfactory, generally. The value when goes up above 100, then it is considered to be unhealthy especially for the highly sensitive people around.
To know the quality of air or the AQI is very important as to understand the density of polluted air in which we live. Before going to how air pollution becomes a killer, we shall look into the major air pollutants.
Major air pollutants
There are many pollutants in air that affect our health very adversely, but we shall discuss the major ones here. Industrialization and increased vehicle usage have contributed a major part to the air pollution. The number of vehicles is proportionally increasing by the increase in population. There are five major air pollutants that are considered to be more dangerous.
- Carbon monoxide
- Ground level ozone
- Sulphur dioxide
- Particle pollution
- Nitrogen dioxide
The environment pollution authority has set a standard for each of these pollutants and the maximum percentage this can be allowed in air. Let us discuss the above in detail.
- Carbon monoxide: it is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that is mostly emitted from on combustion of fuels that contain carbon. In United states, the most eminent source of human made carbon monoxide are from vehicles.
- Ground level Ozone: when the different toxic gases such as nitrogen or other toxic substances or gases are exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction is likely to take place which results in smog or ozone. This has been proved to cause very bad health issues, ozone was marked as one of the major pollutants in AQI
- Sulphur dioxide: sulphur dioxide is released when combustion of sulphur containing fuels takes place. It is also released from mining or extraction processes. Sulphur dioxide can cause acid rain or smog when it becomes sulphuric acid in moist environments.
- Particle pollution: it is also known as particulate pollution. It means the pollution of the environment with small particles in solid or liquid for. It may be in the form of dust, dirt etc.
- Nitrogen Dioxide: it is the by product of fossil fuel combustion and vehicle usage. This is found very high in areas where there is high traffic. It can cause particulate to acid rain.
Health issues on human by air pollution
Now we are in a position to understand what are the major pollutants that are present in the air. It is a very direct understanding that inhaling these toxic gases is going to ruin our health. The studies occurring around the World will give the answer for it. The number of people affected with respiratory problems are on a steep rise that will make anyone dumbfound.
Inhaling the toxic substances causes irritation to the lining of the respiratory tract and lungs. Later it can cause inflammation to these organs. Usually, it starts with short term health effects such as dry throat, cough, chest infections etc. Getting treated may cure these issues but it can be temporary if getting exposed to the pollutants or to the air pollution, about which we are talking, is ceased. Unless and until we stop getting exposed to the pollutants, the health issues will keep rising often and also have the possibility of developing it to more serious respiratory situations like intensified asthmatic conditions, bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema, pneumonia. Respiratory issues trigger and worsens within no time and it is so saddening that thousands have lost their life due to these.
When talking about air pollutants, they are hazardous pollutants which can be oncogenic materials such as silica, black carbon, benzene or the like. While saying oncogenic material, we mean it. They are cancerous when entered inside the body. They can also develop heart diseases, heart failures, strokes and such serious health issues.
These adversative effects are luckily a small number as of now when the total population is considered but it is a caveat for all that we need to avoid the extreme contact with the pollutants is the only way we can be out of danger.
We were talking about the direct impact of air pollution on us. That is when the pollutants get inside us directly. This can get in our body indirectly also through plants and animals. When we started the article, we were talking about all organism. Therefore, it is not human who are not affected by air pollution. It is all living organism that are very badly affected by it. Acid rain which is the result of air pollution, makes the soil and water useless and unconsumable by the plants and animals. The ozone depletion and UV rays have brought in lot of changes in plants and their existence. All these have an indirect impact on human who depend on these plants and animals for their food and livelihood.
The effects of air pollution on plants and animals shall be discussed in detail, on another article. Stay tuned guys! 😀
Air pollution killing the next generation
The most vulnerable ones who are affected by air pollution are:
- Pregnant women
Both these set refers to the next generation literally. We saw how hard is air pollution of healthy adults. Consequently, it is so obvious that young children and pregnant women, who are otherwise also have a compromised immunity, will be suffered badly.
Studies have proved that asthma and allergies are heightened their scores in the polluted cities while considering young children. The pregnant woman who are exposed to pollution are at the high risk of having a baby with some kind of infections or respiratory issues. The particulates like PM2.5 particles in the air has the capacity to enter the blood stream of these kids or infants easily ensuing in damaging the nervous system or mental incapacities. The results are not on what we focus actually. These foreign pollutants in air once entered our body can anyways bring in disaster only.
Prevention is the only scope. Being alert on the pollution levels, keeping self-updated on alerts from the authority, using well filtering masks are the only measures left before us.
Wiping out the elder generation?
Elderly people or the senior citizens are another set of people who can be easily affected by air pollution. As quoted earlier in case of young children and pregnant women, these people also have a compromised immunity, after all wear and tear life has gifted them with. Majority of these elderly people have some kind of physical issues and need some medical support. So, it is so easy for the foreign substances to intrude and cause damage to our body. The same happens with air pollution.
Pollutants will find an easy way in to an elderly body as resistance of such medically compromised body is very weak. Accordingly, the damage will also be equally hefty. The elder group of highly polluted area will simply surrender of all serious diseases caused by pollution. There will be a serious wipe away.
It is so controversial that whether air pollution is a silent killer or the eloquent killer. It can be put across in both ways as the respiratory tracts being infected and dragging us to death by cutting off the lung capacity may not be noticed by majority of the population. It knocks us down very silently. Thus, that is the way it can be called as a silent killer. But the other way around, almost everyone knows how worse is air pollution and can easily make out when we fall sick due to this. Accordingly, we can take necessary steps to avoid or come across these pollutants. Be it silent or eloquent, it is not what matters. Ultimately air pollution is a human made killer. Even though there are natural ways by which air pollution happens, it was very minimal. What we have contributed to the nature is hitting us back so hardly that we are not able to bear it. Man made this Earth so miserable and unfit to live.