Air pollution is sadly becoming an inseparable aspect of modern human lives. The use of fossil fuel while accelerating technology to an unprecedented level this past century has cost us dearly. Naturally occurring pollution from pollens and dust is also becoming more of a problem to people all around the globe.
Here are our 33 air pollution facts that will make you learn more about the problem of air pollution on this strange rock we call our home planet.
China is investing 361 Billion USD on renewables in an attempt to shift from coal power. The Chinese city dwellers are severely unhappy about the country’s unending smog problem, thus fueling the huge investment in renewables.
In 2015, Indonesian forest fires generated more CO2 than UK’s annual total carbon output. The forest fires were mainly caused by slash-and-burn tactics by palm oil companies to clear land for new plantations.
Air pollution is slowly destroying Greeks’ historical structure in Acropolis, Athens. Sulfur dioxides from space heating in Athens are gradually converted to sulfur trioxides in the atmosphere which turns to sulfuric acid when dissolved in water.
Exhaust emission from ocean shipping continues to be a threat to the global environment. The wide use of fuel with high sulfur content due to its low price means millions of tons of sulfur dioxide is being dumped into the atmosphere each year. As transport volume increase over time, these emissions will continue to rise.
Roughly 92% of the world population live in areas where ambient air pollution exceeds the safe limit established by the World Health Organization (WHO). One indicator is the amount of airborne particulate matter less than 2 .5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) exceeding 10 micrograms per cubic meter.
Air pollution is responsible for 2.2 million deaths due to stroke, 2 million deaths due to heart disease, and 1.7 million deaths due to lung diseases and cancer.
Deaths caused by air pollution costs the world economy 225 Billion USD in lost labor income. When welfare costs are included, the number jumps to more than 5 Trillion USD.
Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Estonia, and Finland are five countries having the least polluted urban areas while Pakistan, Qatar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Egypt are the opposites.
Consumer products top cars as the main contributor to hazardous Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in urban environments. Chemicals from personal care products, adhesives, inks, paints, and pesticides emit the most VOCs.
A study by Harvard School of Public Health discovered a link between air pollution and autism. Researchers found that pregnant women who are exposed to high pollution levels in their third trimester are more likely to have children who are diagnosed with autism down the line. Harmful particles such as methylene chloride, mercury, diesel particulates, manganese, and lead inhaled by the mothers are known to affect brain development.
Prolonged exposure to air pollution will make your skin age faster. Air pollutants like cigarette smoke, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons induce oxidative stress on your skin.
Exercising in the gym may help you lose weight, gain muscle, and improve your cardiovascular health, but the lack of ventilation in the gym means you are exposed to a greater amount of VOCs, PM10, and PM2.5. The benefits of exercising outside are also reduced or even canceled out when you breathe polluted air.
A study conducted in Taiwan concludes that prolonged exposure to PM2.5 in the air can change the shape of sperm and decrease its size. The male body compensates by increasing the sperm count to prevent such changes from leading to infertility.
A research from the University of Washington Polluted air can make it harder for you to fall and stay asleep. People exposed to high level of nitrogen dioxide only have 60% sleep efficiency. This research proves that improving air quality is highly beneficial to improve sleep quality for people living in the cities.
Almost half of the world’s trash is burned instead of getting to landfills or recycled. Garbage burning contributes to 10% of mercury and 29% of global PM2.5 emissions.
To battle air pollution in their cities, the German government is planning to roll out country-wide free transport. The German government is eyeing the success of a similar scheme in Niort, Western France.
Wearing simple and inexpensive facemasks while you’re having outdoor activities can reduce the number of airborne pollutants entering your respiratory system by 80% and more. Cotton handkerchief, on the other hand, can only block less than 30%.
About 30 to 45% of urban population in North America live close to a busy road, within 0.2 and 0.3 miles. These people have a higher risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease with children and teenagers being the most prone.
Minorities and poorer communities are more prone to polluted air compared to the general population. Researchers from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that non-white communities have 28% higher health burden while people living under the poverty line have 35% higher burden.
Under Trump Administration, EPA’s new rule allows thousands of major polluters in the USA to turn off their pollution controls. They also no longer required by law to correctly report their emissions.
In 1952, London was hit with a smog so thick, it lasted four days. It was called the Great Smog and caused over 4,000 deaths while over 100,000 was seriously sick.
Air pollution is bad news for productivity in offices. When indoor air quality drops, so does office productivity.
Beijing, China has four-color smog alert: blue, yellow, orange, and red. Their orange alert requires heavy industries and factories producing cement and furniture to limit output to 50%. The red alert has never been issued so far.
The cleanest diesel engines in modern cars still produce much more NOx than the legally allowed limit during real driving emission tests. However, three cigarettes produce airborne particulates three times as much as a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine.
Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal costs the company over 30 Billion USD. The scandal erupted when VW was found installing cheat devices in its cars to downplay the NOx emission during laboratory tests.
There are about 3 billion people in the world still cooking and heating their homes by burning solid fuels such as wood and coal. This practice leads to over 4 million of premature death due to illnesses caused by the emitted particulate matters.
From all deaths due to pneumonia among small children under 5 years old, over half of them are the result of inhaling soot at home.
NASA’s Clean Air Study discovered that some plants are very effective at removing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, ammonia, and xylene. Examples of the plants are snake plant, Chinese evergreen, broadleaf lady palm, bamboo palm, and Boston fern.
Hay fever caused by Birch pollen was almost unheard of a century ago in the UK. Now, one out of four people in the UK is affected. That’s a shot up from just one out of eight in the early ‘80s. A research from the University of Birmingham is uncovering the link between the allergenicity of pollen with the weather change and environmental pollution.
Central heating and cooling systems in homes rarely bring in fresh air into the house. WHO recommends opening the windows whenever the weather allows is to do that.
An experiment by The Healthy Air Campaign discovers that people driving their cars are exposed to pollution eight times more than what cyclists are exposed to on the same road. This is because polluted air from other vehicles enter the car’s ventilation system and stay there.
2017 saw the biggest number of electric car sales in the US. It was up 25% from the previous year. The Energy Policy Simulator used by Energy Innovation forecasts that by 2050 electric cars will make up 65% of new car sales.
Air pollution worsens climate change. Short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs) which includes sulfate aerosols, ground-level ozone, black carbon, and methane have significant impacts on earth’s climate. Black carbon and methane are next to CO2 as the main contributors to global warming.
Okay, that’s all for our short list of air pollution facts. We hope we didn’t scare you too much with those facts. If they did scare you somewhat, we suggest getting an air purifier for your home.
Running an air purifier in your home is a simple yet effective way to improve the air quality in your home considerably. Whether you live next to a busy road, have asthma or allergy, or simply wish to breathe easier every day, getting an air purifier is a smart move.