If you’ve been observing the ongoing and high-profile protests from Extinction Rebellion over the course of the last few years, you’ll be aware that air pollution offers a significant threat to the human population.
This is supported by the statistics, which have revealed that almost a quarter of the people in the UK have been exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution with potentially devastating health consequences.
More specifically, a study by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found that about 15 million in the UK live in areas where the average levels of the toxic particle PM2.5 exceeds the World Health Foundation’s guidelines. But what do you need to know about this invisible danger?
What is Air Pollution and How is it Caused?
In simple terms, air pollution is defined as the presence of substances in the natural atmosphere that may be harmful to the health of humans and other living beings.
Air pollution may also cause long standing damage to the climate or individual materials, while there are different types of air pollutants including particulates, gases and biological molecules.
Historically, the history of air pollution can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, as developed nations such as the UK began to leverage fossil fuels such as coal to drive economic growth and expansion.
As a result of this, large and industrialised nations have produced high levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide for a range of domestic and industrial purposes, creating an omni-present threat to clean air and one that has worsened incrementally over time.
Substances such as nitrogen oxide are also impactful in this regard, with this produced from the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen in their air during combustion.
The threat of this has become increasingly prominent in highly congested areas packed with high motor vehicle traffic, creating a huge and growing pollution challenge.
Health Impact of Pollution and the Reaction of Governments
According to the WHO, air pollution contributes to an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally, with conditions such as heart disease, stroke, acute respiratory infections and lung cancer.
Interestingly, worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for 29% of all deaths and disease that involve lung cancer, along with 25% of similar cases related to ischaemic heart disease.
Incredibly, air pollution also contributes to 43% of all deaths and diseases that arise from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes significant breathing difficulties and long-term inflammation within the lungs.
Fortunately, countries across the globe are beginning to take steps to tackle air pollution, even serial offenders like China. Here, the government is taking direct action to clean up smog-choked skies from years of relentless industrial expansion, primarily by investing $83.4 billion in the renewable energy sector in 2019.
Nations like China are also drawing on innovation and technological advancement, with firms such as ERG Air Pollution Control providing various tools and measures to help tackle air pollution directly.
This includes everything from industrial gas cleaning services to comprehensive air pollution control systems, which help to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change without compromising on economic growth.