According to a report by the United Nations, around 90 percent of people breathe polluted air, which is now one of the biggest and most important health issues to date. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) stated that air quality is the “key to tackling the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.”
There are five main causes that impact air quality the most, all of which are derived from human activity. Agriculture, transportation, industrial, waste, and household uses are all attributing to the ongoing issue of air pollution around the world.
We are widely familiar with the issues surrounding the overuse of cars, planes, and other modes of transportation over land, sea, and sky. Black carbon and nitrogen dioxide are only a few of the many articles being sent into the air we breathe.
However, you might be surprised to learn that households are responsible for over 4.3 million deaths every single year. This is due primarily to burning items that should not be burned and stoves that emit toxic matter, such as lead and mercury.
Air pollution from fireplaces, for example, emits compounds from the combustion of wood that has negative side effects. Limiting the number of air pollutants that are in direct contact can limit long-term impacts on a person’s overall health and increase their expected lifespan. The use of eco-friendly electric fireplaces, for instance, do not produce toxic fumes or greenhouse gas emissions and are better for the environment and the body.
The UN has not been one to steer away from addressing these issues head-on by providing startling health information to the public. Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed much over the last several years. Health reports have shown that air pollution’s effects on humans around the world are increasing at a startling rate. A person’s exposure to various pollutants have attributed to a higher risk of:
- Impaired cognitive development
- Cardiovascular disease
- Respiratory disease
- Lower intelligence levels
Not only this, but air pollution is an issue that experts say needs to be addressed sooner rather than later in order to tackle the overall climate crisis that is impacting the planet. Cleaning up air pollution would positively impact the environment, including an overall reduction in global warming and improvement in our freshwater sources.
There are certain legal guidelines called the Air Quality Guidelines, which provide guidance on reducing air pollutants. It was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005. The guidelines also state what certain legal measures should be taken on countries that are not meeting air quality standards if certain procedures are not in place.
Despite the guidelines, a survey of 194 countries along with the European Union (EU) shows that only about one-third of the countries have any sort of legal requirements for addressing what they call “transboundary air pollution.” For something like this to work, commitments to enforce a legal framework have to be made by every country around the globe.
As we know, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the air pollution crisis on our hands. But we do know that there are simple solutions households can take to help alleviate their carbon footprint.
Trading in cars for public transportation or riding bikes can help alleviate carbon emissions. Switching to plant-based diets or composting to reduce the amount of waste we create can all have a dramatically positive impact on the quality of our air. We all can do our part; it’s up to us to make one small change that could make a huge difference for the future of our world.