Dr. Axel Eriksson explains how we pollute air every day and its effects on health
Dr. Axel Eriksson
Written by Sumayyah Namusabi
About Air Pollution
Air pollution basically means the atmosphere possesses substances that are harmful to our health and/or the environment. Of particular concern are small particles (nanometer to micrometer scale) which deposit in our respiratory systems and also alter clouds and climate in complex and not yet fully understood ways.
The atmosphere has always had such small airborne particles but human activities have added many new ones. The new particles are added directly, especially from combustion sources, or indirectly via human caused changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere (these particles form in the air).
Dr. Axel Eriksson, an associate senior lecture and researcher at Ergonomics and Aerosol Technology, Lund University in Sweden says “millions (about seven million people to be exact according to WHO) die each year worldwide from air pollution; the societal costs are high and disproportionally paid by those with the least resources to bear them.
Of course, there are regional differences but the pattern repeats; these problems tend to be worse for the socioeconomically disadvantaged, but no-one is free from exposure.
Hearts and lungs are damaged, but we have much to learn about exactly how that happens and which particles cause worse problems than others. But it is clear solid fuel combustion and cars, especially those lacking in exhaust after-treatment, cause serious health problems.”
Side note; The information below is based on the World health Organization estimates.
3.8 million deaths annually from indoor exposure (smoke from dirty stoves and fuels)
4.2 million deaths annually from outdoor air pollution exposure
91% of the world’s population live in places where air quality exceeds WHO guidelines
How do we pollute air?
When asked to elaborate more on how we pollute air, he said, “actually many things we do in our everyday lives both indoor (household cleaning products or painting supplies) and outdoor impact air quality, not just the obvious ones like driving vehicles or burning wood.
Things like transport and manufacture of goods, and electricity consumption (especially from coal combustion), are other examples of how humans pollute air every day. The combined effects are massive on both our health and climate!”
How do we lessen air pollution?
Given the examples shown above on the ways in which we pollute air, it might take a while to lessen air pollution but the good news is, we can achieve the goal if we take the right steps.
Dr Eriksson further says, “Obviously, we have different opportunities to reduce our emissions, but clearly it is in our common interest. Extending those opportunities to more people would benefit us all.
We have much work to do as researchers in order to determine more precisely the effects on human health and climate arising from air pollution. But the evidence already available shows that these small particles have large effects which should be taken into account by policy”
Few problems improve from ignorance and unawareness. Many people are unaware of the causes of air pollution, its impact to our health and the massive effects it has on the environment.
According to A Susana Ramírez and co-workers on a study, environmental health literacy, or spreading information to the public about air quality and spurring public opinion in support of air pollution reduction policies, can decrease its causes and effects.
Dr. Axel Eriksson concluded, “We are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions. The fact that the damage occurs elsewhere to persons unknown to us does not free us from our responsibility. Everyone can most likely find something in their daily lives which can be substituted with this in mind. Often there will be co-benefits, e.g., by skipping the drive and taking a walk instead, you get to spend calories and save money.”
Air pollution should be of great concern because our health and the environment around us pay the price sooner or later. Like Dr. Axel Eriksson said, “We are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions” so we should be more mindful.