What are you breathing?

On World Environment Day, let’s be inspired to become Earth warriors to combat the pollutants that are affecting the quality of air we breathe.

Updated - June 03, 2019 02:34 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2019 02:32 pm IST

 Illustration: Freepik

Illustration: Freepik

Take a deep breath in and breathe out slowly before you continue to read. According to the World Air Quality Report 2018, nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air. Statistically speaking, 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits. Among the top 30 most polluted cities, India makes up for 22.

Now, are you rethinking the deep breath you just took?

To bring about awareness on air pollution,the United Nations has dedicated this year’s World Environment Day to the theme of “Air pollution”.

World Environment Day, observed every year on June 05, is dedicated to “encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment.”

In keeping with its commitment to protect the environment, the UN launched ‘Greening the Blue’ initiative in 2010 to reduce its own carbon emissions by encouraging active participation from its staff members across the world.

Cause of concern

Air pollution and climate change are closely related. As our population increases, and we consume more and dump more waste, we are generating more greenhouse gases and air pollutants. This results in earth’s heat being trapped within the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise, setting off a domino effect of rising sea levels, more extreme weather, poor yield of crops, and more.

Besides, air pollution also affects human health. It is known to cause respiratory infections, stroke, heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

Living with the problem

While tackling air pollution is a long battle, you can try to reduce its impact on you with these tips:

When playing outdoors, choose times when air pollution levels are not high. Pollution usually peaks during late morning and early evening.

If a face mask is advised where you live, consult with an expert to help choose the right one. They should filter fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and under) which is among the most harmful.

Sources of air pollution

There are several natural causes of air pollution and climate change like volcanoes, earthquakes, and dust storms. In fact, as mentioned in www.unenvironment.org, the dinosaurs may have met their end after a giant meteorite kicked up so much dust that it blocked out the sun for decades, reducing photosynthesis and preventing the growth of plants.

What we can do

As experts suggest, the only good news amid this gloom is that immediate changes to air pollution levels also have immediate effects. This means every bit of our action will have an impact on the quality of air we breathe.

Here are some things we can do:

Use public transport, car pool, cycle or walk to get around. Urge your parents to consider low or no emission vehicles if they can.

Minimise emissions from waste by reducing, recycling and reusing. Compost biodegradable waste; recycle and reuse items like grocery bags, and plastic containers. Reduce the amount of waste that gets sent to the landfills.

Save energy by turning off lights and electronics when not in use. If possible, replace the usual CFL bulbs with LEDs. Opt for renewable sources of energy.

Spread the word among friends and family. Speak up about the problem and how they can help.

Sources: breathelife2030.org, www.worldenvironmentday.global

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