This blog post has been medically reviewed by medical professional.
Environmental issues have somewhat taken centre stage over the past few years as global warming barometers reach alarming rates. Experts have realized the global potential of moving towards a net-zero carbon footprint future quicker than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve learned that lockdowns across the globe have managed to reduce air pollution significantly, inadvertently reducing the health effects of air pollution.
It also comes as no surprise that many developing nations have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the recent UN climate summit, or twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties (COP26). Apart from negative effects on the environment, air pollution can also cause detrimental health effects on adults and children.
What is air pollution?
Air pollution is defined as an alteration in air quality which is categorized by measuring chemical, biological or physical pollutants in the air. In short, it is when there is an undesirable presence of impurities in the atmosphere.
An air pollution index (API) is used to measure the levels of impurity in the air. Below is a table on the air quality scale using API:
|Air Quality Index||Air Pollution Index|
|0 - 50||Good|
|101 - 150||Unhealthy for certain groups|
|151 - 200||Unhealthy|
|201 - 300||Very unhealthy|
In 2019, the haze season hit Singapore with a peak reading of 151, which was caused by the slash and burn technique used by farmers to clear off lands in Indonesia.
What are the causes of air pollution?
Apart from the haze season experienced by most Southeast Asian countries, air pollution is caused by a number of different factors. These factors compound the health effects of air pollution on adults and children, and include the following:
- Combustion of fossil fuels such as from coal and oil for electricity and road transportation. This releases air pollutants like nitrogen and sulphur oxide.
- Emissions from industries and factories that release large amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, chemicals and organic compounds into the air.
- Agricultural activities that utilize pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers that emit harmful chemicals.
- Waste production from methane generation in landfills.
Health effects of air pollution
Even the healthiest of people can be susceptible to the effects of air pollution. This can take place when an individual is out for exercise or even simply walking outdoors. The health risks and effects can vary depending on the severity of the air pollution based on the API reading.
Both adults and children are exposed to the same amount of risk, whilst younger children can experience more severe effects as their immune systems are not fully matured.
Here are some of the types of health effects that can be experienced based on length of exposure to air pollution:
Very unhealthy levels
- Aggravated cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses
- Added stress to the heart and lungs as they are made to work harder to supply oxygen to different parts of the body
- Damaged cells in the respiratory system
Long-term exposure to polluted air
- Accelerated aging of the lungs
- Loss of lung capacity and reduced function
- Diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and cancer
Short-term exposure to polluted air
- Chest pain
- Dry throat
What can you do to steer clear of air pollution?
You can reduce the health effects of air pollution by staying indoors as much as possible. However, this may not always be feasible but you can take steps to reduce your risk of suffering from adverse health effects. Here are some tips to keep safe from air pollution:
- Wear a N95 mask when outdoors
- Actively reduce time spent outdoors, especially children’s playtime
- Opt for indoor workouts and exercise
- Avoid alfresco dining outdoors
- Opt for an indoor air purifier at home
Air pollution such as the haze can also creep indoors when at alarming levels. An air purifier system like QUAIR Plasma Mini comes equipped with bipolar ionization technology which effectively neutralizes airborne pathogens and pollutants at home. As such, it can help to keep you and your loved ones free of the effects of air pollution.
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