Atmospheric pollution. The poisons we breathe

Atmospheric pollution has increased significantly in recent years and is one of the most serious problems facing human beings. It is no longer an issue limited to some places, the wind has made it a global problem. The problem of air pollution began approximately 200 years ago with the Industrial Revolution. Today, the smoke expelled from cars, buses and trucks, industrial processes, heating systems and even cigarette smoke come together to contaminate the air we breathe, causing a large part of respiratory diseases.

Air pollution is made up of many types of gases, droplets and particles that reduce air quality. A different combination of vapors and gaseous air pollutants are found in outdoor and indoor environments. The most common gaseous pollutants are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and ozone.

Different sources produce these chemical compounds but the main artificial source is the burning of fossil fuels. Indoor air pollution is produced by tobacco consumption, the use of certain construction materials, cleaning products and household furniture. Natural air pollutants come from volcanoes and fires and in some areas can be substantial.

If we take as an example the carbon monoxide, this gas is a product of the combustion of fossil materials such as oil and is commonly formed from moving vehicles. Consequently, this product accumulates in urban areas, near expressways and busy streets, and its concentration varies as traffic increases or decreases.

This element does not seem to affect plants, but it is very toxic to humans because it interferes with the transport of oxygen in the blood. The health effects become more serious the greater the amount of carbon monoxide in the air and the longer the exposure.

The air can be polluted both in the city and in the countryside. Air pollution in the countryside can be caused by dust from tractors plowing the fields, by trucks and cars traveling on different routes, and by smoke from wood fires or crop fires.

The health effects of air pollution

This pollution can cause disorders such as burning eyes and nose, irritated and itchy throat, and breathing problems. Under certain circumstances, some chemicals found in polluted air can cause cancer, birth defects, brain damage and nervous system disorders, as well as lung and respiratory tract damage. At a certain concentration level and after a certain exposure time, certain air pollutants are extremely dangerous and can cause serious illness and even death.

However, people react very differently to air pollution. Some people may notice a feeling of pressure in the chest or cough, while others may notice no effect. Since exercise requires faster, deeper breathing, it can increase symptoms. People with heart diseases such as angina, or lung diseases such as emphysema or asthma, may be very sensitive to exposure to air pollution and may notice symptoms that others do not.

Fortunately, for most healthy people, the symptoms of exposure to air pollution usually disappear as soon as the air quality improvement. However, certain groups of people are more sensitive to the effects of air pollution than others.

Children probably feel the effects of pollution at lower levels than adults. They also experience more illnesses such as bronchitis and earaches in areas of high pollution than in areas with cleaner air.

People with heart or lung disease also react more strongly to polluted air. During times of high pollution their condition worsens to the point that they must limit their activities or even seek medical attention.

Air pollution also causes damage to the environment, and can affect flora, fauna and lakes. Pollution has also reduced the thickness of the ozone layer and caused climate effects.

What can each of us do, as citizens, to improve the quality of the air we breathe. First, support local laws that require effective air pollution control. Public support is vital to the success of pollution control efforts. In addition, our own decisions about the use of means of transportation and as an energy consumer also make a difference. Secondly, we must support policies such as:

-Strengthening of the air monitoring and tracking program at the local, regional and national level through the development of a monitoring and tracking protocol.

-Design of proposals to include measures to prevent and control air pollution.

-Design of strategies that facilitate microenterprises and small industries in the industrial and transportation sectors with access to clean technologies.

-Review of legislation and strategies on territorial planning.

Air pollution is not only a health hazard but also reduces food production and wood harvesting as high levels of pollution affect photosynthesis.

Not knowing much about the problem of air pollution is a decision that acts in favor of those who pollute and against the health of the population since the necessary measures cannot be taken to avoid emissions and thus reduce gases and particles in the environment. , the consequences will be seen in the coming years.

Cristian Frers –Higher Technician in Environmental Management and Higher Technician in Social Communication