For decades, air pollution has been debated in vain without producing any result. Even if in the past it used to be just a story that we would share with our friends at the bar, tomorrow it may seem like a genuine concern to our kids or grandkids.
Yet we cannot change or repair something if we don’t know what is the cause of it, right?
How it all started?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the first significant increase in air pollution began in the early 1900s following World War II while the economy was experiencing massive growth, along with rapid suburbanization. These are all factors that caused to adversely affect the quality of life for public health and significantly harm the environment.
Further, in 1970, Congress passed the landmark Clean Air Act, which gave the newly-formed EPA the authority to regulate pollution.
In time, the pollution has grown by just about 300% since 1970.
Why is this a concern?
Air pollution affects health in more ways than one, and although many white papers and articles mention it, many misunderstand the issue. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, these pollutants in motor vehicles can negatively affect fetal development, newborns, and people with chronic illnesses.
Particulate matter (PM) – These are fine particles that can penetrate deeply into the lungs.
VOCs – This gas causes the respiratory system to be irritated, resulting in symptoms including coughing, choking, and congestive breathing.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – This may cause lung irritation and compromise health by making the individual more susceptible to pneumonia and influenzas.
Carbon monoxide (CO) – This can obstruct oxygen from getting to your brain, heart, or other vital organs.
Those are just a few examples of the wide range of pollutants, but it's enough to scar anyone for life.
Based on Canada’s 2019 national greenhouse gas inventory, light-duty vehicles (cars) account for four times the GHG emissions of all domestic aviation, while light-duty trucks and vans together make up half of all transportation GHG emissions.
According to Wikipedia, in 2012, air pollution caused premature deaths on an average of 1 year in Europe and was a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases, including respiratory infections, heart diseases, COPD, stroke and lung cancer.
The World Health Organization estimated in 2014 that every year air pollution causes the premature death of some 7 million people worldwide.
What can we do?
There are several small things that we can incorporate into our daily routines in order to escape this toxic environment. From walking more than driving to taking a bicycle instead of the car, to taking the bus or even taking the metro. We can all make a difference if we take a moment to be mindful of all these small steps.
In addition, we can now take advantage of the clean vehicle and fuel technologies that promise to reduce air pollution and climate change emissions. Additionally, electric cars or buses are also a good choice; they have a lower global warming effect than regular vehicles.
According to the Transport & Environment report, developing stringent Euro 7 emissions standards for light and heavy-duty vehicles would be enough to achieve further reductions of air pollutant and align diesel and gasoline car emissions limits, increase emission durability requirements and increase the number of regulated pollutants.
Although the air is even dirtier than before, change is on its way! We have all the tools to make big changes as a result of the right policies and technologies, and the only thing holding us back is whether we really care about our health and future or not.
According to Wikipedia, these are some of the practical alternatives to the principal causes of air pollution:
Reducing travel in vehicles can curb pollution. Stockholm reduced vehicle traffic in the central city with a congestion tax.
Road-rail parallel layout can reduce the environmental impact of new transportation routes by location railway tracks alongside a highway.
What do you think? Would you rather give up on your car or live in a polluted environment?