The aim of this section is to provide students with an overview of the health impacts of air pollution as well as a broader understanding of sources and spread of air pollution, as well as ways individuals and organizations can reduce air pollution.

3.2 Air Pollution

Air pollution threatens the environment, as well as human health. It creates acid rain, smog, and contributes to global warming. It causes several health problems to humans, such as respiratory illnesses and cancer. There are two types of air pollution. These include: outdoor pollution and indoor pollution. The video by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) provides the background information on air pollution.

The aim of this course will provide students an introduction of health the of air pollution as well as a broader understanding of sources and spread of air pollution, as well as ways individuals and organizations can reduce air pollution.

This lesson will focus on the following topics on outdoor pollution:

  • Definition of air pollution

  • Causes of Indoor and outdoor pollution

  • Types of indoor and outdoor pollutants

  • Health risks due to indoor and outdoor air pollution

  • Ways to reduce both indoor and outdoor air pollution

  • Case Study of outdoor pollution

3.2.1 Indoor air pollution Definition of indoor air pollution

Many individuals spend a majority of their time indoors, either at home, work, or school. Poor indoor air quality can lead to both short term and long term health problems to individuals, especially the elderly group and children.

Indoor air pollution is biological, chemical, and physical contamination of indoor air. This article Indoor air pollution from the University of Oxford includes the background information about indoor air pollution. The Indoor Air Pollution website from the World Health Organization (WHO) also provides the overall summary of indoor air pollution. Causes of Pollutants/ Types of Pollutants

Indoor air pollution is mainly caused by cooking and heating, particularly in low-income countries. Many poor households burn solid fuels or kerosene for energy. This in return emits harmful pollutants in the indoor environment. Please read Household air pollution from cooking, heating and lighting on the WHO website to have a better understanding of the cause of indoor pollutants.

Although cooking may be the major factors of indoor pollution, there are other factors. This article from the Environmental Protection Department in Hong Kong states the causes and types of pollutants in the indoor environment. The Health Risks of Indoor Pollution

The burning of solid fuels or kerosene in households can lead to several health problems. The video from the UN Environmental Programme shows the health and environmental risks of cooking with solid fuels and kerosene.

The infographic from WHO provides the statistics of the health risks of specific illnesses due to indoor air pollution. Ways to Reduce Indoor Pollution

There are several ways to reduce indoor air quality. These include:

  • Allow individuals in poor countries to gain access to cleaner stoves;

  • Add houseplants in households and offices; and

  • Ban smoking indoors Case Study

The World Bank/ESMAP has implemented 50,0000 clean cookstoves in three provinces of Lao PDR. This project could be used in other poor countries to help improve the indoor air quality and the health and well-being of many individuals in those impoverished households. Please watch this video from the World Bank to get a better understanding of the cleanstoves project.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a non-profit organization with the support of the United Nations Foundation. The project aims to improve livelihood and the health and well-being of women and protect the environment by creating a global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. In Her Words: Women in Kenya share how cleaner cooking solutions can transform lives shares the story of Kenyan women who benefited from this organization.

3.2.2 Outdoor air pollution Definition of Outdoor Air Pollution

Air pollution is a condition in which toxic substances are released into the atmosphere, mostly caused by human activity. The pollution appears from burning coal, wood, and other carbon-based fuels to run factories, cars, and generate electricity. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website provides a clear definition of air pollution. Causes of Outdoor Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused by several factors. Some are natural factors; however, most are man-made factors. This infographic from WHO provides an illustration of the causes of air pollution. Types of Pollutants

A substance of the air can have an impact on the environment and human health known as a pollutant. The pollutant can be in a formation of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. Pollutants can also be categories as primary or secondary. This video by HarvardX will provide examples of direct and secondary (indirect) pollutants, as well as the types of pollutant emitted in the atmosphere. The Health Impact of Outdoor Air Pollution

Air pollution can have adverse impacts on the environment and human health. Almost five million people die annually due to air pollution, and leads to several health issues. The website of the European Commission includes an image of the health impacts of air pollution. The website also includes a detailed description of each air pollutant. The infographic from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows the health impact of air pollution among children at a global perspective. Ways to Reduce outdoor Air Pollution

Air pollution has moved beyond environmental challenge to one that creates health risks to individuals worldwide. In order to change this situation, societies must respond by decreasing the level of pollutants in the atmosphere. Developing countries do not tend to have as strong environmental regulations as the developed world does because they are mainly concerned with economic development. The lack of environmental regulations may lead to public health problems. Several sectors can work together to tackle air pollution. This infographic from WHO illustrates examples on ways to take action on air pollution by several sectors.

There are ways to prevent, control, and reduce air pollution. This infographic from WHO provides solutions to improve air quality.

This video from the European Commission also educates viewers about the EU approach to reduce air pollution. 

There are ways individuals can also reduce air pollution on a daily basis. These simple steps include:

  • Reduce the use of automobiles, or carpool more often;

  • Plant and care for more trees;

  • Use energy-saving bulbs;

  • Conserve energy by turning off lights, computer, and other devices;

  • Stop open burning, and

  • Educate others about ways to tackle air pollution Case Study

Peru has implemented several initiatives to protect the environment. Here is an example of how the country is reducing vehicle emissions.

Last modified: Monday, June 7, 2021, 11:37 AM