Breathe Tech

Why You Should Care About Air Pollution

Why You Should Care About Air Pollution

Air pollution is one of the most serious environmental problems of our time. Pollution levels are increasing in every country in the world.


Air pollution is a major cause of premature death worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that around 7 million people die each year from air pollution related diseases. This means that about 12,000 people die every day from breathing polluted air!


What is air pollution?

Air pollution is defined as the presence of substances in the air that are harmful to human health. Some pollutants are naturally occurring, such as dust from wind-blown soil and sand, sea salt, pollen, and volcanic ash. Other pollutants are produced by human activities. These include dust from construction sites, smoke and ash from wildfires, herbicides and pesticides sprayed on crops, carbon monoxide from vehicle exhausts, sulphur dioxide from industrial processes (such as power generation), nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhausts, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by paints, solvents, adhesives and cleaning products, ammonia released by agriculture and industry.


There are many types of air pollutants, but they can be broadly classified into two groups: gases (e.g., carbon monoxide) or particulate matter (e.g., dust). Gases dissolve more easily in water than particulate matter; therefore gases pose a greater threat to the hydrological cycle than particulate matter does. 


Particulate matter in turn has greater implications for human health than gases do because it can lodge deep into our lungs when we breathe it in; this may lead to asthma or even lung cancer later on in life if exposure is high enough over time. 


It also reduces visibility by scattering light due to its composition of particles with a diameter less than 10 micrometers – called PM10 or particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 micrometers – or PM2.5 – particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. 


When small enough such particles can become airborne and inhaled deep into our lungs when we breathe them in which may lead to serious respiratory problems such as asthma or lung cancer later on in life if exposure is high enough over time.


What is AQI?

Air quality is typically measured using an index or rating. The most common air quality index is the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI provides a single number that represents the concentration of a pollutant in the air at a given time. An AQI value of 100 represents an air quality with no health impacts. 


AQI values are based on the scale developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reporting daily air quality, which uses five major pollutants: particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.


What is PM 2.5?


PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. Particulate matter is produced by human activities and by natural processes such as dust storms, forest fires, and volcanic eruptions. 


PM 2.5 can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including lung cancer, asthma attacks, and heart attacks and can also lead to premature death in people with heart or lung disease.


How does air pollution affect health?

Air pollution has both short-term and long-term effects on health. The most immediate health effect of air pollution is an increase in the risk of premature death from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases (such as asthma), and lung cancer. 


Long-term exposure to fine particles has been linked to reduced lung function growth in children, even at levels below current EPA standards. Long-term exposure to air pollution has also been linked to increased risk of dementia and diabetes in older adults through inflammation in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease


There is also evidence that prenatal exposure to air pollution can result in adverse health effects for the baby (including low birth weight) as well as for the mother. A growing body of evidence indicates that even low levels of exposure to pollutants may be harmful for our health; there is no “safe” level of exposure to air pollution – every level of exposure carries some risk.


What is the AQI calculator?

Air quality indices (AQI) are numerical estimates of the level of air pollution in a given area. They are published daily by many local and national governments. They reflect the concentration of different pollutants at a given time, such as ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. 


How is an AQI calculated?

An AQI value is calculated for five major pollutants: particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These pollutants are common throughout the world and are considered by many health professionals to be the most dangerous for humans. 


For each pollutant, there is an AQI value corresponding to each pollutant; these values are calculated based on measured concentrations of each pollutant in the air over a specified period of time.


The value for each pollutant is then compared to national standards set by environmental agencies around the world, including those set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When pollution levels exceed these standards, public health officials can take action to reduce pollution levels by issuing alerts or advisories for people with certain health conditions to avoid outdoor activities or stay indoors during periods when pollution levels are high. 


The EPA’s AirNow website provides more information about how PM 2.5 air quality is calculated and how it affects human health.


How do I find out what my local air quality index is?

Many cities and countries have their own local air quality indices which can be found online or through your local government agency or through apps on your phone.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has an Air Quality Index (AQI) that can be used to find out the air quality in your area and provides detailed information about what AQI levels mean and how they affect your health.