Air pollution, specifically smog, is a persistent problem affecting countries worldwide. Smog, a type of air pollution that results from a mixture of various pollutants, poses harmful effects on both human health and the environment. In this article, we discuss the countries under the spell of smog and what they are doing to deal with it, specifically India and Pakistan, which are considered the most polluted countries in the world. We also highlight the dangers of smog for human health and the environment, the collective measures that must be taken at all levels of society to mitigate its impact, and the urgent need for immediate action to address climate change.
What is the effect of fog on human health?
Fog itself is not harmful to human health as it consists of only water droplets and is devoid of any chemicals or air pollutants. However, inhaling fog exposes the lungs to cold and watery air, which can be damaging and may cause coughing, irritation, or chills. Inhaling foggy air is also likely to reduce oxygen intake due to more saturated water droplets. It may put more pressure on the body, requiring more sleep or repair time.
The dangers of smog for human health and the environment
Smog is a type of air pollution that results from a mixture of various pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter. It can occur when sunlight reacts with these pollutants in the air, forming a haze that can obscure visibility and have harmful effects on human health and the environment.
Smog has been a persistent problem across the globe for decades, causing numerous adverse health and environmental effects. It is a type of air pollution that occurs when a mixture of pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds, react in the presence of sunlight to form a haze in the air. The sources of these pollutants are manifold and can include industrial and vehicle emissions, excessive consumption and overpopulation, and the production of waste in excess.
The consequences of smog are dire and can range from respiratory problems, eye irritation, and skin damage to global warming and climate change. The most vulnerable populations to the hazards of smog are the poor and those living in densely populated areas.
To mitigate the impact of smog, collective measures must be taken at all levels of society. The adoption of clean energy sources, such as solar and wind power, reducing vehicular emissions, and encouraging sustainable living practices are some of the solutions that have proven effective in developed countries. While these changes may not be easy to implement, they are essential for creating a better and healthier future for all.
UN Report Confirms Irreversible Human Impact on Climate Change and Urges Immediate Action
The sixth report of the “UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (AR6), released in March 2022, stated, “It is unequivocal that humans have caused widespread and rapid changes to oceans, land, and atmospheric temperatures, as many of these changes are irreversible.”
Emissions, which constitute smog, are a factor contributing to climate change and have caused a 1.5-degree increase in the temperature of the world.
Climate change is cumulative; however, the procedures and policies in western and developed countries are already in place to reduce emissions.
The poor and countries with large populations are worst hit by the smog, necessitating measures on a war footing.
The Air Quality Index calculates the annual average concentration of PM 2.5, one of the finest of Particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5, in micrograms divided by cubic meters (µg/m³); World Health Organization’s standard for clean air is 5 micrograms per cubic meter of PM 2.5.
China was the world’s most affected country by smog in the first decade of the 20th century. However, South Asia has taken the lead and is now considered the most polluted region in the world. As per Greenpeace and Airvisual, 15 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities lie in India. Bangladesh is the most polluted country in the world at 76.9 µg/m³. Other countries included in the top five polluted countries are India, Pakistan, Chad, and Tajikistan.
Countries worst hit by the smog: India and Pakistan
With every fall of winter, India’s cities gasp for breathing air – thanks to soaring levels of air pollution. New Delhi, the capital, is the worst smog-hit city in India. As per the World Air Quality Report of 2021, released in March 2022 by Swiss air quality technology company “IQAir”, an increase of 14.6% has been observed in the fine toxic Particulate matter as compared to the previous year. Already high levels of PM 2.5 are exacerbated due to the burning of crops and their residue in neighboring states; cooler temperatures trap the toxic smoke, resulting in an obscured sky with thick, gray smog or haze.
[REFERENCE: “Most Polluted Countries 2023.” Most Polluted Countries 2023, worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-polluted-countries. Accessed 9 May 2023.]
The government had to close schools for a week and direct offices to shift to work from home to reduce vehicle exhaust in November 2021 due to the severity of the issue. The city government even contemplated a complete lockdown of the city. The country’s dependence on coal for electricity and emissions from industries using non-energy efficient plants are also linked to the soaring levels of air pollution – causing smog.
India rolled out the “National Clean Air Program” (NCAP) in 2019 to improve air quality in more than 100 cities. The initiative has proved to be ineffective due to underfunding and poor design. India’s demand to change the agreement at Climate Talks on Nov 2021 in Glasgow from “Phase out” to “Phase down” amid her faster-growing need for energy has also met severe criticism and raised concerns among the experts for India’s fight against climate change or worsening air quality.
Pakistan is the third most polluted country in the world, having 66.8 µg/m³ levels of PM 2.5. Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala are the cities that have been severely affected by the smog. Experts attribute the ill-planned urbanization, industrialization, brick kilns, heavy traffic, low-quality fuel, and crop burning. The rising levels of smog Contrary to perception, only 20% of the pollutants constituting smog originate from crop burning, and transport-related pollutants account for a significant chunk of the smog, i.e., 43%, with the rest of the pollutants coming from power generation and industry.
The government has taken isolated measures like tree plantations and resolved to shift to Euro5 fuel to fight rising air pollution. That speaks of the government’s indifferent attitude towards smog, resulting in an incoherent and inadequate response.
China – A case study
Lately, China has been the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and has suffered drastically. Environmental consequences of water scarcity and soil contamination. Like the rest of us, China is also likely to face the harsh realities of climate change in the form of floods and droughts. However, in her fight against smog and air pollution, Beijing implemented policies to shed its emissions and pledged to be Carbon Neutral by 2060 in the Paris Agreement of 2015 on Climate Change.
Since her campaign, launched in 2013, to take on the menace of smog, China has impressively brought it down. The average concentration of small hazardous particles named PM is 2.5 to 30 micrograms per cubic meter, or half of the levels of 2015. China’s remarkable performance in bringing down the levels of air pollution, or smog, is the result of initiatives like achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, 25% renewable energy sources, reducing carbon intensity, and boosting forest coverage.
A Cumulative Fight
The scale of the problem is immense, and dire consequences are unavoidable in years to come. If you initiate all the correct steps starting today, it will take decades for the results to materialize. The acute health risk associated with ambient PM 2.5 pollution ruminates that short-term exposure can trigger a series of adverse health effects and may lead to premature death.
The onset of various diseases related to the cardiovascular or respiratory systems Today, it is clear that the impact of ambient PM 2.5 pollution on human health is significant and far-reaching. While it may take decades for the full extent of the damage to become apparent, there is no doubt that short-term exposure can have serious consequences.
Studies have shown that even brief exposure to high levels of PM 2.5 can trigger a range of adverse health effects, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems. These risks are particularly acute for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions. In order to mitigate these risks, it is essential that we take action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and other sources of pollution.
This will require a concerted effort from governments, businesses, and individuals alike to invest in cleaner technologies and adopt more sustainable practices. By working together, we can create a healthier and more sustainable future for ourselves and for generations to come.
Policies for Reducing Emissions
Furthermore, Smog or air pollution alone caused 1.4 million premature deaths in China in 2019 and an increase of 10. Micrograms may lead to a 0.34% increase in hospitalizations for health issues related to respiratory or cardiovascular effects. A study by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution in 2018 estimated the deaths of 128,000 Pakistanis a year are due to health issues caused by air pollution. Indian experts have called for a health emergency due to 1.2 million deaths annually and 1.7 years of less life expectancy because of smog or air pollution. South Asia, particularly Pakistan and India, has to craft policies for reducing emissions and implement administrative paraphernalia. The policies are stringently enforced to save their population from the worst effects of smog or air pollution.
Smog is a dangerous form of air pollution resulting from a mixture of various pollutants that can be harmful to human health and the environment. It can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, and skin damage due to global warming and climate change. Countries like India and Pakistan have been severely affected by smog, with India having the worst air pollution in the world. To mitigate the impact of smog, collective measures must be taken at all levels of society. Adopting clean energy sources, reducing vehicular emissions, and encouraging sustainable living practices are some of the effective solutions that have been proven effective in developed countries. The world must take action to reduce smog and other forms of air pollution to create a better and healthier future for all.