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Air Pollution Solutions - The Ruination and Rehabilitation of the Planet's Atmosphere.

Pam Sornson

Posted on November 7, 2018 11:39

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Climate change is affecting the atmosphere just as it's affecting the oceans and the rest of the planet. This series explores where you'll find the most polluted skies in the world, as well as what innovators and optimists are doing about the problem.

The Tainted Atmosphere

Bad weather is doing more than causing flooding and torrential storms; it's also stirring up tons of toxic particles that are now suspended over the world's most densely populated cities. Air pollution is a growing concern (still!) as globally accumulated air-borne poisons taint the atmosphere and threaten every living being on the planet. In cities where there are both unregulated polluters and climate-induced atmospheric changes, citizens must now go about their days bathed in a toxic, air-borne soup.

Toxic Pollutants

The air-borne challenge is scientifically described as 'particulate matter,' (PM) which is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles that float in the air. PM exists in all sizes: large particles, such as dust, dirt, and smoke, are often visible - and irritating - to the eye. Smaller particles can't be seen but can definitely cause a negative impact on the body.

To measure the volume of PM in the air, scientists use a 'micrometer;' a human hair, for example, is somewhere between 50 to 70 micrometers. To standardize the measurement of pollutant PMs, the scientific community considers any inhalable PM smaller than 10 micrometers to be a health threat. When inhaled, PMs that measure 2.5 micrometers can settle deep in the lungs and sometimes cause catastrophic health consequences. While the eyes, noses, and throats of most people are irritated by PM2.5s, some people will suffer lasting and often fatal respiratory and coronary damage. The 'acceptable' level of PM2.5s is 25 micrograms per cubic meter on average over a 24-hour day. 

Causing Disease and Death

The growing prevalence of PMs.5s in the atmosphere is already wreaking havoc in many of the planets largest cities:

On November 5, 2018, in India, the PM2.5s measured over 400 micrograms, with some places measuring over 600 PM2.5s on average per day.  Those numbers will continue to fluctuate as seasonal winds and crop burning add to and mix the airborne-volume of PM2.5s and other toxins.  

Even people in more developed areas suffer significant physical damage caused by PM2.5s. In Europe, air pollution (which includes PM2.5s, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone) is responsible for nearly 400,000 premature deaths just in 2015 alone. While most EU countries are affected, Germany has suffered the most unnecessary deaths due to air pollution. The European Union Court of Auditors has identified air pollution as the biggest environmental risk to that continent and declares that those governments are not doing enough to abate the concern. The United Kingdom is now facing a multi-million pound fine for failing to enforce its air quality standards.  

While many of the world's inhabitants may not be intimately invested in the health of the oceans, every one of us requires a clean atmosphere in order to live and breathe. Ergo, air pollution is justifiably the most threatening aspect of all the global pollutants and s deservedly the focus of significant (and hopefully) transformative research and development.  

Nikita Golovanov

 

Pam Sornson

Posted on November 7, 2018 11:39

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Source: NYT

Asked to comment on pollution and climate change, readers criticized the failure to curb smog and but also said that China...

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