Clean air is essential to good health. Unfortunately, toxic air pollutants and contaminants are adding a whole list of “unwanted” ingredients in the air that we breathe thus giving rise to a variety of serious health risks.
How do these pollutants affect the body?
There are thousands of chemicals and chemical compounds that can contaminate the air we breathe. When we breathe, contaminants enter the lungs where they are allowed to pass into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, they are disbursed throughout the entire body
where it negatively affects a person’s health. Experts say that certain pollutants such as particulate matter can be inhaled and end up
setting deep inside the lungs. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as haze, soot or smoke. Others are so small they can only be seen by an electron microscope.
The effects of air pollution on human health can vary greatly and can give birth to a multitude of health problems. The effects can range from irritated eyes and nose, headaches, fatigue, wheezing, long-term acute changes in lung function, respiratory illnesses, and impairment of the immune system or a shortened life expectancy.
What are the major air pollutants monitored in the country?
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
It is an odorless and colorless gas produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, oil and wood. It can also build up in high concentrations in enclosed areas such as garages and along roadsides during heavy traffic.
It is a highly toxic metal that produces a range of adverse health effects particularly in young children. Since ____, Lead has already been phased out of gasoline, which has considerably reduced the contamination of air with lead. Some of the sources forlead include paint (for houses and cars), smelters, cosmetic products and a few hair dye products.
It is a gas that is a variety of oxygen. Ozone in the upper atmosphere is known as the ozone layer which shields the Earth from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays. However, at ground level it is considered a pollutant with highly toxic effects. Some of the major sources of ground-level ozone are vehicles and industries. Some of the ill effects of this pollutant include irritations in the respiratory tract, chest pain, persistent cough and an
increased susceptibility to lung infection.
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)
Nitrogen oxides are produced from burning fuels, gasoline and coal. It is a major contributor to smog and acid rain. In high doses, smog can harm humans especially asthmatics and can cause general illness of the respiratory system. Acid rain, on the other hand, can harm vegetation and change the chemistry of the water thus affecting marine life.
It is any type of solid particles in the air in the form of smoke, dust and vapors. Particulate Matter is produced by many sources, including burning of diesel fuels by vehicles, fossil fuels, mixing and application of fertilizers and pesticides, road construction, industrial processes and operation of woodstoves. Some microscopic particles in the air can be breathed into the lungs causing increased respiratory disease and lung damage.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
It is an odorless gas at low concentrations, but can have a very strong smell at high concentrations. SO2 is a gas produced by burning coal, most notably in power plants. Some industrial processes, such as production of paper and smelting of metals, produce sulfur dioxide. It can harm vegetation and metals and can cause lung problems, including breathing problems and permanent damage to lungs.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
These are organic chemicals that found in gasoline, industrial chemicals such as benzene, solvents such as toluene and xylene, and perchloroethylene (principal dry cleaning solvent). Vehicle emissions are an important source of VOCs. These chemicals are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, and from solvents, such as paints, glues, and other products used at home or work.
What can we do for cleaner air and better health?
About half of the air pollution comes from mobile sources such as cars, trucks, jeepneys and buses.
Here are some things that you can do to clean the air:
Use clean fuels for cleaner air and healthier environment.
Clean fuels such as biofuels, ethanol and compressed natural gas emit fewer pollutants like hydrocarbons and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
Maintain your vehicle’s engine to clean the air by:
o Checking cleanliness of your car’s air cleaner
o Changing oil periodically
o Checking steering wheel free play
o Following recommended tire pressure
o Keeping wheels properly aligned
o Making sure that battery, alternator, voltage regulator and fan are in good working condition
o Making sure that brakes do not drag or bind
o Checking fuel line connections
o Not overloading your vehicle
Have airconditioning units of your vehicles tested to check if refrigerant is ozone-friendly.
A healthy lifestyle means saying no to smoking.
o Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, and is linked to at least 10 different cancers.
o Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
Yes to good health! Go organic.
Prepare your food the environment-friendly way.
Conserve energy and help clean the air.
o Increased consumption of electricity means more burning of fossil fuels by power plants that contributes to global warming
o Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
o Use energy efficient lighting, equipment and appliances
Avoid burning of garbage. Practice waste segregation, reuse and recycling.
o Choose recycled products.
o Choose products with recyclable packaging.
o Reuse paper bags.
o Recycle paper, plastics and materials
o Print and photocopy on both sides of the paper.
Our everyday activities affect the quality of our air. We should do our share to clean the air!
When traveling alone and not in a hurry, take the mass railway transit or any form of mass transport instead of your car or a taxi.
Walk or ride a bike when traveling short distances.
Plant trees and ornamental plants in your surroundings. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.
Share rides with your neighbors, officemates, and friends.
Plan your trips.
Have your vehicle’s emission tested prior to registration.