Thursday, 28 May 2015

Unit Five, Gases and Atmospheric Chemistry: Air Pollution and Human Health

Gases are all around us. Although scientists are interested in gases in part due to their unique behaviour in terms of solubility, gases are important because they allow living things to breathe. Air quality is a very important part of human life: unfortunately, the modernization of industry and day-to-day life has a very negative effect on the atmosphere and the gases around us.

Ozone is a colourless gas made of three atoms of oxygen.  Most people know about the ozone that is found at Earth’s outer atmosphere that keeps energy and heat in the atmosphere and protects us from UV rays. But there is another kind of ozone that sits at ground level. This kind of ozone is referred to as smog; it is created by man-made pollution such as car exhausts, chemical and electrical plants, and other industrial processes, and can be damaging to human health (EPA 1).  Depending on the concentration of ozone in the air, ozone can cause respiratory problems like irritation, worsened asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, reduced lung function, and damaged lung lining.  Active people (especially children) are more sensitive to ozone, because when you exercise you breathe faster and more deeply, and therefore intake more ozone (Environmental Protection Agency 2). 

The problem with ozone is just one part of the greater problem of pollution and global warming. Smog and air quality are only getting worse as we neglect to care for the environment, and increase the mass production of consumer goods. It has gotten to the point where in some places children are advised not to do physical activity outside (Environmental Protection Agency 6)! Human beings have the right to breathe clean air and enjoy nature without having to worry about their health.

What do you think? What are the best ways we can cut down on our air pollution, on a small scale? What little steps should we all take as individuals to reduce air pollution and keep our respiratory systems clean and healthy? 


Unknown said...

I think one major thing that everyone can easily do to reduce air pollution is take the bus. We often overlook how much damage cars and other vehicles do to the quality of our air and ultimately, we are damaging our own health. As I mentioned in one of my posts, The University of California recently released a study saying that by the year 2050, taking public transit can reduce air pollution by up to 40%. One city bus can take 40 vehicles off the road and keep 168 tonnes of pollutants out of the atmosphere each year. Taking the bus can be a pain (especially cause OC Transpo is kinda nasty), but it certainly pays off in the end.

Unknown said...

Hi, Maia!

It does seem like the issue regarding smog and air pollution has been a noticable problem for more than a decade, but nonetheless, it only seems to be worsening due to the expansion of industrialization, just as you said. Obviously, this is a problem to society, as at this rate, air pollution may become so extreme to the point where cities like ours could be clouded with heavy smog (like Beijing in 2013) within a few decades, which can severely affect human health. This impact on health could be exacerbated by the lack of exercise and Vitamin D due to the pollution outdoors keeping us indoors.
And so, in answering your question, the best things that I believe we can do as individuals to reduce air pollution are to take public transit instead of getting a car ride whenever possible, converve energy (e.g. turn off the lights when you leave the room), properly recycle (avoid product emissions), and instead of using gas-powered machines such as lawn mowers as an example, we can use push mowers instead.

Unknown said...

Hey maia, cool article. Air pollution is an issue that has been brought up many times over the past. Whether as a large or small issue, it has regardless been around for as long as the industry has evolved. We all most likely contribute to it in some small ways, whether its driving our car, or using our gas powered lawn mowers, or even all the emissions that the industrial factories put out into the atmosphere. I believe the way we can reduce carbon emissions from our end on a small scale is doing all the little things, like taking your bike or walking if where you need to go isnt that far, try to use your car as less as possible. Get an electric lawnmower if you are using a gas powered one. refrain from using co2 powered products like spray paint. If we all pitch in just a little, we can all make this world a better place to live in.