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Air pollution and our Health

   Air pollution and human health
   Air pollutants
   Sources of air pollution
   Indoor air pollution
   Health effects caused by air pollution
   Effects of air pollution on children
   Ozone a new air pollution health hazard
   The worst air pollution disasters
   Air pollution in Indian cities
   Asian brown cloud
   Acid rain
   Air Quality Index (AQI)
   Efforts to reduce air pollution
   Greenhouse effect
   Emissions trading
   Air Pollution Act in India

Air pollution and human health


 70% of air pollution in India comes from vehicles

 The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution, with 1.5 million of these deaths attributable to indoor air pollution. Air pollution is the major contributor of Environment Pollution in India that can cause more harm to humans and the environment. Air Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. In addition, they may be natural or man-made.

 In India, the major polluters are the giant coal-based power plants and industries, like the automobile. Emissions from the use of fossil fuel are driven by the economically powerful, in the name of  economic growth. In pre- liberalization days, it was accepted that if commerce undermines ecosystems which support life, then commercial activity must stop, because life must carry on. Article 21 of the Constitution makes it the duty of the state to protect life. Since ecological processes support life, the state has a duty to protect ecology and air pollution.

  Air pollution is by far the most harmful form of Environment Pollution. Air pollution is cause by the injurious smoke emitted by cars, buses, trucks, trains, and factories, namely sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Even smoke from burning leaves and cigarettes are harmful to the environment causing a lot of damage to man and the atmosphere. Evidence of increasing air pollution is seen in lung Cancer , Asthma, allergies, and various breathing problems along with severe and irreparable damage to flora and fauna. Even the most natural phenomenon of migratory birds has been hampered, with severe air pollution preventing them from reaching their seasonal metropolitan destinations of centuries.

  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), released from refrigerators, air-conditioners, deodorants and insect repellents cause severe damage to the Earth's environment. This gas has slowly damaged the atmosphere and depleted the ozone layer leading to global warming.

  Air pollutants

  Major pollutants in air are 
 Sulfur oxides: a chemical compound with the formula SO2 . It is produced by  various industrial processes.


 Nitrogen oxides: Nitrogen dioxide  NO2  is one of the several nitrogen oxides. This reddish-brown toxic gas has a characteristic sharp, biting odor one one of the most prominent air pollutants.

 Carbon monoxide:  Carbon monoxide CO is a colourless, odorless, non-irritating but very poisonous gas.  It is a product by incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, coal or wood. Vehicular exhaust is a major source of carbon monoxide.

 Carbon dioxide:  Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) is a colourless, odorless, non-toxic greenhouse gas emitted from  combustion, cement production, and respiration 

   Volatile organic compounds: Volatile organic compounds such as methane (CH4 ) are  important outdoor air pollutants.

 Particulate matter:  Particulates (PM) are fine tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas.

 Persistent free radicals,:  Persistent free radicals connected to airborne fine particles could cause cardiopulmonary disease. 
 Toxic metals:   Toxic metals such as lead , cadmium and copper

 Chlorofluorocarbons:  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) emitted from products currently banned from use.

 Ammonia:  Ammonia (NH3 ) - emitted from agricultural processes is both caustic and hazardous.

 Odors:  Odors are produced from garbage, sewage, and industrial processes

 Radioactive pollutants:  Radioactive pollutants are produced by nuclear explosions, explosives and natural processes such as the radioactive decay of radon.

   Ground level ozone: Ozone (O3 ) is a key constituent of the troposphere. At  high concentrations by human activities ( the combustion of fossil fuel), it is a pollutant, and a constituent of smog.

   Sources of air pollution

   * Human activity  mostly related to burning different kinds of fuel 
 * Smoke of power plants, factories  and waste incinerators, furnaces and other types of fuel-burning heating devices
 * Motor vehicles, cars, tempos, trucks, marine vessels, aircraft etc
 * Chemicals, dust and  burn practices in agriculture and forestry management.
 * Fumes from paint, varnish, aerosol sprays and other solvents.
 * Waste deposition in landfills  generate methane, also emitted by the digestion of food by animals and cattle's. 
 * Nuclear Radiation, toxic gases , germ warfare and rocketry.
 * Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as the basement and it is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.
 * Dust from natural sources, usually large areas of land. 
 * Smoke and carbon monoxide from wildfires.
 * Volcanic activity, which produce sulfur, chlorine, and ash particulates. 
 * Extensive use of asbestos in industrial and domestic environments.

 Motor vehicles:  More than 70% of air pollution in India comes from vehicles. Idling a vehicle for more than 30 secondsuses more fuel than that required for restarting the engine. It was also found that air pollution around schools is much higher due to vehicles idling outside. This pollution has led to an increase in the number of cases of asthma in children. The biggest cause of air pollution in India is the number of automobiles on our roads.

 Power generation from coal:  A major source of air pollution in India is  due to power generation from coal.

 Illigal mining in IndiaLarge scale illegal mining in India  has destroyed top soil in many areas of Karnataka, Orissa, Jharkhand etc.  Environment Pollution  in Sandur, Hospet and Bellary of Karnataka has reached an extreme. Air and water pollution is visible to the naked eye. Nearly 20,898 hectares of land have been taken over by iron ore mines in Bellary. People suffer diseases of the skin, kidneys, heart and blood pressure problems due to air pollution. With its tree cover nearly entirely stripped, and the air almost red with iron ore dust in these mining areas.
  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), released from refrigerators, air-conditioners, deodorants and insect repellents cause severe damage to the Earth?s environment. This gas has slowly damaged the atmosphere and depleted the ozone layer leading to global warming.


  Indoor air pollution

 In absence of proper  ventilation in houses and  indoors concentrates air pollution. Radon  gas, a carcinogen, is exuded from the Earth in certain locations and trapped inside houses. Building materials including carpeting and plywood emit formaldehyde gas. Paint and solvents give off volatile organic compounds as they dry. Lead paint can degenerate into dust and be inhaled.   Controlled wood fires in stoves and fireplaces can add significant amounts of smoke particulates into the air, inside and out. Indoor pollution fatalities may be caused by using pesticides and other chemical sprays indoors without proper ventilation.

  Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fatalities are often caused by faulty vents and chimneys, or by the burning of charcoal  indoors. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning can result even from poorly adjusted pilot lights. Clothing emits tetrachloroethylene , or other dry cleaning fluids, for days after dry cleaning .

 Biological sources of air pollution are also found indoors, as gases and airborne particulates. Pets produce dander, people produce dust from minute skin flakes and decomposed hair, dust mites in bedding, carpeting and furniture produce enzymes and micrometre-sized fecal droppings, inhabitants emit methane. Also air conditioning systems can incubate Legionnaires' disease and mold.

Health effects caused by air pollution

  A study by the University of Birmingham has shown a strong correlation between pneumonia  related deaths and air pollution from motor vehicles. Worldwide more deaths per year are linked to air pollution than to automobile accidents.
  The health effects caused by air pollution may include Asthma , difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing and aggravation of existing respiratory and  cardiac conditions (Heart Disease). These effects can result in increased medication use, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospital admissions and premature death. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body's respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, the individual's health status. Smaller particles of pollutants can harm respiratory and cardiovascular systems and are linked to asthma and mortality. PM10 results from coal burning, diesel combustion, construction, mining and quarrying.

 Living in areas of high air pollution is an environmental risk to seniors' brain health and function, U.S. researchers found. "The study shows the unexpectedly adverse effects of air pollutants on brain function in the elderly," Caleb Finch, the ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Professor in the Neurobiology of Aging at the University of Southern California at Davis, said in a statement on November 19, 2012..

Effects of air pollution on children

 Children living in cities with high exposure to air pollutants have the possibility to develop asthma, pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections as well as a low initial birth rate.  A 2010 study by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Research Institute showed that children are especially vulnerable to urban air pollution. The report revealed that respiratory symptoms prevailed in 32 per cent of children examined in Delhi, in contrast to only 18.2 per cent of the rural children. Likewise, lung function is reduced in 43.5 per cent of schoolchildren in the Capital. Attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was also noticed in children chronically exposed to high levels of vehicular pollution, the report said.

  Kids exposed to higher levels of traffic-related air pollution in childhood scored higher on measures of hyperactivity at age 7, according to a new study published n May 2013  in "Environmental Health Perspectives". The researchers say it’s believed to be the most comprehensive study to date on the effect of traffic-related air pollution on children’s behavior.

  Ozone a new air pollution health hazard

  India's urban areas  are experiencing a new air pollution health hazard - ozone - whose just two-hour exposure can trigger a lethal asthma attack, says a study conducted by Delhi-based Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute. In the last few years as said on   International Ozone Day, ozone level has surged with increase in automobile and industrial emissions. Ozone is a complex chemical reaction of nitrogen oxide gases and volatile organic compounds, by-products of burning gasoline and coal, with oxygen when temperature hovers around 25 to 35 degrees Celsius.

  "High ozone levels in Indian cities have been observed during afternoon and early evening hours," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of Centre for Science and Environment said at a seminar on September 4,2011. 

  The worst air pollution disasters

 The worst air pollution disaster in India was the Bhopal gas tragedy. In 1984 leaked industrial vapours from the Union Carbide factory, belonging to Union Carbide, Inc., U.S.A., killed more than 25,000 people outright and injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000. 

  The United Kingdom suffered its worst air pollution event when the December 4 Great Smog of 1952 formed over London. In six days more than 4,000 died, and 8,000 more died within the following months. An accidental leak of anthrax spores from a biological warfare laboratory in the former USSR   in 1979 near Sverdlovsk is believed to have been the cause of hundreds of civilian deaths. The worst single incident of air pollution to occur in the United States of America occurred in Donora , Pennsylvania in late October, 1948, when 20 people died and 7,000 were injured.

   Air pollution in Indian cities

 Delhi: Ten years after the city's public transport switched to CNG, air pollution has again become a major threat to public health in Delhi, say environmentalists. With 69 lakh vehicles plying on city roads, a growth of about 60 lakh in 20 years, experts say oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) are now at critically high levels. NOx and PM are known to cause cancer and asthma. Medical experts say signs of deteriorating health are already manifest. The Delhi cancer registry maintained by AIIMS   shows a 2-3 % rise in lung cancer cases every year. 

  Mumbai:  Air pollution levels are nearly five times higher than acceptable levels across the Mumbai city and a quarter of the water samples collected are unfit for consumption, says the latest status report from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The BMC’s annual Environ-ment Status Report (ESR) 2010-11, which HT has accessed, blamed the deterioration of air quality on the rise of the emission load to 597.12 tonnes a day (tpd) from 588.57 tpd last year. And, auto exhaust emissions account for 65% of this load, which is calculated on the basis of fuel consumption and monitoring of air quality at six locations in the city. The levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM), the primary cause of respiratory illnesses, was in the range of 125 to 642 micrograms per cubic metre of air, against the Central Pollution Control Board’s standard of 140.

 Air pollution causes lung cancer and heart failure
A new study found a cancer risk at every level of particulate matter, and confirmed that the higher the level, the greater the risk.Long-term exposure to particulate air pollution boosts the risk of lung cancer, even at concentrations below the legal maximum, said a European study published on July 10, 2013..A separate report said short- term surge in these particles or other gas pollutants in the air also increases the risk of heart failure

  Air Pollution - kilns of clay Bricks
  India’s brick kilns more than 100,000 are noxious sources of pollution, particularly soot. The exhaust from the kilns mixes with diesel emissions and other fumes to form a vast brown smog, known as an atmospheric brown cloud, which is up to 3km thick and thousands of kilometres long. Two of its main ingredients, the small carbon particles which the soot is composed of, and ozone, a triatomic form of oxygen, are important contributors to the greenhouse effect, and thus to climate change. Among other negative effects, the cloud is therefore thought to be accelerating the retreat of Himalayan glaciers, which are found at a similar altitiude.

  One mosquito coil equals 100 cigarettes
  Smoke emitted from one mosquito repellant coil is equivalent to those of 100 cigarettes, thus causing harm to a large number of people in India, an expert said on September 2, 2011.
"Not many people know about it, but the damage done to your lungs by one mosquito coil is equivalent to the damage done by 100 cigarettes. This was according to a recent study conducted in Malyasia," said Chest Research Foundation director Sandeep Salvi. in the conference 'Air Pollution and Our Health', organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) along with the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Indian Medical Association.

  Solar industry causes high lead emissions
   A new study led by Chris Cherry found out that solar power using lead batteries has the tendency to release more than 2.4 million tons of lead emissions in China and India. Large number of solar power systems are reliant to lead batteries for energy storage due to inadequate power grid in these countries.
  The researchers also found out that there are high amounts of lead leak into the environment from mining, smelting, battery manufacturing, and recycling in China and India.

   Asian brown cloud

       Asian brown cloud

  Asian brown cloud over Himalaya

 The *Asian brown cloud* is a layer of air pollution that covers parts of South Asia, namely the northern Indian Ocean , India  and Pakistan. The Asian brown cloud is created by a range of airborne particles and pollutants from combustion (e.g. woodfires, cars, and factories), biomass burning and industrial processes with incomplete burning. The cloud is associated with the winter monsoon (November/December to April) during which there is no rain to wash pollutants from the air. This pollution layer was observed during the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) intensive field observation in 1999 and described in the UNEP impact assessment study published 2002. 

  Unchecked use of diesel and burning of biomass has led to spewing out billions of dust particles, forming what is known as “atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs), in the air, affecting the atmospheric and oceanic circulation over the Arabian Sea.

  Scientists in India claimed that the Asian Brown cloud is not something specific to Asia. Subsequently, when the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) organized a follow-up international project, the subject of study was renamed "the Atmospheric Brown Cloud"  with focus on Asia. The cloud was also reported by NASA in 2004 and 2007.  The 2002 study indicated nearly two million people die each year in India alone from conditions related to the brown cloud. 
  In the multi-institutional study, published recently in December 2011 in the journal “Nature”, scientists of the world famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), UC San Diego, who formed part of the study, cautioned against man-made pollution making the Arabian Sea more cyclone intense. The scientists had also noted a trend of increasingly strong cyclones in the months immediately preceding monsoon season.

  A 1998 cyclone in Gujarat claimed lives of 2,900 people. Category-5 cyclone Gonu with more than 240 KMPH wind speed, made an extremely rare landfall in Iran in 2007, causing nearly $4 billion in damage. Category-4 cyclone Phet in 2010 struck the coastlines of Pakistan and Oman causing $2 billion in damage.

   Acid rain

 Acid rain  is the deposition of wet (rain, snow, sleet, fog, cloud water, and dew) and dry gases ) acidic components such as Carbon dioxide,  Nitric Oxide etc.. Carbon dioxide and rain water in the air react together to form carbonic acid. The corrosive effect of carbonic acid on limestone and marble was noted in the 17th century by John Evelyn.

  In Acid rain the main gases which leads to acidification of sulfur dioxide to sulphuric acid and emissions of nitrogen oxides which are oxidized to form nitric acid. The natural phenomena that contribute acid-producing gases to the atmosphere are emissions from volcanoes. The principal cause of acid rain is sulfur and nitrogen compounds from human sources, such as electricity generation, factories, and motor vehicles Coal power plants are one of the most polluting. The gases can be carried hundreds of kilometers in the atmosphere before they are converted to acids and deposited.

  Acid rain has been shown to have adverse impacts on forests, freshwaters and soils, killing insect and aquatic life-forms as well as causing damage to buildings and having impacts on human health. Soil biology and chemistry can be seriously damaged by acid rain. Some microbes are unable to tolerate changes to low pHs and are killed. The enzymes of these microbes are denatured by the acid.  High altitude forests are especially vulnerable as they are often surrounded by clouds and fog which are more acidic than rain. Other plants can also be damaged by acid rain, but the effect on food crops is minimized by the application of lime and fertilizers to replace lost nutrients. 
  Acid rain can also damage buildings and historic monuments, especially those made of rocks such as limestone and marble containing large amounts of calcium carbonate. Acids in the rain react with the calcium compounds in the stones to create gypsum, which then flakes off.

  Air Quality Index (AQI)

  The Air Quality Index (AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health .Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health.
   The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.
   EPA has assigned a specific color to each AQI category to make it easier for people to understand quickly whether air pollution is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities. For example, the color orange means that conditions are "unhealthy for sensitive groups," while red means that conditions may be "unhealthy for everyone," and so on.

 The worst sufferers of the pollution are the traffic police personnel. 

  In Hyderabad, the fifth largest metropolitan city in the country, 32 per cent of the traffic police personnel are suffering from lung-related disorders like pneumonia and bronchitis because of severe air pollution, while 25 per cent of them are facing hearing impairment due to high-level of noise pollution and another seven per cent of the traffic cops are complaining about eye-related problems due to dust particles.

  Acid Rain
  Acid rain damages Tajmahal 

  Trees killed by acid rain

  Air pollution facts
 * Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, we can  reduce the disease from respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer.
* The lower the levels of air pollution  the better respiratory (both long- and short-term), and cardiovascular health.
* Indoor air pollution is estimated to cause approximately 2 million premature deaths mostly in developing countries. Almost half of these deaths are due to pneumonia in children under 5 years of age.
* Urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year.  
* Exposure to air pollutants is largely beyond the control of individuals and requires action by state governments.

  Efforts to reduce air pollution

 Vehicle emissions control:  Vehicle emissions control reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides from motor vehicles. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, India’s auto production has doubled from 7 million units in fiscal year 2004 to over 14 million units in year 2010 in Indiat.  

 Protect ecology: To check air pollution save our forest and stop the ecological destruction. The latest case  of ecological destruction is the Coastal Orissa in the Jagatsingpur district, where Posco’s giant steel plant is planned with a massive FDI ($12 billion), The women and children of Govindpur, Dhinkia and Nuagaon lay down under a scorching sun to stop the land grab in June. They know what the Posco project will bring: ecological destruction, pollution, displaced people and the destruction of our democracy.  

  Greenhouse effect

  The greenhouse effect is a phenomenon where by Green house gases create a condition in the upper atmosphere causing a trapping of heat and leading to increased surface and lower troposphere temperatures. Carbon dioxide emissions from combustion of fossil fuels. are a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

  Other greenhouse gases include methane,  hydrofluorocarbons,  perfluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and ozone.  A number of studies have also investigated the potential for long-term rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to cause increases in the acidity of ocean waters and the possible effects of this on marine ecosystems. Nitrogen oxide released from nitrogen fertilisers accumulates in the atmosphere as a green house gas that is 300 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.
   The countries which are the largest contributor, in percentage term regarding greenhouse gas emissions are China 19.5 per cent, USA 19.2 per cent, India 5.3 per cent, Russia 5.1 per cent, Japan 3.6 per cent and Germany 2.6 per cent, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said on August 22, 2011.

  Emissions trading

  In Emissions trading regulatory scheme, every current polluting facility is given or may purchase on an open market an emissions allowance for each unit of a designated pollutant it emits. Operators can then install pollution control equipment, and sell portions of their emissions allowances they no longer need for their own operations, thereby recovering some of the capital cost of their investment in such equipment. The intention is to give operators economic incentives to install pollution controls.

  Air Pollution Act in India

  The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was enacted in 1981 and amended in 1987 to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in India.
1.No.14 of 1981, [29/3/1981]- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, amended 1987
1. G.S.R.6(E), [21/12/1983] - The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) (Union Territories) Rules, 1983
2. G.S.R.712(E), [18/11/1982] - The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1982 <>
1. Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Notification
2. G.S.R.935(E), [14/10/1998] - Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ammonia (NH3) <>
3. G.S.R.389(E), [23/9/1994] - CPCB reestablished labs in Delhi, Calcutta, Vadodara and Kanpur
4. S.O.1032(E), [12/12/1989] - Constitution of the Appellate Authority for the Union Territories <>
5. G.S.R.429(E), [10/2/1989] - Declaring the UT of Dadra and Nagar Haveli as air pollution control area
6. G.S.R.382(E), [28/3/1988] - The Date on which the Air Amendment Act of 1987 came into force
7. G.S.R.71(E), [1/2/1988] - Declaring the UT of Chandigarh as air pollution control area
8. G.S.R.54(E), [25/1/1988] - Declaring the UT of Pondicherry as air pollution control area
9. G.S.R.106(E), [20/2/1987] - Declaring the UT of Delhi as air pollution control area
10. G.S.R.351(E), [15/5/1981] - The Date on which the Air Act of 1981 came into force <>

 Source: Ministry of Environment and Forests

  Air Pollution - vedio

 India lowest air quality in world

  A recent U.S. study using satellite data gave India the lowest air quality rating in the world, citing concentrations of particulates five times higher than those deemed safe for human health.
  For poor and rural Indians, a significant danger comes from cooking with wood and other biomass. But the fastest-growing source of dangerous
pollution is actually related to India's increasing wealth..

  Europe's 10,000 largest factories and energy facilities
  Air pollution caused more than 100 billion euros ($134.95 billion) in health and environmental damage, highlighting the need for more renewables sources of energy, a report published on December 1, 2011 by the European Environment Agency found. 
  Europe's 10,000 largest factories and energy facilities resulted in 102-169 billion euros in health issues, such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and environmental costs because of air pollution in 2009, the most recent available data. Per citizen, the cost was between 200-300 euros.


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