Air pollution is commonly defined as the presence of “toxic chemicals or compounds in the air at levels that pose a serious health risk.”(6) Air pollution is broken down into two categories — indoor or outdoor air pollution. Pollutants, ranging from microorganisms and pesticides to chemical compounds found in household products, directly contribute to harmful indoor pollution. Since a majority of people spend a large part of their day indoors, the decreased air quality caused various pollutants can result in serious health complications. Therefore, people repeatedly exposed to poor air quality tend to suffer from a variety of lung and heart-related illnesses. For instance, people in frequent contact with asbestos may develop mesothelioma due to the fact that when inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers “can [cause] scarring of the lung tissue.”(3) Additionally, other indoor pollutants such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can lead to asthma or aggravate existing asthma symptoms.(4)
The second category of air pollution — outdoor air pollution– is caused by combustion processes from motor vehicles (5), industrialization, and other factors that emit chemical compounds into the air. Though not considered nearly as harmful to human health as indoor pollution, ,outdoor pollution is still detrimental to the environment and bad for human health. Outdoor pollution can also cause a variety of lung-related disorders including asthma since it contains many of the same pollutants, CO2 and NO2, as indoor pollution. With this in mind, it is imperative we take action to mitigate the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution to maintain healthy air quality.
The best course of action for improving air quality, inside and out, is increasing the amount of greenery inside of urban settings. A recent study conducted in 2017 by the EPA, came to the same conclusion claiming that “Green infrastructure can play a significant role in mitigating urban air pollution.”(1) Essentially, leading to the idea that existing infrastructure in cities can be easily adapted to incorporate plant life to help improve air quality. For example, green walls are a perfect option as they can effectively “reduce pollution in streets [and] open roads.”(1) Additionally, the study concluded that increasing the amount small shrubs and tall trees would also improve air quality within cities — like Chicago.(2) This plan is not limited to outside city infrastructure, it can be incorporated into building and homes to mitigate indoor air pollution. The implementation of this plan would positively affect everyone by improving air quality. This plan relates to urban sustainability as it aims to increase the amount of plant life in urban environments which will in turn decrease the effect of air pollution.
(1.) “Air Pollution Abatement Performances of Green Infrastructure in Open Road and Built-up Street Canyon Environments – A Review.” Atmospheric Environment, Pergamon, 10 May 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231017303151?via%3Dihub.
(2.) “Cities Need to ‘Green up’ to Reduce Impact of Air Pollution.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170516104745.htm.
(3.) “Indoor Air Can Cause Health Problems.” Indoor Air Can Cause Health Problems – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center, www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=2163.
(4.) “Indoor Air Pollutants and Health.” American Lung Association, www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/indoor/indoor-air-pollutants/.
(5.) “Outdoor Air Pollution.” Outdoor Air Pollution, NSW Health, www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/outdoor-air-pollution.aspx.
(6.) “What Is Air Pollution?” What Is Air Pollution | Environmental Pollution Centers, www.environmentalpollutioncenters.org/air/.
(7.) Picture : https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/air-pollution. jpg