People inhale and exhale more than twenty thousand times a day. So, by default, they draw the assumption that the air they breathe is clean. But, there comes a time many of us wonder: is the air we breathe clean enough for us?
Well, the answer might be more complicated than one would think. As a matter of fact, more than ninety percent of the population worldwide reside in areas that regularly exceed the healthy air quality guidelines. Half of this ninety percent of people live in places that do not even meet the minimum requirement of the air quality target. Pakistan is known for its hazardous city air that exceeds the air quality guidelines by nine times. Due to this air pollution, the list of health issues and fatalities continue to grow every year. Many have been taking precautionary measures by wearing masks, investing in air purifiers for their families from pharmacies such as emeds allowing them to battle the polluted air accordingly. The question remains: How clean is the air we breathe?
What is the Air like in Pakistan?
It is worrying how our government fails to protect people from exposure to hazardous air in Punjab. As a result, it creates risks of diseases. It has been reported that the level of air quality is deteriorating at a rapid pace. It has been rated as extremely unhealthy by experts.
The leading killer of clean air is smog. This hazardous air proves exceptionally harmful to those who experience increased or substantial exposure to hazardous air. According to recent studies, it can result in drastic health issues such as stroke, asthma, lung damage, bronchial infections as well as heart problems and ultimately shortened life expectancy.
So, you know about the primary sources of smog but are you aware of what time of the year classifies as “smog season”? In Pakistan, dangerous pollutants take over our lives from October to January. During this time, the area affected the most by this is Lahore. In accordance with the Air Quality Index, Lahore is above 480, whereas the threshold for toxic air quality is around 300 – this is when people are given strict advice to stay indoors and to avoid all outdoor activities.
In addition to this, ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide and particulate matter are forms of air pollutions that exist and prey on the lives of innocents every day. However, a few of these are actually naturally occurring – due to forest fires, dust storms, and climate change. Although, most of them are human-made. Factors like burning fossil fuels, vehicle exhaust emissions and agricultural activities like crop burning and chemical fertilizers contribute significantly to the already high air pollution level.
Causes of Smog
The first thing you need to know is that we have a huge problem at our hands called smog. As a resident of Pakistan, there is an eighty percent chance that you are already familiar with the concept of smog. Recently, smog has become an additional season in Pakistan. But, what is it? We all know it is a form of air pollution. So, here is where it originates from and what it contains.
The word “smog” is clearly a combination of the words “smoke” and, of course, “fog.” Smog is a vast mixture of several pollutants, primarily the ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter.
Smog is caused by the following:
- Stations powered by coal-fire
- Smoke from factories
- Cars powered by gasoline and diesel
- Oil-based paints, solvents as well as cleaners
- Other pollutants carried by the wind
It is important to note that smog travels strongly with the wind, so both urban and rural areas usually are bound to experience smoggy days.
The Impact of Air Pollution
While we can all agree that everyone living in this country feels the pain of the terribly unclean air, one must consider its impact on the marginalised groups and low-income workers. Not only are people in these categories much more vulnerable to hazardous air, but they also have zero to no knowledge of it. The workforces such as labourers, construction workers, and farmhands are particularly helpless due to their lack of awareness, including the means to acquire the perfect equipment. Moreover, with the lack of understanding comes the fact that health care is not affordable at all. All of this negligence results in a higher death toll and rate of diseases.
The Effect on Health and Economy
Air pollution alone has a damaging outcome on the country’s economy. According to reports, more than 5.88 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is being spent on the air pollution problem every year. In simple words, $47.8 billion is estimated to be the economic burden of air pollution in Pakistan.
Air pollution has moved to the third-highest death risk in Pakistan and second for children between the ages of five to fourteen. Previously, air pollution was ranked fifth, so the rapid increase is quite worrying.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Now that you know the air you breathe is not as clean as you previously assumed it was, you may think there is nothing you can do about the air you breathe. Yet, there are some pretty easy ways to protect yourself against smog and air pollution, and they are:
1. Stay Updated
Do not be one of those people who stay unaware of important news regarding their surroundings. Make sure that you get regular updates of the smog forecasts and find a new way every day to modify your daily activities. Keep an eye on the Air Quality Health Index as well.
2. Stay Indoors
You should limit your exposure and only go out when it is an absolute necessity. There are higher chances of being harmed by pollution on days when ozone levels are alarmingly high.
3. Hydration is Key
During high smog levels, you will experience hot temperatures along with high humidity. This correspondence can cause dehydration, so drink lots of fluids and rest in the shade.
4. Exercise Indoors
During high smog levels, make sure that you avoid exercising outdoors. Instead, exercise indoors with the air conditioning on.
5. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Try to reduce your carbon footprint so you can play your part in improving the environment. For example, you could try to carpool with associates you trust, or maybe even ride a bike, walk, or consider using transit.
6. Take Care of People with Health Issues
Take note of who has which pre-existing health problem and try to help them out however you can, whether it is buying precautionary equipment for the elderly or just taking adults with lung problems to the doctor. You should pay attention to children, people with asthma, those with heart problems, and people who work outdoors.
Even though the entire ordeal could be anxiety-inducing, we can find some comfort in knowing that the higher-ups are trying their hardest to decrease the toxicity in the air levels; until then, all we can do is take precautionary measures and take care of the people around us.