5 CAUSES OF AIR POLLUTION

In an earlier post, we talked about the nasty effects of air pollution; but where does it all come from? The more educated our Airhead community can become, the more we can do together to take the fight to air pollution.

1) Household

As of 2018, WHO estimates that exposure to household air pollution causes 3.8million deaths per year. 

The main sources of household pollution are indoor tobacco smoking, burning of fuels for cooking, heating and lighting, as well as some cleaning chemical products and artificial fragrances. Now, we’re not saying you should lob all of your household appliances and nice smellies into the neighbour’s skip, but be wary, do your research, and find items that are kind to your health. Oh, and try not to smoke in your house. 

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash

2) Industry

Every day, 10,000 people die due to air pollution from fossil fuels, according to a study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research. Industrial air pollution is not a small thing. It's the umbrella term for all emissions created by factories as a by-product of their production.

This type of pollution is often the result of the production of energy by burning fossil fuels, or a manufacturing process. When manufacturers make things, they release hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, organic compounds, carbon monoxide and other chemicals that find their way into the air we breathe.

To give this a bit of financial colour, the European Environment Agency found that the economic cost of air pollution and greenhouse gases to Europe was up to €189bn in 2012.

3) Transport

Air pollution from transport is estimated to cause up to 400,000 premature deaths annually. Vehicles emit a range of pollutants, with the primary offenders being nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). A recent study by Emissions Analytics found that pollution from tyre wear, specifically PM, can be 1,000 times worse than the pollution coming out of exhausts. This highlights a key point that, whilst helpful in reducing some pollution, electric vehicles (EVs) in their current guise won’t solve the problem. After all, it’s not exactly the most natural thing in the world for a 1.5 tonne hunk of metal to be hurtling along at speed before quickly coming to a stop. Let’s hope we see some remarkable innovation in this field over the coming years.

This death toll from transport-related air pollution is really poor. Even if you make the extra effort to walk or cycle to work, doing your valuable bit to fight air pollution, you’re still vulnerable to its effects. This is one of the reasons why we created Airhead, to empower people to protect themselves outdoors, and ultimately encourage more active transport. Long term, as more people switch to cleaner transport methods, this is only going to be a good thing for outdoor air quality.

Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

4) Agriculture

Ammonia and Nitrous Oxide are the main contributors to air pollution to air pollution related to agriculture. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas, whilst the primary impact of ammonia is its contribution to the formation of particulate matter within the air. If you want to know more about particulate matter, have a look at our first blog: Air Pollution: What's It All About? 

Photo by Joao Marcelo Marques on Unsplash

5) Waste 

Finally, waste. We all produce waste, it’s an inevitable consequence of the world we live in. One of the quickest – and cheapest – ways to get rid of waste is by burning it, which, as you may have guessed, creates a bunch of pollutants. According to The Guardian, in 2016-17 about 10 million tonnes of waste were incinerated, with about 4 million tonnes sent to landfill and 11 million tonnes recycled or composted. Pollutants from incineration include dioxins, heavy metals and particulate matter.

The takeaway here: let’s recycle as much as we possibly can. Educate yourself if you need to, check packaging labels, follow local guidance. This website is helpful! 

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

Want to find out more? 

If this has given you an environmental epiphany and you want to learn some quick tips to reduce your exposure, check outour Pollution Protection Guide here.

We’re now getting close to launching our revolutionary pollution mask on Kickstarter. We can’t wait to share this with you. If you want a sneak peek at our designs, and to be the first to hear when we go live, sign up to our Airhead community by hitting the big button below.

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By Natasha Das