Air pollution is associated with many sectors, which include power, transport, industry, residential, construction, and agriculture.
Sources of Air Pollution
Burning of fossil fuels and emissions
The majority of air pollution comes from use of energy like the burning of fossil fuels which releases toxic gases and chemicals into the air.1 The two most common types of air pollution are smog and soot, caused by burning of fossil fuels like coal or natural gases. The small airborne particles present in soot or smog are extremely dangerous, as they enter lungs and blood and can lead to bronchitis and heart diseases which can be fatal.
Other sources of harmful air pollutants are in the emissions from industry, vehicles, road dust, construction, garbage burning, domestic households and diesel generator sets.1
Use of Air Conditioners
Increased use of air conditioners leads to a direct increase in the demand for electricity. This demand for electricity consequently increases the dependence on fossil fuels to meet the collective energy needs. The electricity sector, thus, is the largest source of polluting greenhouse gas emissions. Increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for climate change and air pollution. Therefore, increased usage of air conditioners causes air pollution and is a threat to public health.2
However, a case cannot be filed against any single individual for such an act, as no one person is solely responsible for the increased demand of energy or air pollution. It is a result of increased use of air conditioners as a community which leads to these harmful effects.
Emissions from vehicles are the source of 60-70% of overall air pollution. The Government is trying to control such emissions through measures like stricter mass emission standards and protocols, phasing out of old vehicles,3 increased awareness about vehicle maintenance and lane discipline, revised fuel efficiency norms like use of alternative fuel programmes and blending of biofuels, promotion of electric or hybrid vehicles and increased use of public transport like metros, e-rickshaws.4
Effects of Air Pollution
Air pollution is both the cause as well as an effect of climate change. The emissions of carbon dioxide and methane raise the earth’s temperature. Consequently, increased heat leads to smog (smoke and fog) and increased UV radiation.5
Air pollution is extremely concerning due to its life-threatening health impacts. However, the impact of air pollution is not limited to health but extends to agriculture and the general well-being of human, plant and animal life. Other effects can be irritation of the eyes and throat, damage to the lungs and can trigger allergies and asthma attacks.1 Long term exposure to polluted air may also cause skin problems, harm to liver and reproductive organs. Presence of hazardous chemicals, like lead and mercury, in the air can damage children’s brain function.5 Patients with lung or heart ailments are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.0
- National Clean Air Programme, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, accessed at http://moef.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NCAP_Report.pdf.
- National Research Development Corporation, accessed at: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/vijay-limaye/ac-cools-us-warmer-world-dirties-air-harms-health.
- Report of Working Group on Environment and Environmental Regulatory Mechanisms, NITI AAYOG, accessed at: https://niti.gov.in/planningcommission.gov.in/docs/aboutus/committee/wrkgrp11/wg_envtal.pdf.
- Reference Note, Vehicular Pollution in India, Lok Sabha, accessed at: https://niti.gov.in/planningcommission.gov.in/docs/aboutus/committee/wrkgrp11/wg_envtal.pdf.
- Air Pollution, National Research Development Corporation, accessed at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know#sec1.