The problem of pollution is one that every man must apply himself to. The ignorance about pollution is receding and might inspire panic in some eco-doomers and activists.
But measures to properly tackle the problem of pollution are yet to be taken in many countries.
The implications of air pollution have never been clearer, with smog covered cities and diseases like asthma continuously increasing. And to make things even more dramatic, a study showed that pollution kills as many people in the U.S. annually as car crashes.
How is pollution measured?
There are many ways of measuring and indexing pollution. Most commonly, these values are based on the measurement of the suspended particulate matter or SPM. This is measured in micrograms per cubic meter as PM 2.5 and PM 10.
PM 2.5 is the concentration of microscopic particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter.
The report uses short-term particulate matter, year-long particulate matter, and ozone pollution as the ranking criterion.
Short-term particulate matter is the particulate matter present over 24 hours.
Ozone pollution refers to the increased concentration of the gas at ground level. While the ozone layer is important for blocking UV rays from the sun, ground-level ozone can be harmful.
Air quality in the US
The U.S. government first passed the legislation for air pollution called the Air Pollution Control Act in 1955 and then the clean air act later in 1963. The Clean Air Act of 1963 was the first legislation on the control of air pollution.
It remains one of the most comprehensive laws regarding the control of air quality to date.
Thanks to the act and the efforts of its stakeholders, the U.S. maintains the spot of the nation with the 10th cleanest air. Despite this, several cities have become potential hazards to the environment, particularly the atmosphere.
The most polluted cities are often major cities that attract a lot of people and continue to do so by offering better prospects of employment and lifestyle. Thus, the problem persists and worsens over time.
Without the interest of the government and appropriate measures, some cities might even become virtually unlivable.
It is observed that the top 25 cities at the biggest environmental risk are concentrated within eight states. These have been summarized in a 2019 report by the American Lung Association report titled ‘State of the Air’.
The 8 most polluting states
Nine out of the 25 cities on the list for short-term particulate are in California including Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles. Similarly, there are six in the top eight for the long term and eight on ten on Ozone pollution. Los Angeles tops the list of ozone pollution.
Bend, Eugene, and Portland are all on the list for most small-term SPM. Crook, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, and Lane Counties are also on the list.
Yakima, Spokane, Vancouver, and the Seattle-Tacoma area are the most polluted in Washington with 7 counties also making it to the list.
Fairbanks is on top of the list of the most polluted cities in the US for both short term and long term particulate matter. Anchorage is also there on the list.
Houston, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and the region around El Paso are all on the list, along with Houston and McAllen-Edinburg.
Pennsylvania has more than a dozen affected cities. Most prominently, Philadelphia for year-round PM, Pittsburg for short and long term, and Lancaster and the Johnstown-Somerset areas for year-round.
The area around Chicago and Naperville is particularly high in Ozone and year-round PM pollution.
Indianapolis, Carmel, and Muncie are among the cities with the worst year-round particulate matter.
The risk and effects of pollution
The paper further goes to state seven ‘threats’ to air pollution, placing the government’s actions under scrutiny.
While the effects of pollution on the environment have often been a topic of public discussion, pollution also has a degrading effect on our health and the health of our children. These are the more direct implications of environmental pollution.
Roughly one in six people in the U.S. live in regions with too many days with unhealthy levels of particle matter. This could lead to various lung diseases including asthma.
It also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, lung cancer, diabetes, and several other diseases.
Air pollution claims more than 5 million lives every year. Apart from the government, many private organizations have started taking measures, while activism is stronger than ever.
There have been several projects that have come up in recent years that seek to curb air pollution.
A greener future
There are many governmental as well as private projects trying to reduce the levels of air pollution. To begin with, several companies are selling simple devices that can help citizens measure the pollution levels themselves.
This is an important step in spreading awareness about the state of air quality.
Following the success of companies such as Tesla, many others are coming up with novel solutions for the problem of transportation which accounts for a major portion of emissions that lead to air pollution.
At the same time, governments around the world are trying to make public transportation affordable and accessible to the people. Talks of the electrification of public transport are also in progress.
Some other ventures are trying to solve the other aspect of the problem, which is replenishing the air. This is done via both artificial filters and trees.
People are growing more conscious about the perils of air pollution with each passing day, but unless proper measures are taken quickly, we'll inevitably lose the race against air pollution. As the governments are waking up to the problem of the environment, we as citizens also need to play our roles by adopting simple practices that could reduce emissions.
A healthy environment is mandatory for a healthy lifestyle. Green is the only way forward!