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Air Quality: A Major Environmental and Public Health Challenge

By Nur Syazlin Syafiqah Binti Mohamad Zabidi (BK13110325)

More than 2 million premature deaths each year can be attributed to the effects of urban outdoor
air pollution and indoor air pollution (caused by the burning of solid fuels). More than half of this disease
burden is borne by the populations of developing countries (WHO, 2006). Heart attacks, respiratory
diseases, and lung cancer are all significantly higher in people who breathe dirty air compared to matching
groups in cleaner environments (Cunningham, et al 2005). Enger & Smith (2000) proposed that air pollution
is not just an aesthetic problem and triggered health problems. A mortal blow has been pertain to poor air
quality. Some studies have shown that on global level more deaths are attributable to air pollution than to
automobile accidents. Decreasing air quality will indicate the increasing air pollution in a country or any
places in the world.
To define air pollution is not an easy task because there is a lot of opinion regarding the issue.
Other party argues that air pollution started when humans began burning fuels. According to Air Pollution
(2016), air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or
biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. This statement is supported by
Woodford, C. (2016), who defined air pollution as a gas (or a liquid or solid dispersed through ordinary air)
released in a big enough quantity to harm the health of people or other animals, kill plants or stop them
growing properly, damage or disrupt some other aspect of the environment (such as making buildings
crumble), or cause some other kind of nuisance (reduced visibility, perhaps, or an unpleasant odor). Daly
and Zannetti (2007) define an air pollution as any substance emitted into the air from an anthropogenic,
biogenic, or geogenic source, that is either not part of the natural atmosphere or are present in higher
concentrations than the natural atmosphere, and may cause a short-term or long-term adverse effect.
One of the factors that people tend to overlook about the issue is some kinds of air pollution are
produced naturally. For instance, forest fires, erupting volcanoes, and gases released from radioactive
decay of rocks inside Earth that can contribute to an enormous interruption on people and planet. All these
are examples of air pollution that can happen without any notice from Mother of Nature and human can
never stop it happening totally. Other than that, pollution that caused by the human and can be solved with
a prevention that need to be considered in manner when dealing with the environmental management
system. Woodford, C. (2016) further points out that anything action by the human that involves combustion,
using household or industrial chemicals which any substances that cause chemical reactions and may
release toxic gases in the process of producing large amounts of dust has the potential to cause air pollution.

Any gas could classified as pollution when it reached inflated concentration that can harm people
and the environment. Theoretically, there are more than dozens of different pollution gases, but in practice,
there are about ten different substances that cause most concern regarding the air pollution. For example,
sulphur dioxide, which produced by coal-fired power plant and contributes to smog, acid rain and health
problem that include lung disease. Next is carbon monoxide which highly dangerous gas forms when there
is too little oxygen to burn completely. It can be found in car exhausts, traffic and poorly maintained gas
boiler. Other than that, type, of gases that have a huge impact on air pollution are nitrogen dioxide, volatile
organic compounds, particulates, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, unburned hydrocarbons, lead and heavy
metals and carbon dioxide.
Air pollution is growing worse in developing country with more than 80% of people living in urban
areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits (Mooney & Dennis, 2016). According to the
latest urban air quality database by WHO, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more
than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that
percentage decreases to 56%. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities
are the most impacted. Industrialized countries contribute to industrial air pollution by sending their most
heavily polluting industries to developing country. For instance, The World Bank also helps to fund the
construction of many coal burning power plants, such as the Eskom plant in South Africa. The study
indicates that air pollution can harm the health of people and animals, disturbing biodiversity by damaging
the crops and contributes to unpleasant and unattractive world.
As far as the environment is concerned, there are many methods introduced by the authorities such
as scientist and environmental engineers to overcome air pollution and improve air quality of the world. A
civilization and society can be considered as a living thing because it keeps moving to a better level and
aspect. For example, in this era, people keep exploring the best technology that can ameliorate life and
surroundings. Unfortunately, to gain something, there will be certain aspect in the loss. But with a modern
technology and thinking all the loss can be prevented to create a better tomorrow. For environmental
engineer, the responsibility is on how to control pollution, how to clean up contaminated waste and how to
assess exposure and human risk. Based on the Georgia Techs School of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, Environmental engineers use core engineering skills and a deep understanding of the physical,
chemical and biological principles of the local, regional and global environment to help change the world.

To overcome the air pollution problem, the study indicates that by promoting the development of
clean, renewable, and environmentally-friendly energy sources to continue moving away from fossil fuels
can lead to reduce air pollution. The National Academies (2008), mentioned that in The United State, the
country derives 85 % of its energy from fossil fuels compared to the 7 percent acquired from renewable
sources. By converting to a renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal will produce electricity
without any carbon emissions. Other than that, it can help to improve the transition of electric transportation
because the technologies can be applied depending on a regions available resources. Besides, to limit the
gas emissions, the carbon credit system can be applied to other known atmospheric pollutants as sulphur
oxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and aerosols. This system will help in reducing the total
amount of pollutants permitted annually and the standard must be fixed and obeyed specifically. In order
to ensure polluters meet the specification and quotas, punishment should be introduced to increase the
In Mission 2015: Biodiversity and Triage, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the study
emphasizes that, government-funded research projects should introduce to develop clean methods to help
reduce dependence on fossil fuels such as clean electric transportation methods. Converting to electric
vehicles will also help to eliminate the production of other unwanted byproducts such as sulphur oxides,
nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. In addition, because electricity can be generated through many
different methods, the transition to electrically-driven vehicles will present greater flexibility in the way
power can be obtained for use in transportation. Efforts must be made to promote awareness regarding
environmental sustainability and its relation to the biodiversity crisis. The benefits gained from responsible
environmental management should be properly understood on the individual, organizational, and
governmental levels. Attempts to raise biodiversity awareness can be conducted in the form of meetings
and forums on relevant regulations and legislation. Information can also be broadcasted through
newspapers, magazines, posters, radio, and television (Shah 2011).
In conclusion, to improve the air quality is not a simple work by only a person. The research and
new technology need to be discovered in overcoming the air quality, human health and environmental
matter. In the meantime, everyone should help to reduce air pollution because the issue is not someone
elses problem but it is a global problem.

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