Outdoor air pollution in winter: It’s time to think about the solution -Nadira Islam


The level of air pollution in many developing countries is so bad that it is being recognized as one of the priority issues. Air pollution is any chemical, physical, or biological factor that contaminates the indoor or outdoor environment and alters the natural properties of the atmosphere. Since we meet many people in numerous fields of their daily activities in various diverse locales, many attempts have been made over the last three decades to protect populations from harmful outdoor pollution. There are many different types of air pollutants, such as ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), organic and inorganic particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and carbon monoxide (CO). Overpopulation, urbanization, industrialization, unplanned road work, road construction around the whole year, unplanned land use pattern, and inadequate traffic management systems are responsible for creating several environmental problems, and air pollution are one of them.
Worldwide, 3.8 million people die every year because of household exposure to smoke from dirty cooking stoves and fuels, while outdoor air pollution is responsible for 4.2 million deaths annually, according to the WHO. Heavy metals, semi-metals, and minerals are all exposed more when dust falls. One of the most complicated and harmful contaminants in the atmosphere is these particles. There are uncountable effects of particulate pollution because this pollution reached in human body and environment before any kind of perception about this. The small size of PM particles, which can penetrate the body, migrate into the airways and lungs, and even reach the bloodstream, is responsible for many detrimental health effects. PM2.5 poses the biggest health risk among all air pollutants. Other pollutants tend to concentrate in the upper respiratory tract, whereas PM2.5 can infiltrate the lungs, damage lung tissue, and spread throughout the body.
The WHO’s recommended safe limit for particulate matter — known as PM2.5, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air — is 5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). According to the IQAir 2021 World Air Quality Report, Bangladesh’s average concentration of PM2.5 was 76.9 µg/m3, which is 15 times above the WHO guideline. Dhaka, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 78.1 µg/m3, was ranked the second most polluted regional capital city in the world, behind only New Delhi in neighboring India. Nine out of 10 people worldwide live in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits. In Bangladesh, according to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), particulate pollution levels are at least four times the WHO guideline in every one of its 64 districts.
According to a recent World Bank Report, it has been estimated that every year in Dhaka City, around 10,800 early deaths along with ischaemic heart disease and stroke accounted for 58% of outdoor air pollution. While lung cancer accounted for 6% of deaths, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and acute lower respiratory infections accounted for 18%. The economic cost of this condition and fatalities is estimated to be $132 – $583 million per year for Dhaka. Natural and anthropogenic sources cause air pollution. Temperature, humidity, wind direction, and dew point are all factors that influence this air pollutant.
Winter air pollution is worse because colder, drier air traps more pollution. Our habits during the winter months also contribute to higher levels of pollution. As the dry season progresses and the economy resumes full swing, experts believe the health risks posed by poor air quality remain as high as ever. According to data from the health directorate, approximately 500,000 people in Bangladesh were infected with respiratory infections between November and mid-January. The toxicity levels in Dhaka’s air are currently on the rise, according to meteorological organizations. Apart from Dhaka, air quality in other parts of the country has recently deteriorated and exceeded the danger limit.
Emissions from all types of automobiles like cars, jeeps, buses, trucks, minibus, microbuses, two-stroke engine-driven vehicles (auto-rickshaw, tempo, mini-truck), and motorcycles have been unabatedly polluting the air of the city. Aircraft, railway engines, industrial plants, power sectors, brickfields, incineration of waste, solid waste disposal sites, and dust particles also contribute to air pollution. Dust pollution due to road construction arid other development activities added multiple situations to the air pollution of the city.
Short-term exposure to pollutants for hours or days might worsen lung illness, trigger asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, and make us more susceptible to respiratory infections. Long-term exposure, defined as years spent in a region with high pollutant concentrations, has been linked to decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, and early death. In many places, climate change-related atmospheric warming has the potential to increase ground-level ozone, posing issues for ozone compliance (Mohammad Z A. et al., 2018).
This poor air quality causes a serious threat to human health, structures, and vegetation, lowered visibility, and enhanced greenhouse gas emissions. High amounts of air pollutant can also alter overall environmental health by making lakes and stream acidic, changing nutrient balance in coastal waters and large river basins depleting soil nutrients, damaging forest and crop, contributing to acid rain, and affecting ecosystem diversity. The entire ecosystem is impacted by air pollution, not just humans. Because of the layer of dust that air pollution leaves on trees, photosynthesis cannot occur, and the equilibrium between oxygen and carbon dioxide is destroyed. Animal health is harmed as a result. Water that has been contaminated with pollutants affects the health of aquatic life.
General Process for Controlling Air Pollution
Check Local AOI Readings
Air monitoring, emission inventory, modeling, and other aspects of air management systems are all nuanced, complex scientific procedures. A research invention is an air sampling method for assessing the quality of small particles in the air.
Enrich Green Space
Indirectly and directly, trees can help to enhance air quality. They can aid indirectly by providing shade and lowering temperatures. When trees shade buildings, they minimize the need for traditional air conditioning and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Other steps for controlling air pollution. Such as-
Raising public awareness of the negative effects of air pollution (particularly indoor air pollution) on public health.
Promoting research into the development of options for reducing/controlling air pollution from significant sources, as well as the health benefits and costs of these choices.
Promoting indoor air pollution research, such as improved cookstoves and alternative/lower-polluting fuels for residential usage.
Cooperation and coordination among research/educational institutes, professional groups, and international/regional organizations participating in various activities connected to air pollution are the main points to pay attention to.
Collaboration between relevant government agencies, non-governmental groups, research and educational institutions, donor agencies, and international and regional organizations.
Monitoring capacity in major cities and pollution hotspots for ambient air pollution (e.g., industrial areas). The capacity of laboratories (for example, in relevant educational institutions) for air quality measurement and monitoring.
Coordination of air pollution issues among key government agencies (MOEF/DoE, Ministry of Industries, Ministry of Communication, and Ministry of Health).
Effective vehicular inspection collaboration between DoE, BRTA, and Traffic Police (through a good institutional setup).
Five major input control mechanisms can be used. People may attempt to limit population growth, use less energy, enhance the energy efficiency, decrease waste, and transition to non-polluting renewable energy sources. Automobile-produced pollution can also be reduced, with very positive outcomes. The opposite strategy, output control, aims to address the issues produced by air pollution. This usually entails cleaning up an area that has been contaminated. In most cases, input controls are more effective than output controls. Output controls are also more costly, making them less appealing to taxpaying citizens and polluting industries.
It is high time required to determine the optimal limit of air quality step by step through research, taking into account a socio-economic situation that is extremely difficult for a country. In Bangladesh, there is no research on this topic and no specific goal in controlling air pollution. In imitation of the United States, the most recent ambient air standard was established in 2005 in Bangladesh. Although the standard of living in the United States has improved over the last 15 years, there is no way of knowing the amount of the shift in standard norms in Bangladesh because no research has been conducted and no change has occurred.
We can plan to reduce air pollution levels to a tolerable level within 10 years. It has to be done periodically and started with the goal of 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years. Like in Delhi, India, they have set a goal and are working accordingly but we do not have such an initiative.
Nadira Islam is an associate editor of The Environment Review and M. Sc. Student of Environmental Science Department, Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU); Mymensingh