We humans take the quality of air we breathe for granted, forgetting the fact that we can’t live without it.
Luckily, air is a renewable resource constantly being replenished through our natural ecological cycles – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, water, and nutrient.
Additional benefits are provided through other processes, called ecosystem services, which includes the dispersion of many environmental contaminants.
The first air pollutants emitted by humans probably occurred when early cave-dwellers learned to harness fire. Ancient Roman writers often complained about the effects of wood smoke on health.
In addition, the effects from power plants and automobiles contribute to ozone layer depletion and acid rainfall, while also affecting the chemical makeup of soils and bodies of water.
Besides, with the growing prevalence of airtight and energy-efficient homes and offices, the quality of indoor air is increasingly becoming a matter of concern, since dust particles and other pollutants are less likely to escape outdoors.
Smog and dust particles reduce visibility and can cause health problems, particularly for the elderly and those with respiratory problems.
These pollutants can also be transported by winds to affect other areas.
Although, emissions of all major air pollutants have decreased since 1970, concerns regarding nitrogen oxides from automobiles still exist. Between 1980 and 2006, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants dropped by 49 percent, with lead emissions decreasing by 98 percent.
During this same time, gross domestic product increased by 121 percent, vehicle miles traveled increased by 101 percent, and energy consumption increased by 29 percent.
Technological and regulatory efforts needs to be in place to control air pollution, although, considerable progress has been made.
Many of the easiest and most cost-effective measures have already been implemented; further reductions may require changes in individual behaviour, including restrictions on driving.
Therefore, we need to work together to achieve a healthy environment. By so doing, we will enjoy unpolluted air and live a healthier life.