Ambient air pollution is the world’s top driver of illness and death from chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
According to WHO, ambient air pollution is the cause of almost 30% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer. Furthermore, polluted air is responsible for 24% of all deaths from stroke and 25% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease. Finally, it attributes to 43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are linked to low-income communities.
Which are the top 2 sources of Air Pollution in cities in 2022?
Wood and biomass burning
Yes, that’s right the “cozy” wood stoves that most people love and brag about are the number one sources of air pollution in cities all around the world. The population on earth takes turns each year, during the 6 cold months in the northern hemisphere and the other 6 months in the southern hemisphere. All wood-burning stoves are very dirty, it doesn’t matter if they are old fireplaces, EPA certified, or pellet stoves. They all emit a tremendous amount of particulate matter which is responsible for all the illnesses and deaths I have mentioned above.
Wood burning is a health hazard even for the people inside the houses and it must be regulated or even banned. In some parts, of the world like in the East US, local authorities issue a Spare the Air alert (on the Radio, TV, etc) which bans wood burning on certain days/nights and violators may have to attend a class or pay a fine of up to $500. Will the EU or even at a local level see something similar (Athens, Granada, London, Belgium, etc)?
Last but not least, wood burning is not sustainable nor carbon neutral. Don’t fall for this myth.
I have seen traffic in many forms, vehicle traffic, marine traffic, and aviation traffic. All of them introduce lots of toxic pollutants in the air dwellers breathe. Particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are among the most common and dangerous. Interestingly, traffic is also responsible for the noise pollution in cities which drives people crazy − scientifically proven. Both air and noise pollution affect mental health. Researchers have found that even small increases in air pollution are linked to significant rises in depression and anxiety.
We demand and produce lots of products abroad which has increased all traffic congestions (water, land, and air) in an imaginable way. We still burn fossil fuels to transport all of the merchandise across the globe, but still very few companies have invested in electric vehicles/ships. Have you seen how big the cargo ships that queue up at bays are?
Careful! Displacing air pollution in low-income communities is not the solution. Unfortunately, some politicians who have no clue of their actions opt-in the “easy” solution by displacing traffic to other areas where most likely air quality monitors are not present in order to make a political stand.
Of course, there are many other sources of air pollution that also need to be addressed. Like agricultural burning, industrial pollution, BBQ and restaurants that use conventional ovens, tobacco smokers in public open spaces, etc. It is also wise to say that we have to think about our climate as some of the sources of natural air pollution like wildfires deserve attention.
Air pollution does not affect only our lungs, which are the first major human organs to welcome it inside our body. Physically air pollution will reach our heart, liver, brain, and many other organs, but mentally it will deplete us as well. Cities are meant for people and should be designed to help all communities thrive.