BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Air Quality



Air quality can be defined as the state of the air within our surrounding environment in relation to its appearance and composition. Air quality is measured by the extent to which air is clean, clear and free from impurities such as smoke, chemicals, particles, mists, dust and smog. The quality of air can be determined by measuring and assessing a series of quality indicators such as amount of impurities, rate at which these impurities are released into the atmosphere and how long they are trapped in air. The WHO Air Quality Global Guidelines, which was published in 2005, provides an assessment of the health effects of poor air quality as well as thresholds values for harmful impurities.

Good air quality is important to balance and sustain the existence of human, plant and animal life, and to preserve natural resources and the environment at large. Consequently, all life and resources are threatened when impurities and chemicals exceed threshold concentrations in the atmosphere. Air quality can be depraved through either natural or man-made means- natural processes that depreciate air quality are volcanic eruption and windstorm dust while man-made processes include contamination by vehicles exhausts, toxic gases from industries, coal powered plants, landfills and burning wood or other material in open air. Both natural and manmade causes of poor air quality can significantly affect overall air quality resulting in severely negative health problems for humans, animals, plants and the environment as a whole.

Human activities emit a wide range of contaminants which depreciate air quality on a daily basis. These contaminants are classified into different categories that include Sulfur Dioxide, particulate matter, Hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, Lead, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides and Smog. In most parts of the globe, substances that visible reduce air quality include smoke, dust, particles, some gases, soot and smog from factories, power plants, automobiles, and smelters particularly in urban and industrial areas. In general poor environmental air quality also affects indoor air quality. Specific indoor air contaminants include cigarette smoke, mould, dust mites, pet dander, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds and radon gas. Certain conditions like light winds and high mountains that tend to constrain air movement may preserve and increase contaminants and perpetuate poor air quality in an area.

Despite many efforts by various organizations, including WHO, to improve air quality, the situation has worsened. Many people across the world die annually due to the damage done to their bodies by the gradual, yet daily and consistent inhalation of toxic gases present in the atmosphere. Health consequences of poor air quality are difficulty breathing, irritation of lungs and airways and aggravation of already existing chronic diseases such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.

Certain ways to promote and improve air quality for this, and the coming generations include: reducing traffic and vehicle emissions by encouraging public transports; managing industrial waste and emissions; and establishing effective policies that embrace clean air action plans. However, these require collaborative effort and long-term team work, partnerships and commitment from individuals, businesses, companies, facilities, national governments and international organizations.

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