TODAY -

Air pollution : Focal theme of World Environment Day 2019

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *



World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on the 5th June every year and is the United Nations' Principle vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our Environment. First held in 1974, it has been a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging Environmental issues from marine pollution, human over pollution and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wild life crime.

WED has grown to become a global platform for public outreach with participation from over 143 countries annually. Each year WED has a new theme that major corporations, NGOs, Communities, government and celebrities worldwide adopt to advocate environmental causes.

World Environment Day (WED) was established by UN General Assembly in 1972, on the first day of Stockholm conference on Human Environment, resulting from discussion on the integration of human interactions and the environment.

Two years later, in 1974 the first WED was held with the theme "Only One Earth". Even though WED celebration have been held annually, since 1974, in 1987 the idea of rotating the Center of these activities through selecting different host countries. This year's focal theme of WED is "AirPollution" and the host country is the China.

Air pollution is a global public health crisis causing unnecessary early mortality and ill health at a huge economic cost to society. It also impacts on our natural Environment altering habitats. World Environment Day 2019 is a great opportunity to increase awareness of this, the world's most pressing environmental issue of the 21st century.

Air pollution, refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and planets as a whole. Most air pollution comes from energy use and production. Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air.

And in an especially destructive feedback loop, air pollution not only contribute to climate change but is also exacerbated by it. Air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and Methane arises the Earth's temperature.

Another type of air pollution is then worsened by that increased heat: smog forms when the weather is warmer and there is more ultraviolet radiation. Climate change also increase the production of allergenic air pollutants including mold (thanks to damps conditions caused by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to longer pollen season and more pollen production).

Smog and soot are the most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog or greenhouse-level Ozone as it is more wonkily called; occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot or particulate matters made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust or allergens in the form of gas or solids, that are carried in the air.

The source of smog and soot are similar, both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engine-anything that combusts fossil fuel such as coal, gas or natural gas. The tiniest airborne particles in soot whether they are in the form of gas or solids, an especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and blood streams and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks and even hasten death.

Smog can irritate eyes and throat and also damage the lungs –especially people who work or exercise outside, children and senior citizens. It's even worse for people who has asthma or allergies- these extra pollutants only intensify their symptoms and can trigger asthma attacks.

Some of the most common hazardous air pollutants are Mercury, Lead, dioxins and benzene. These are also most often emitted during gas or coal combusting, incinerating or in the case of benzene, found in gasoline. Benzene classified as a carcinogen can cause eye, skin and lungs irritation in the short term and blood disorders in the long term.

Dioxins more typically found in food but also present in small amounts in the air, can affect the liver in short term and harm the immune, nervous and endocrine system as well as reproductive functions, says JhonWalke, Director of the Clean Air Project, part of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC.

Lead, in large amounts can damage children's brains and kidneys and even in small amount, it can affect children's IQ and ability to learn. Mercury affects the central nervous system. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, are toxic components of traffic exhaust and wildfire smoke. In large amounts, they have been linked to eye and lungs irritation, blood and liver issue and even cancer.

In one recent study, the children of mothers who'd had higher PAH exposure during pregnancy had slower brain processing speeds and worse symptoms of Attention Defect Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

By trapping the Earth's heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases lead to warmer temperatures and all the hallmarks of climate change: rising sea level, more extreme weather, heat related deaths and increasing transmission of infectious diseases like LYME.

According to a 2014 EPA study, carbon dioxide was responsible for 81% of country's total greenhouse gas emissions and methane made up 11%. Carbon dioxide comes from combusting fossil fuels and methane comes from natural and industrial sources including the large amounts that are released during oil and gas drilling. We emit far larger amounts of carbon dioxide but methane is significantly more potent, so it's also very destructive.

Another class of greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat. In October 2016, more than 140 countries reached an agreement to reduce the use of these chemicals which are used in air conditioners and refrigerators – and find greener alternative over time.

Mold and allergens from trees, weeds and grass also carried in the air, are exacerbated by climate change and can be hazardous to health. They are not regulated by government and are less directly connected to human actions but they can be considered Air Pollution: when homes, schools or business get water damage, mold can grow and produce allergenic airborne pollutants.

Mold exposure can precipitate asthma attacks or an allergic response and some molds can even produce toxins that would be dangerous for anyone to inhale. Pollen allergies are worsening because of climate change. Lab and field studies are showing that the more carbon dioxide pollen-producing plants especially ragweed are grown, in the bigger they grow and more pollen they produce worse is the condition.

Climate change also extends the pollen production seasons and some studies are beginning to suggest that ragweed pollen itself might be becoming a more potent allergen. That means, more people will suffer hay fever, runny nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms.

Selecting "Air Pollution" as the focal theme of this year's (2019) World Environment Day is highly significant in present day dreaded condition of air pollution all over the world and consequences we are facing. This is, we people who are responsible for all these, may be air pollution may be climate change and global warming and its effects.

According to local dailies report, 65,000 tree sapling will be planted within one hour (9am to 10 am) on 5th June in the Schools and Colleges of Manipur in connection with World Environment Day 2019 under theinitiative of Education Minister Shri Th. Radheshyam Singh.

In fact it's a great step forward and highly appreciated. An Earth's Anthem penned by poet Abhay K is sung to celebrate World Environment Day.

The anthem is:
Our Cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl,
The most beautiful planet in Universe,
All the continents and oceans,
United we stand as flora & fauna,
United we stand as species of one earth,
Different culture, belief and ways,
We are humans, the earth is our home,
All the people and nations of the world,
All for one and one for all,
United we unfurl the blue flag.


Let's all sing together this anthem and join the hands together to prevent the dare consequences of all types of pollutions not only air pollution, for a better and greener mother planet Earth.


* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is Faculty at NIELIT, Imphal
This article was webcasted on June 06 2019.



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