Recent studies have increasingly established a link between air pollution and serious health problems, and experts recommend methods to reduce air pollution both at the individual and country level.
Air pollution is a combination of natural and man-made hazardous substances, and it can have both short and long-term health effects including hospitalization, cancer, respiratory infection, heart disease and death. Those most at risk include infants, children, the elderly, people with pre-existing conditions and those living in poverty.
A report from the Lancet found that air pollution contributes to 6.5 million deaths globally each year, making it the leading environmental cause of death and disease. Climate change is also connected to air pollution, as a warmer atmosphere can increase ground-level ozone which can exceed ozone standards.
Surprisingly, energy consumption in the US has increased by 25%, vehicle miles traveled has risen by 111% and yet total emission has decreased by 73%. Carbon dioxide levels have also returned to those of 1980.
At-risk newborns are particularly vulnerable to air pollution-related health defects, with 500,000 dying within the first month of life in 2019. In addition, air pollution increases the risk of low-infant birth weights and preterm births, as well as heart disease in infants. Particulate matter in the air can also cause lung cancer, which was the leading cause of cancer deaths in 2020.
To reduce air pollution at an individual level, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommends driving less and using public transportation, carpooling or bikes more, turning off vehicles and not letting engines run unnecessarily, and using less energy. Governments can also help reduce air pollution by developing efficient transportation systems and providing access to clean household cooking stoves and fuels, implementing solid waste management and executing industrial emissions reduction.