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Try not to breathe

  • Published at 11:00 pm January 14th, 2020
Pollution
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

The problem of air pollution needs our immediate attention 

Air pollution is a burning issue nowadays. The quality of the air we breathe is getting worse day by day, and now it has reached the most hazardous level.

According to the real-time Air Quality Index (AQI), Dhaka’s air is very unhealthy, and hazardous towards public health.According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “Every year, around 7 million people die as a result of air pollution” -- which is a worrying statistic for us. WHO also said that 90% of the world population was exposed to toxic air. It indicates that air pollution is now a silent public health emergency.

Air pollution is making you sick

According to the Guardian report, air pollution can affect all the organs of the human body. Research shows head-to-toe harm -- from heart and lung diseases to diabetes, dementia, liver problems, bladder cancer, brittle bones, and damaged skin. 

Air pollution can harm acutely, as well as, chronically, potentially affecting every organ in the body. 

Ultra-fine particles pass through the lungs, are readily picked up by cells, and carried via the bloodstream to expose virtually all cells in the body. Here are just some of the organs affected by air pollution.

Lungs and heart

The harmful effects of dirty air begin when pollution is inhaled, which results in breathing problems, from asthma to emphysema to lung cancer. There is now overwhelming evidence that air pollution results in serious harm, not only to the lungs, but also to the heart. It increases the risk of heart attacks, as arteries narrow and muscles weaken. 

One reason for the wide-ranging damage from air pollution is that the very small particles can penetrate the lungs and be carried around the body. They land in the organs directly.

Brain and mind

Strokes, dementia, and reduced intelligence are all conditions affecting the brain that have been linked to air pollution. 

There is also evidence that poor sleep can be a consequence of breathing toxic air. The main reason for the far-reaching damage from air pollution is systemic inflammation.

Among the many other organs affected is the liver. Research also highlighted that air pollution is linked to numerous cancers, including in the bladder and the gut, where an increase in irritable bowel syndrome has also been found.

Reproduction, babies, and children

Perhaps the most disturbing impact of toxic air is the damage to reproduction and children. Fertility is reduced, and miscarriages are increased by exposure to air pollution. The unborn are also affected, with a recent study finding pollutants in the placentas that nourish foetuses. Air pollution is also strongly linked to low birth weight, which has lifelong consequences.

Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies are still developing. Exposure to dirty air leads to stunted lungs, increases in childhood obesity, leukemia, and mental health problems. Air pollution is also linked to depression and suicide. It is crystal clear to us that air pollution must be controlled at any cost, as quickly as possible.

According to the WHO, there are five ways to limit breathing polluted air:


• Limit walking on busy streets during rush hour. If you have a young child with you, try and lift them up above the level of vehicle exhaust

• Limit spending time at specific hotspots of traffic, such as cars stopped at traffic lights

• When you’re doing physical activity outdoors, try exercising in less polluted areas

• Limit the use of cars in highly polluted days

• Don’t burn waste

How can we reduce air pollution?

Renewable fuel and clean energy production is the most basic solution to air pollution. We need to move away from fossil fuels, replacing them with alternative energies like solar, wind, and geothermal.

Energy conservation, efficiency, and producing clean energy is crucial. But it is equally important to reduce our consumption of energy by adopting responsible habits and using more efficient devices.

Eco-friendly transportation means shifting to electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles, and promoting shared mobility (ie car-pooling, and public transports), could reduce air pollution.

Green building aims to create environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s our right to breathe in clean and safe air. Let’s work towards making the air around us breathable.

Md Billal Hossen is a faculty of Biological Science at the Islamic University, Bangladesh.