World Environment Day

Happy World Environment Day! The world has been celebrating this UN holiday since 1974, making this the 45th year of shining light on environmental issues. This year, the holiday is shedding light on an ever-growing problem —air pollution— with the theme “Beat Air Pollution”. China is this year’s host, and chose this particular theme with the hope that we will consider changes we can make in our everyday lives in order to reduce the amount of air pollution we produce.

Nine out of 10 people on this planet are exposed to levels of air pollutants that are above World Health Organization (WHO) safe levels. There are five main human sources of air pollution, and they include:

  1. Household air pollution: The main source is the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other biomass-based fuels in order to cook, heat, and light homes.
  2. Industry: Coal-burning, diesel generators (in off-grid areas) and solvent use (in chemical and mining industries) are the biggest culprits when it comes to industry/production.
  3. Transport: Air pollution emissions from transport alone have been linked to ~400,000 premature deaths, and people living in major traffic arteries are up to 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia in their lifetime.
  4. Agriculture: Livestock (producing methane and ammonia), rice paddies (producing methane), and the burning of agricultural waste are the biggest contributors to air pollution in this sector.
  5. Waste: It is estimated that, globally, 40% of waste is openly burned. Open waste burning, along with organic waste in landfills, release harmful dioxins, furans, methane, and fine particulate matter (like black carbon) into the atmosphere. Currently, open burning of waste is practiced in 166/193 countries.

Here are some ways that you can help combat this issue:

  • Turn off electronics and lights when not in use
  • Compost organic waste
  • Use energy efficient bulbs and appliances
  • Carpool, use public transport, bike, or walk when possible
  • Avoid idling your car

Want to test your knowledge on reducing air pollution? Check out this quiz found here: