Air pollution: Influence on health and the environment

September 7 is the International Day of Clean Air, therefore, it is essential to become aware of air pollution and its problems worldwide; in the face of this, the Sustainable Development Goals promote care of this situation, and addressing it will have an influence on health, better affordable energy, improvements in the environment and even attributes in the economy. Therefore, the monitoring of air quality standards must be a priority.

According to SEBDIA (2022), it is mentioned that fossil fuels are symbols of pollution as they are also linked to air pollution. The good news is that there are technological alternatives that are not only cheaper but also create jobs and make the economy competitive.

Likewise, more than 90% of the world's population breathes polluted air that exceeds WHO targets, according to IQAir's 2019 World Air Quality Report, based on aggregated data from more than 60,000 data points. It follows that air pollution is an important cause of disease in the world with 29% of diseases and deaths due to lung cancer, 17% of diseases and deaths due to acute infection of the lower respiratory tract, and 24% of conditions and deaths due to cerebrovascular accidents (TFM, 2021)

In addition, in 2016, The WHO declared that “air pollution in cities and rural areas around the world causes 4.2 million premature deaths every year” (2021). In these last 10 years, it has been noticed that air pollution is one of the greatest threats to the environment and human beings, which is why it is necessary to establish public policies that promote sustainability in the transportation sector, energy production, chemical industries, etc.

What does air quality mean?

It is an indication of when the air is free of atmospheric contaminants and therefore suitable for breathing (MINAM, 2021). 

According to a study done by Ken Lee and Michael Greenstone, Peru is one of the countries that have critical contamination points, since " particulate pollution concentrations are 2 to 3 times greater than the WHO guideline’’ (2021). This data is alarming since they indicate that immediate actions must be taken to curb air pollution.

What is needed is to take action, nowadays technological progress makes it possible to act and create sustainable mobility criteria, certain developed countries carry out actions against air pollution, they seek to strategize with a vision of reducing largely the fossil fuels usage, support the promotion of electric vehicles and promote more sustainable processes, such as the employability of renewable energies.

Factors that define the air quality

Air quality is determined by its composition. The presence or absence of various substances and their concentrations are the main determinants of air quality. Because of this, air quality is expressed by the concentration or intensity of pollutants, the presence of microorganisms, or physical appearance. Such as indicators of sulfur dioxide or dust particles present (MINAM, 2021)

Air pollution levels are the result of various factors, such as waste emissions, fuel burning, rapid urbanization of cities, atmospheric cycles, natural decomposition of materials, and more. Not enjoying an environment with quality air is a problem that implies risk or damage to the safety and health of people, the environment, and goods of any nature. (TFM, 2021)

Air quality in Peru

According to the 2019 World Air Quality Report prepared by IQAir, Peru is in 33rd place in the world ranking among the most polluted countries or with the highest average concentration of particulate matter. With a weighted average concentration of PM2.5 per inhabitant rising to 23 μ/m3, the country ranks first in Latin America and the Caribbean, above Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico. Lima is ranked 15th among the most polluted cities in South America, with an annual average concentration of PM2.5 rising to 23.7 μ/m3 (TFM, 2021).

How can we improve the air we breathe?

Improving the quality of the air we breathe is a conscious and multifaceted task in which we are all involved. While, in a shared environment, agencies, companies, and organizations strive to ensure sustainable development, they all also strive to improve their environmental impact (TFM, 2021).

First, it is important to find reliable sources of information and indicators in real-time to monitor air quality in our region. Then, using this data, you can continue to work on technological solutions such as filtration equipment and specialized filters that allow you to take better measures and control the air in your home or office and any other environment to ensure the health of those who live and use them (TFM, 2021).

Although the statistical data may seem hopeless, taking action to air care will lead, in the medium to long term, to a positive change at the atmospheric level, China is an example of this since its actions had surprising results. This country "was able to reduce its particulate pollution by 29% between 2013 and 2019, (...) representing three-quarters of the reductions in air pollution worldwide" (Ken Lee and Michael Greenstone, 2021).