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Nonfiction in response to Sustainable Cities and Communities
November 2018

Air Pollution

By Karen Wu
#8. Karen (credit Christina Zhao).jpg

About 91% of the world’s populations lives where the air quality doesn’t pass WHO guidelines. This can cause irritation to the eyes and damage to the lungs. For people who have asthma or allergies, pollutants in the air can worsen their symptoms.


"I will clearly say that [air pollution] is a major, major challenge for public health at the moment and probably one of the biggest ones we are contemplating,” Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said on CNN.


Air pollution contributes to climate change, which in turns worsens air pollution, creating a disastrous cycle.


“In the form of carbon dioxide and methane [air pollution] raises the earth’s temperature,” John Walke, director of the Clean Air Project, part of the Climate and Clean Air program at NRDC, said on an NRDC article. “Another type of air pollution is then worsened by that increased heat: Smog forms when the weather is warmer and there’s more ultraviolet radiation.”


The majority of air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels. “Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air,” Walke said.


Cars, trucks and power plants are examples of some releasers of pollution.


In order to protect yourself from air pollution, you could stay inside when the air pollution level is bad or install filtration equipment in your ventilation system. Air pollution can be reduced by reducing the amount of gasoline burned.


“When you can, walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation.” Walke said. “For driving, choose cars that get better miles per gallon of gas or choose an electric car.”


Countries and cities have taken steps to decrease air pollution too. During the weekends, Paris bans cars in several locations and encourages public transport and carpooling. Zurich placed a cap on the number of parking spaces and on the number of cars in the city at any given time. Politicians in the Netherlands are planning to ban selling petrol and diesel cars starting 2025, meaning that only electric or hydrogen vehicles could be sold. This proposal would allow anyone who currently has a petrol or diesel car to keep using it.     

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