What is meant by Air Quality? What is Air Quality Index?
Air Quality in short is the quality of air that is inhaled by the human population in a specific area. Good quality air means it is free of any toxic substances and harmful chemicals or gases in the air.
AQI means the Air Quality Index which is used to measure the quality of the air on an everyday basis that affects human health within that particular day or hour. It keeps changing according to the atmospheric conditions and therefore can tell you if you are breathing polluted air or not. A bad quality air will have a higher AQI for instance when the air is polluted. While a good quality air will have a low AQI.
You might also want to read: Air Pollution– Sources, Effects, and Control
The range of AQI is from 0 to 500. If the air quality is higher than 300 it is considered to be very hazardous to human health. Good air quality is lower than 50 and is free from any pollutants or harmful toxic substances in the air that can cause health concerns.
The Air Quality of Lahore has been worsening with time and no action is being taken to remedy it. The recent years have been one of the worst as Lahore ranked first for the worst air quality globally. It has gotten so bad that the past few years there are several weeks in December where the smog doesn’t lift at all- leading the people to dub it as Pakistan’s fifth season.
WHAT IS SMOG?
Smog is the word derived from ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’. It is the number one cause of pollution in Lahore and is a frequent sight in the city during the cooler weather. Most of Lahore has photochemical smog where the pollutants in the air from vehicular and industrial emissions react with the sunlight and form a thick haze.
You might also like to read: Lahore Smog is Killing Us -Harmful Impacts of Smog On Humans
CAUSES OF WORSENING AIR QUALITY OF LAHORE:
- Vehicular emissions from cars, motorbikes and other transports on a daily basis
- Industrial emissions that release SOXs, NOXs into the air that together with ozone in the troposphere that are the main components of smog.
- Burning of tyres, leaves, crop residue and any unwanted material by the general population is one of the main reasons of smoke that later combines with these pollutants and forms smog.
- Brick kilns that are unregistered and illegal without any proper mitigatory measures in place emit smoke and pollutants. There are as many as 500 unregistered brick kilns in Punjab alone.
- Deforestation, land clearance and increased urbanization, over population and use of machinery has resulted in worsened air quality.
EFFECTS OF THE HAZARDOUS AIR QUALITY OF LAHORE:
- Respiratory Ailments: during the peak winter the smog sits heavy on the city and it gets very difficult for people with asthma and other ailments- in most cases it aggravates already existing conditions and complicates them such as people prone to sinusitis in winters may develop a complicated case of Pneumonitis which decreases lung function.
- Reduced Visibility: the presence of smog reduces the visibility highly. It becomes very difficult for citizens to travel for work, schools etc.
- Health hazards to Children and Vulnerable: Whenever the smog season hits Lahore, the Punjab government announces holidays because the AQI hits as high as 406 at times and it is very detrimental to the health of the children as they are more susceptible and their immune systems are still developing.
- In some individuals the effects of smog would not be visible at once but the long term effects of smog include cardio-vascular diseases, neurological disorders and dysfunctions along with cancer as well. As the constant inhalation of polluted air results in bioaccumulation of these pollutants in the body which are detrimental.
SOLUTIONS TO CONTROL THE HAZARDOUS AIR POLLUTION IN LAHORE:
- For individually owned vehicles like cars and motorbikes, catalytic converters must be made compulsory to be used as it will convert harmful emissions into less harmful gases.
- Industries and Brick kilns should equip scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators or zig-zag technology so that the emissions comply with the air quality standards. For more detail, read: Equipment Used in Industries to Control Air Pollution
- Burning tyres or crops should be banned. In special cases, permit must be shown. In case of violation fines or penalties must be issued.
- Brick kilns should be registered with the provincial government and any non-compliance should be cause for complete shut down of the brick kilns.
- We should also focus on improving fuel quality and tree plantations in urban centers.
- Since carbon makes up 40% of the pollutants in the air, therefore in many cities like Beijing, the authorities erected ‘smog free towers’ at the top of the skyscrapers that would use the carbon component and isolate it to make synthetic diamonds to be used in jewelery.
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