Smog used to simply refer to a combination of smoke and fog, hence the combination word “smog”, but over the years, thanks to the plethora of chemicals used around the world and the various types of pollutants in the air this simple smog as now turned into something even more sinister: Photochemical Smog. Photochemical smog is a type of smog that forms in very specific conditions, with the reaction of Oxides of Nitrogen and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) due to sunlight. It is brownish in colour and is now common in metropolitan cities of the world. Now imagine the combination of both of these types of smogs, together! One from burning of biomass or left-over stalks of crops and the other due to pollutants in the air due to emissions from factories and vehicles!
Smog is therefore a terrible amalgamation of the following:
a) Tropospheric ozone
b) Common Air Pollutants like Oxides of Sulphur and Nitrogen, VOCs and Ammonia gas etc.
c) Particulate matter: There are different types of Particulate Matter, depending upon their size. All of them can be present in Smog:
i) PM10 – Coarse PM: It includes pollen, mold spores, dust, smoke and bacteria and viruses
ii) PM2.5 – Fine PM: It mainly includes particles from any kind of burning activity, be it biomass, wood or coal. Vehicular exhausts also emit these particles.
iii) PM0.1 – Ultrafine PM: These are smaller than PM 2.5 but has similar sources.
It is a form of air pollution that like any other causes negative effects on humans, animals, plants, and the environment. Currently, Pakistan’s city Lahore -which is also known as the capital of Punjab – is ranked at number two in the list of the world’s polluted cities due to poor air quality.
What are the impacts of smog on humans and their surroundings are described below.
IMPACTS OF SMOG ON HUMANS
Smog is extremely dangerous for humans because of its persisting nature in the atmosphere. Lungs are sensitive organs of humans and their sensitivity could damage by PM 2.5 that makes an amalgamate with water vapors and other air pollutants to form smog in the presence of sunlight.
Generally, children and older people are at more risk of suffering health complications from smog as compared to adults, however, it is equally harmful to the lungs regardless of the age factor. It is n shock that almost everyone is suffering from some form of ailment in Punjab, especially in Lahore – be it simply eye irritation or serious effects like inability to properly breathe.
How damaging smog is for humans is discussed as:
- Conjunctivitis: Smog causes continuous irritation and itching in the eyes and results in red-eye symptoms.
- Irritation to Nose and Throat: Smog has particles that can cause irritation to the nose and throat. People often experience mild to severe throat infections due to poor air quality.
- Lung Cancer: Smog leads to lung cancer in some people who already have severe health problems.
- Trigger Preexisting Medical Conditions: Smog usually trigger preexisting medical conditions in people.
- Common Health Problems: Health problems such as allergies, skin irritation, nausea, headache, etc are common due to smog.
- Respiratory Diseases: Smog causes respiratory diseases and mostly affects children and old people of the area.
- Weaken Immunity System: Smog weakens an immune system that reduces resistance against infections.
IMPACTS OF SMOG ON THE ENVIRONMENT
The impacts of smog on the environment are deleterious as well.
- Air Pollution: Smog is strongly associated with air pollution and its presence deteriorates air quality.
- Visibility Reduction: Due to smog visibility is reduced and transportation is often suspended or minimized in cities.
IMPACTS OF SMOG ON PLANTS
Smog and poor air quality have multiple negative impacts on plants.
- Plant Growth: Smog has detrimental effects on plants. It stunts the growth of plants.
- Discoloration: Smog injures plant roots and stomata and leads to discoloration in crops.
- Pest and Diseases: Plants become susceptible to pests and diseases due to smog.
b) IMPACTS OF SMOG ON ANIMALS
Smog also has severe impacts on animals.
- Diseases: Animals suffer different diseases due to poor air quality. Smog is harmful to the lungs of animals as well.
- Organ Failure: Many animals experience different organ failures due to air pollutants.
- Endocrine System: Smog induces changes to the endocrine system of animals which leads to organ injuries.
WE REQUEST IMMEDIATE ACTIONS FROM THE GOVERNMENT
The government needs to act immediately and implement all possible strategies to protect people from hazardous smog. The deteriorated air quality and air quality index (AQI) are showing us that it’s already too late. The Government must act now, instead of wishing away the smog situation with empty promises and waiting for the next year for this disaster to repeat. We request Government Officials to make and implement laws and regulations to reduce smog levels in cities.
Clean air is necessary for living a normal life on Earth yet its quality is being deteriorated at dangerous levels due to anthropogenic activities. Many people have become victims of smog and are developing symptoms of health problems mostly related to the lungs. The Government should put sanctions on factories that are involved in the emission of air pollutants above the safety level.
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