We get many questions about air pollution in the Smart Air office–understandably so. It’s a topic that isn’t well understood or well-reported about in certain parts of the countries in which we work. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish research-backed findings from common misconceptions–misconceptions that sometimes even get repeated in the media. To contribute to collective learning, here is a quick list of top 10 facts about air pollution.
10 Facts About Air Pollution
- Air pollution is made up of chemicals, particulates, and biological materials. Common components include, but are not limited to: nitrogen, sulfur, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, dust, and ash.
- Air pollution is caused by both human and natural contributors. Industries, factories, vehicles, mining, agriculture, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and wind erosion all cause air pollution.
- According to the Global Burden of Disease report (2013), air pollution contributes to more than 5.5 million premature deaths every year. Another report by the International Energy Agency estimates the number to be 6.5 million deaths per year.
- Research has linked air pollution to multiple diseases: high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, acute lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, asthma, and cataracts.
- According to the WHO, 98% of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants have unsafe levels of air pollution.
- Of the top twenty most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India and 3 are in China. Delhi ranks as 11th most polluted, whereas Beijing ranks as 57th most polluted. Here’s a full ranking of India’s cities with worst air pollution.
- Over half of India’s population—660 million people—live in areas with unsafe levels of air pollution.
- On average, Indians living in polluted areas will lose 3.2 years of their lives due to air pollution.
- In 2014, India and China tied at 155 among 178 nations in rankings measuring how countries are tackling air pollution in the world, despite both countries having some of the worst air quality in the world.
- Pregnant women who live in high traffic areas have a 22% higher risk of having children with impaired lung function than those living in less polluted areas.
How To Protect Yourself
Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to artificially inflate the price of clean air. Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, helping to lower the cost of clean air. These three simple steps can dramatically reduce the amount of air pollution you breathe:
- Wear any one of these empirically backed, inexpensive masks outdoors when PM2.5 is above 10 micrograms. Scientific studies have found that masks have physiological benefits.
- Use any one of these empirically tested, inexpensive air purifiers at home. Placebo-controlled studies of air purifiers have found that reducing particulate indoors prevents harm to blood pressure, inflammation, and immune response—even among young, healthy twenty-year-olds.
Bhumi spent several years working with small-holder farmers in India, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. She recently returned to India to work on governance reforms. She helps Smart Air with social media outreach, grant proposals, and anything else that comes along.