By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Air pollution; not this again

January 20, 2018

You wake up in the morning and set for another working day. You may take a quick shower, have a breakfast, get dressed and head out.

Once you step out of the house you feel a strong urge to fill your lungs with some fresh air… don’t, it will kill you, maybe not right now, but wait, it will. 

According to World Health Organization (WHO) more 90 percent of the population lives in places with higher pollution than what’s considered healthy. 

As estimated by Ecology Global Network some 55 million die every year worldwide. And again WHO estimates that 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. Worldwide more deaths per year are linked to air pollution than to automobile accidents.

The number could be higher or lower, and no one can easily claim that their loved ones are directly died of air pollution, deaths can be ‘linked’  to air pollution. 

In Iran around 33,000 people die each year because they are exposed to unhealthy environment. In Tehran, the capital which suffers the most from air pollution, some 4,810 deaths occurred in 2016 are attributed to air pollution. 

The most harmful pollutant to human health is called PM 2.5, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that's found in soot, smoke, and dust. PM 2.5 is especially dangerous because it can get lodged in the lungs and cause long-term health problems like asthma and chronic lung disease.

PM 2.5 starts to become a major health problem when there is more than 35.5 micrograms (µg) of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. But the WHO recommends keeping yearly average PM 2.5 levels three times lower than that.

While based on WHO guidelines the PM2.5 must stand at 10 micrograms per cubic meter air annually in Iran it stands at 31.1 micrograms per cubic meter air which is pretty high.

While on January 19 we marked the national clean air day, we all very well know that this is just another day put on the calendar. 

In fact every year the onset of cold seasons and rise of polluted days only rekindle the old debates on methods to mitigate air pollution and organizations start fighting over who is the most responsible and placing the blame on one another which constitute no impressive achievement. The best they could do so far was adopting clean air law and it is still too soon to decide its effectiveness.  

We all know what we should do: developing greener auto industry, improving fuel quality, relocating pollutant industries, promoting public transit, and limiting high-rise buildings. 

So what went wrong that we are surrounded by the thick smog all winter long and have to pray for wind or rain to come to rescue us? Who’s benefiting the current situation? Most certainly not the public. 

MQ/MG
 

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