Air Clean Up

Is Pollution Seasonal?

Dec 27 2016 Read 1019 Times

With climate change and air quality an ever-increasing concern for individuals and governments, pollution is clearly an issue that isn’t going to go away on its own. But while dealing with contaminated air is a year-round struggle, there are certain months during which air quality levels can trough in particular.

Summer months, characterised by longer daylight hours, less precipitation and reduced wind speeds, can contribute to the build-up of pollution in our atmosphere. Here’s a rundown on what you need to know to protect yourself from harmful contaminants during peak times.

Why is summer worse for pollution?

A variety of factors contribute to the exacerbation of pollution during the summer months. Though people generally tend to use their central heating systems less (thus contributing fewer emissions), the biggest sources of pollution (passenger cars and power plants) still remain active.

Meanwhile, reduced precipitation means that the rain does not clean the air, while lessened wind speeds don’t allow the pollutants to be dissipated easily. What’s more, the longer and more powerful sunlight means that the stagnant air is basically cooked, thus intensifying the potency of the pollution.

Which pollutants are worse during summer?

Primarily, ground level ozone (O3) is perhaps of the biggest concern during the warmer months. It’s especially prevalent in urban environments, when existing pollutants in the air can react with the sunlight and morph into O3.

Elsewhere, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) are unwanted byproducts of the combustion process. The former comes about as a result of incomplete combustion, while the latter arises from the impurities in oil or coal. One only needs to glance at the NOx pollution plaguing New Delhi to understand how big a concern that pollutant is in particular.

Finally, particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is an irritable contaminant that is very smaller, only 0.0025mm or less in diameter. Though it’s invisible to the naked eye, it can be easily inhaled and in some cases, even infiltrate the bloodstream. As such, it’s incredibly hazardous to human health.

What health complications can arise from summer pollution?

The aforementioned contaminants are responsible for a whole host of respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. What’s more, even if they do not cause new complaints, they will certainly aggravate old ones and can make conditions such as asthma extremely painful and in some cases, life-threatening.

Though these contaminants normally affect the heart only indirectly, they can cause undue stress and strain on the organ by inflaming arteries and forcing it to work harder. This can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as the myriad ailments which can corrupt the lungs, as well.

What can be done to reduce exposure to summer pollution?

The most at-risk groups to air pollution are the very young (whose lungs are not properly developed to cope with such contaminants) and the very old (who are likely to already have existing ailments that can be exacerbated). Furthermore, athletes are also at risk due to the fact that they are making their heart and lungs work harder in an environment plagued by pollution.

Fortunately, local air monitoring systems offer a range of benefits and are normally found in abundance in large cities these days. This means that concerned citizens can check nearby areas which are particularly susceptible to pollution and avoid them. Athletes should also avoid exercising during rush hours and on main roads as a general rule; doing so will ensure they minimise their exposure to the contaminants but still reap the benefits that exercise brings.  

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