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Commentary: Not So Refreshing Now Is It?

Gone are the days of walking outside just to get a breath of fresh air. In reality, that breath of so-called “fresh” air is accompanied by thousands of health damaging air pollutants that puts your body at a high risk for many associated diseases. Not so refreshing now is it?

Amrita Dass is currently a university student enrolled in The University of The West Indies, St Augustine, pursing a double major in Biology and Environmental Science

Amrita Dass is currently a university student enrolled in The University of The West Indies, St Augustine, pursing a double major in Biology and Environmental Science

As you may be aware, due to the vast development of industrialization that has occurred within Trinidad and Tobago over the years, this has consequentially led to the contamination of the Earth’s atmosphere through the release of toxic or radioactive gases. Being a net exporter of oil and natural gas, Trinidad and Tobago’s economy has become heavily dependent on its fossil fuel industry, which has resulted in the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the emission of other greenhouse gases.

This, in addition to large quantities of emissions from vehicles, power plants and forest and bush fires, has contributed greatly to the alarmingly high rates of air pollution currently plaguing our nation.

For instance, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), new estimates have released that, in 2012, as a result of air pollution exposure, approximately seven million people have died worldwide. These findings have led to the confirmation that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk factor and by reducing this phenomenon, millions of future lives can be saved.

Correspondingly, air pollution has additionally contributed towards the depletion of the ozone layer. So much so, that NASA has released data revealing that March 2016 was recorded to be the hottest month since reliable measurements began in 1880. NASA suggests that if these alarmingly high temperatures continue to persist, then the globe may be entering a 1.5 degree Celsius increase over pre-industrial temperatures, which is recognized as being increasingly important to avoid.

It is evident that, from these statistics, we as a global community need to combine our assets and take the necessary steps to reduce air pollution so that we can achieve a more diversified and environmentally friendly planet. The era of turning a blind eye to environmental issues so that industrialization can flourish needs to come to an immediate end.

In addition to posing adverse health risks internationally, air pollution also detrimentally affects both natural and built environments due to windblown smoke, soot, dust and chaff deposits on vegetation and the soiling of buildings. Locally, it poses a serious threat to the environment as crops and vegetation are destroyed, resulting from wild fires in the dry season.

To counteract these burdens on the agriculture sector in our nation, it is of utmost importance that we as a people promote the hazardous effects that air pollution is continuously raining upon us.

Furthermore, to fully understand these adverse effects, we should be knowledgeable on the various types of industrial pollutants constituting our atmosphere.

For instance, carbon monoxide is a major component found in motor vehicle exhaust fumes and from the atmosphere, it can be absorbed through the lungs when inhaled, correspondingly reducing the blood’s capacity to transport available oxygen to our tissues.

Not to mention, sulphur dioxides, commonly found in the burning of petrochemicals, not only affect our health by causing wheezing, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases, but it additionally acts as a determinant of acid rain.

Another major component of petrochemicals, nitrogen dioxide, also contributes to respiratory ailments, resulting in the increase of a person’s susceptibility to infections and asthma.

These are just to list a few and can be used as a reference as to why it is so detrimental to our health that we need to educate our public to move away from our fossil fuel dependency to create a cleaner and healthier atmosphere for us to live in. By investing in alternative, renewable sources of energy, the government can remarkably decrease the amount of aerial petrochemical gases being released into our atmosphere, thereby substantially decreasing our high levels of air pollution.

It is of a necessity that we grasp the concept that with the replacement of fossil fuels for wind energy and solar energy, the number of harmful pollutants available in the atmosphere will greatly be reduced, implying less chronic and respiratory illnesses.

Even small gestures such as car-pooling or utilising our public transportation services more frequently, can have a great impact on our mission to reduce this phenomenon, as less carbon monoxide would be released into the environment with a decrease in the amount of motor vehicles on the road.

So the next time you decide to go on an outdoor stroll for some fresh air, remember all the other harmful pollutants that you would be breathing in as well. Let that be a reminder of the of the immediate action that needs to be taken so that we can finally “break free” from our fossil fuel dependency syndrome and thereby take the necessary steps in decreasing air pollution once and for all.



Category/ies:Articles, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Trinidad and Tobago Articles.
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