What Step Is Crucial in Fighting Cities' Air Pollution?

In the drive to build smarter cities around the world, what is the most important thing we should do to tackle air pollution?

In rapidly growing cities such as Beijing and New Delhi, air pollution has become so severe that respiratory disease is on the rise , flights have been grounded , and the public is often warned against letting children play outside.

Chokingly thick blankets of smog are often a byproduct of economic growth, which results in more vehicles on the road and more burning of fossil fuels, especially coal. The bad air can be deadly: Outdoor air pollution, both in cities and rural areas, prematurely killed 3.7 million people worldwide in 2012 , according to the World Health Organization. With two-thirds of the population expected to live in cities by 2050, the need to ease urban pollution is particularly acute.

The problem goes beyond respiratory health and quality of life: A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that in India, short-lived air pollutants such as ozone and black carbon, along with the changing climate, cut 2010 crop yields in half.

Los Angeles offers an example of what cities can do to reduce pollution. Long notorious for its smog, the car-centric city has seen some air pollutants decline by 98 percent over the past 50 years, even though an increasing population has used more gasoline. Rules to make cars and fuels cleaner helped achieve the reductions, but the city still struggles with air quality issues. In 2014, Los Angeles saw an uptick in smog due to heat and drought, suggesting the fight against air pollution remains a challenge for cities dealing with both climate change and population growth.

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Revealed: 5 Effective Ways to Reduce Air Pollution in Cities

Air pollution involves the emission of pollutants that can harm human health or the environment. They are released in the air in the form of liquid droplets, solid particles, or gases. Mostly, air pollution occurs in large cities where human activities and natural sources are concentrated. 

When exposed to air pollution, you are likely to have health issues such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which can lead to irritation of the eyes, throat, or nose. Besides, the entire ecosystem can experience the effects of air pollution. For instance, when the air pollution particles fall to the earth’s surface, they can contaminate soil and water bodies thus, affecting crop yields and animal health.

Luckily, there are easy ways to reduce air pollution in cities. By implementing the methods, you’ll improve air quality and human health.

Here Are 5 Ways to Reduce Air Pollution in Cities

1. avoid burning garbage.

Garbage can contain products such as plastics and chemical containers. When burnt, these items can release toxic gases that pollute the air.

The polluted air can be deposited in the soil and water bodies, thus, affecting aquatic life, human health, and plants. Also, humans and animals can inhale the polluted air, causing aggravated respiratory diseases. 

In this case, it is good to stop burning household or commercial garbage. Instead, consider local garbage and recycling services to help you dispose of your garbage. Also, try to reduce waste by purchasing recyclable items and making compost heaps from fallen leaves and food wastes.

2. Use renewable sources of energy

Sources of energy such as fossil fuels are the major causes of air pollution. When you burn fossil fuel, it will release nitrogen oxide, which causes acid rain. Also, burnt fossil fuel can release poisonous particles such as PM2.5.

When these particles penetrate into the lungs, they can cause respiratory conditions such as lung cancer and asthma. 

But the good thing is that you can use alternatives to fossil fuels to reduce air pollution. You can consider renewable sources of energy that produces no greenhouse gas emission. Some of the  commonly used renewable sources of energy  include:

3. Use eco-friendly transportation

Passenger vehicles contribute to air pollution more than public transport. They use a lot of fuel, and burning the fossil fuel such as diesel leads to the release of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas.

These gases can affect the environment and human health. For instance, carbon dioxide increases the greenhouse effect, which can lead to additional heat. When the temperature rises, ice is likely to melt.

Thus raising the ocean levels, which can cause flooding. Also, human exposure to carbon dioxide can cause issues such as difficulty breathing, elevated blood pleasure, and headaches. 

But do you know that you can reduce air pollution by using eco-friendly transportation? The use of public transportation is one way of reducing air pollution because they release less gas and fuel.

Besides, you can cut down on car journeys if the distance to school or work is short. Try to walk or cycle to your desired destination to reduce congestion caused by car transport. This will not only help to improve the air quality but also increase your mood and physical health.

4. Practice energy conservation habits

One of the environmental issues related to energy production is air pollution. During the combustion of fossil fuel, Nitrogen dioxide is produced. This gas can contribute to fine particulate matter air pollution.

Besides, electricity generation can increase the amount of greenhouse gas emitted. In this case, it is good to implement habits that will lower electricity and energy consumption.

For instance, turning off lights when not in use can lower electricity consumption, thus, saving energy. Also, you can consider energy-saving fluorescent lights to conserve the environment . 

Here are 3 more energy-conserving techniques

5. Reduce plastic usage

Plastic releases gases such as mercury and dioxin, which can be a threat to human health, vegetation, and animals. Also, burning plastic products can produce black carbon, which can cause air pollution.

Hence, a good way to reduce air pollution is by doing away with plastic items. You can consider recyclable items or those that decompose easily.

Also read: Pros and cons of bioplastics

how to reduce air pollution in a city

FAQs on How to Reduce Air Pollution

Which is the best method to prevent air pollution.

As you are aware, air pollution can affect the environment in different ways. The Ground-level ozone can lead to the reduction of agricultural and commercial crop yield.

Also, it increases plant susceptibility to pests and diseases. And do you know that you can also experience permanent health issues due to air pollution? In this case, it is vital to implement practices that can prevent air pollution. 

It is good to note that even the easiest method of reducing air pollution can have an impact on conserving the environment. You can practice activities such as:

What are the sources of air pollution?

Most of the air pollution occurs due to human activities and natural sources. Sometimes air pollution can form due to agricultural practices or industrial activities such as power plants.

Here are 5 main sources of air pollution

What are the impacts of air pollution?

Air pollution is becoming a big problem worldwide. Each day, industries and private vehicles are increasing, and the worst part about this is that they  release harmful gases and small particles which can cause impacts such as:

Also read: Effects of mercury on the environment

This article contains 5 ways to reduce air pollution in cities. So, which of the methods offer the best results? Each of the methods can help to improve the air quality.

Thus, it is good to implement all the approaches where possible. For instance, if you are running an agricultural business, consider using natural alternatives to pesticides and insecticides.

Also, if you own an industry that requires a lot of energy consumption, you can consider renewable sources of energy to eliminate the emission of harmful gases in the atmosphere.

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5 ways new monitoring technologies can help cities combat air pollution

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The City of London on a smoggy morning. Image:  Reuters/Kieran Doherty

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The use of low-cost monitoring equipment allowed Breathe London to compile more localized pollution data

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5 Effective Air Pollution Prevention Strategies

5 Effective Air Pollution Prevention Strategies

Every year, air pollution prematurely kills about seven million people worldwide. It is also one of the biggest threats to human health, increasing the risk of chronic heart and pulmonary diseases, lung cancer, stroke, and respiratory infections. What’s more, air pollution is contributing to the climate crisis and accelerating global warming. Governments urgently need to commit to air pollution prevention in an effort to solve one of the direst environmental problems in the world right now. As we celebrate the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, which every year falls on September 7, we reflect on some of the most promising solutions to air pollution out there.

Sometime between 1820 and 1840, the world began transitioning to new manufacturing processes that became known as the Industrial Revolution. While this represented a turning point in the history of technological advancement and moulding the world as we know it today, industrialisation came at a huge cost for the environment and affected worldwide air quality, especially in new, developing urban areas. Even today, the highest levels of air pollution are recorded in cities. Six of the world’s 10 most polluted cities in 2021 were in India, with Bhiwadi topping the list, while neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh are also some of the worst affected. In China, despite the huge progress made in recent years, where particulate pollution saw a 29% drop globally, 1.25 million people still die prematurely from pollution-related diseases every year.

The world has made remarkable advancements in air pollution reduction technologies and an increasing number of countries around the world have pledged to end all emissions in the coming decades. We explore the main drivers and effects of air pollution on the environment before diving deep into some of the best strategies for air pollution prevention.

Drivers of Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to the release of chemicals and pollutant particles into the air, mainly through human activities. Among the biggest contributors are fossil fuels. Global demand for oil, natural gas, and coal continues to increase despite calls to end our dependence on these energy sources in order to meet net-zero emissions goals. In 2021, global energy-related emissions reached a staggering 36.3 billion tonnes of CO2, their highest-ever level. 40% of which came from coal – soaring to an all-time high of 15.3 billion tonnes – followed by 10.7 billion tonnes from oil, and 7.5 billion tonnes from natural gas. 

Another driver is ozone, a toxic gas that turns into smog – an extremely harmful form of air pollution – when it reaches too close to the ground, significantly reducing visibility. Extreme climate events like dust storms as well as changing weather conditions are also responsible for poisoning the atmosphere. For example, high air pressure and heat waves can create stagnant air where pollutants usually concentrate in large quantities. Extreme heat waves also increase the risks of large-scale wildfires, notorious for releasing more carbon emissions, smog, and pollutants into the air. 

Effects of Air Pollution on the Environment

Apart from causing millions of premature deaths and illnesses – especially in low-income countries like South and East Asia – there is growing evidence among the scientific community that air pollution can have detrimental impacts on other aspects of human health and wellbeing – such as their cognitive function. Several studies have found that polluted air often impedes or lowers the cognitive ability of those frequently exposed to it. 

But air pollution does not only impact humans. Its environmental effects are also vast and worrying. They range from acid rain – which is extremely harmful to the soil and plants – to birth defects, reproductive failure, and diseases among wildlife animals. Highly polluted rain can also compromise agriculture, as it makes crops more vulnerable to diseases from increased UV radiation caused by ozone depletion. 

You might also like: History of Air Pollution: Have We Reached A Point of No Return?

Air Pollution Prevention

While we know much about the causes and effects of air pollution, there is still much to be done in terms of prevention. To understand how governments can tackle the problem, it is useful to have a look at the main sectors contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the only ways to drastically reduce air pollution are to adopt a wide range of policies that regulate all polluting industries – from energy production to transportation and agriculture – as well as to reflect on broader solutions such as carbon tax systems. 

Air Pollution Prevention

Figure 1: World’s Most Polluting Sectors, 2020

1. Cut Down Emissions from Power Plants

One obvious but effective strategy to cut down emissions is to phase out fossil fuels immediately, yet it has proven to be difficult to implement. As the latest IPCC climate report clearly stated, in the race to reach net-zero emissions, there is no room for any fossil fuel developments . Shifting to other energy sources like nuclear and renewables is a long and complicated process that requires global coordination and collaboration. Yet, not all countries are on board and while some are slowly making the transition, others have no intentions of phasing out fossil fuels. 

In the meantime, countries like the US are implementing strategies to hold power plants accountable for their pollution. For example, in March 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the “Good Neighbor” plan to cut interstate smog pollution from power stations by requiring them to operate their pollution control equipment and keep their daily emissions under a pre-established limit. 

2. Decarbonise the Global Transport Sector

Transport accounts for 8 billion tonnes – or approximately one-fifth – of global carbon dioxide emissions. These are expected to grow significantly over the next 30 years as a result of increasing transport demand.

Air Pollution Prevention

Figure 2: Global CO2 Emissions from Transport, 2018

According to the EPA, there are three methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The first is to increase the efficiency of vehicle technology. A good start – according to a report by the United Nations – is developing weight reduction and improvements to engines and tires that can make vehicles more fuel-efficient, reduce their reliance on oil, and cut expenses.

One of the most important technologies we have to decarbonise the transport sector is electric vehicles (EV). Significant progress has been made in this industry and costs of batteries have declined by 90% in recent years. Despite EVs being a much better alternative than fossil fuel vehicles, as the latter generate much higher emissions over their lifetime, the electrification of the transportation sector has a dark side. Producing EV batteries requires greater resource extractivism , which has substantial destructive consequences for the environment and local communities, an aspect of this industry that cannot be ignored. Fortunately, EV companies are building a much more sustainable supply chain by improving the efficiency and lifespan of batteries, researching a way to build them using other resources as well as recycling old batteries to reuse raw materials.

But switching to EVs is not the only option we have. We can lower transportation’s carbon footprint by changing how we travel – for example, opting for public transport and car-sharing – as well as how we transport goods around the world. Emissions from the global supply chain have reached historic heights. In 2020, the shipping and return of products within the e-commerce industry alone accounted for 37% of the total GHG emissions , attributing to the unsustainable habits of modern consumers and their appetite for convenience. It is estimated that by 2030, the number of delivery vehicles will increase by 36%, reaching approximately 7.2 million vehicles . This will not only result in an increase of about 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, but it will also increase commutes by 21%, as vehicles will take longer to travel due to higher traffic congestion. All things considered, the best way to drastically reduce the impact of the shipping industry is by rethinking the means of transport, for example by prioritising rail and marine vessels over truck drivers.

Emissions can also be reduced by using fuels with a minimal carbon footprint such as biofuels , renewable natural gas, hydrogen as well as sustainable aviation fuel . Lastly, it is the governments’ job to implement tighter fuel and vehicle emission standards. As part of its targets to reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in 2030, the US has taken into account many sector-specific reduction pathways . The Biden administration is currently working on incentives for zero-emission personal vehicles, funding for charging infrastructure, and support for research in low carbon, new-generation renewable fuels. Simultaneously, sixteen states including California, New York, and Pennsylvania, are imposing their own pollution limits on cars . Similarly, the European Union is encouraging the production of greener vehicles and it has recently strengthened the CO2 standards for cars and vans as a way to facilitate its phase-out of internal combustion engines.

3. Adopt a More Sustainable Approach to Agriculture

Recent data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that 31% of human-caused GHG emissions originate from the world’s agri-food systems. From the 16.5 tonnes generated in 2019, the largest share – 7.2 billion tonnes – came from within the farm gate, 5.8 billion tonnes from the supply-chain processes, while 3.5 billion tonnes from land use change. 

Thus, efforts to address the exploitation of resources like land and water as well as the promotion of sustainable agriculture are among the most crucial steps in air pollution prevention. A big issue related to soil depletion is the excessive use of fertilisers. Switching to nitrate-based solutions can be one of the easiest fixes in reducing farms’ impact on air pollution. Israel has made incredible technological advances and managed to reduce the overconsumption of water through drip irrigation , a system that delivers water and nutrients directly into the plant’s root through pipes. The technology is now being used in some African countries as well, thanks to funding from the World Bank. Lastly, countries like Australia have found ways to reduce agricultural methane emissions from farming by modifying the diets of livestock .

4. Introduce a Carbon Tax System

A carbon tax is an instrument of environmental cost internalisation, imposed on producers of raw fossil fuels based on the relative carbon content of those fuels. Governments usually set a fixed price that emitting companies must pay for each ton of greenhouse gas emissions they emit. 

So far, 27 countries have implemented a carbon tax system as a way to incentivise polluters to lower emissions or switch to more efficient processes and cleaner fuels. At the same time, the carbon tax is a great way to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases generated from the same human activities and it is thus a good way to hit two birds with one stone .

5. Improving Air Quality While Fighting Climate Change

Last but not least, air pollution can be prevented by tackling climate change. These two phenomena are closely intertwined and neither can be seen exclusively as the cause or the effect. While deteriorating air quality is a consequence of climate change, air pollution also contributes to worsening global warming. That is why the climate crisis cannot be left out of the equation. Effective efforts to tackle climate change would significantly reduce deforestation and wildfires, two of the main sources of air pollution. Air quality and climate change are just one example of causes and effects overlapping. Therefore, the best shot for governments around the world to reduce air pollution is to implement broader policies that aim at tackling all aspects of the looming climate crisis.

You might also like: 15 Most Polluted Cities in the US

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17 Innovative Ways to Reduce Air Pollution in our Cities

how to reduce air pollution in a city

The number of people now living in cities across the globe is as high as it has ever been. With the UN predicting this figure will rise from it’s current level of 55% to almost 70% in the coming decades.

This increase in human density in these areas brings with it a host of potential environmental issues. With pollution being one of the most concerning.

What causes air pollution in our cities?

Air pollution from cities is mostly a result of increased numbers of cars and other vehicles burning fossil fuels along with power plants and industrial complexes. In lower-income cities, incineration of solid waste and agricultural waste are also big contributors.

What are the main air pollutants?

An air pollutant doesn’t have to be something that has a direct effect on human health. It simply has to be “a substance in the air that can either have damaging effects on human health or the wider environment”.

As a result of these processes a number of different air pollutants are formed:

But as you now know, the effects to the wider environment from air pollutants is also vast, with climate change and acid rain having damaging effects too.

So how can we reduce air pollution levels in our cities? What inventions and innovations are appearing to help reduce this big environmental issue?

1) Vertical Forests

Vertical forests may look like the work of science fiction, but thanks to Italian architect Stefano Boeri the first vertical forest towers, the ‘Bosco Verticale’ were completed in Milan in 2014.

The two towers in Milan are residential towers but with a difference. They are covered in a total of 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and over 11,000 other plants!

The effectiveness of different vegetation for absorbing these air pollutants has been found to vary 1 but architects such as Stefano Boeri work very carefully to pick the best plants, designing the building for them as well as humans.

Stefano is currently working to design an entire forest city in Liuzhou China, a country heavily impacted by air pollution. According to the architect, the new city will be home to 30,000 people with the new trees absorbing 10,000 tons of CO 2 and 57 tons of other air pollutants.

The towers also have the added benefit of providing refuge for birds and insects in cities where habitat is becoming more and more scarce.

2) Smog Free Tower

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde created the ‘smog-free project’ as a campaign in the hope of inspiring people to think how to get cleaner air in public spaces.

The tower is effectively a giant vacuum cleaner. 7 meters in height, it sits in a public place and sucks in smog, turning it into clean air using patented positive ionization technology.

Although not tackling the source of the problem of air pollution. It could provide localized pockets of clean air in cities, in places such as public parks. And according to Roosegaarde, it cleans 30,000m 3 of air per hour using very small amounts of green energy.

The collected smog particles have even been compressed into products such as jewelry.

3) Electric Self-Driving Cars

One of the keys to reducing air pollution levels in our cities will be reducing the number of cars burning fossil fuels. With road transport currently responsible for 30% of airborne particulate emissions in European countries and up to 50% in lower economy countries. In lower-income nations, this is due to older ‘dirtier’ vehicles that have much higher emissions. This is on top of all the greenhouse gas emissions all emitted directly from the vehicle exhausts through evaporation. This air pollution gets much worse when there is congestion. And with cities growing in population, congestion and air pollution levels are also rising rapidly.

It is estimated that electric car sales will continue to go up, with 55% of new vehicle sales expected to be electric by 2040.

Add to this the possibility that these vehicles may soon be ‘self-driving’ we may see even more benefits for the environment. The US Department of Energy claims they will drive more efficiently than humans, decreasing congestion and therefore energy consumption.

This estimate should, of course, be taken with a pinch of salt. Because some other people estimate the arrival of self-driving cars may increase our use of cars (due to us being able to work whilst in them for example). So we will have to wait and see on the overall impact of this innovation. But what we can say is that they should at least reduce some of that toxic smog!

4) Bike and Scooter Sharing Schemes

To prevent the roads of our future cities simply getting clogged up with electric self-driving cars, we will need a mix of different transportation options. This could involve trams, small trains and potentially even electric flying car s!

But with trains and trams confined to specific routes and cities growing so big that walking is even becoming impractical. Other modes of transport are required to prevent people from using cars or taxis which are adding to air pollution.

Another environmental benefit of moving towards a sharing economy, is it reduces the carbon footprint of production. Instead of everybody having to own their own bike or electric scooter a handful is required to be shared amongst many people.

5) Air cleaning buildings

Titanium dioxide is an expensive material to build with (increasing construction costs by 5%) but it has a remarkable property; it reacts with some forms of air pollution in the presence of light to neutralise them.

6) Air purifying clothes

The potential of titanium dioxide to clean up the air has lead to inventors trying to find other uses for it. Designer Helen Storey and polymer chemist Tony Ryan from Sheffield (UK) teamed up to create a laundry detergent which contained the substance. The idea being that when clothes are washed in the detergent they will gain a small amount of the titanium dioxide and turn the wearer of the item into a walking air purifying machine.

However, the invention does rely on mass participation to make a real impact, with each person only neutralizing 5 or 6 grams of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas each day. The product is still being refined with a few issues such as the fact it also neutralizes peoples perfume and aftershave, but we will keep an eye on this one.

7) A giant spiders web

Biomimicry is the idea of using inspiration from nature to design solutions to problems we face. Dr Fritz Vollrath from the University of Oxford has been inspired by the ability of spiders webs to catch tiny airborne particulates as they float by, due to their small amount of electrical charge.

Spider webs have amazing properties, being incredibly thin and yet incredibly strong.

8) Pollution absorbing street furniture

CityTree benches have begun to pop up in cities around Europe. These striking additions look like a section of hedge attached to a bench from a distance, but are actually four-metre-high boards covered in moss.

The Dresden-based creators ‘Green City Solutions’ claim the moss that makes up the vertical garden can do the equivalent work of 275 trees. Sucking air pollutants out of the air which are then digested by bacteria that live within the moss.

The units are built with rainwater collection systems to allow them to stay watered and healthy, keeping maintenance to a minimum. They also contain sensors to gain useful data on air pollution in the surroundings.

They look stunning and I personally would love to see these in cities everywhere. The cost is high at around £17,000 a unit. But the creators advise councils they could claim some of this money back through doubling them up as advertising boards.

9) Algae curtains

The curtains are comprised of a series of tubes which contain microscopic algae. The idea is that air from ground level will rise up through these tubes containing the algae. Because algae are plants they extract carbon dioxide from the air in the process of photosynthesis just like all other vegetation.

But algae has another advantage. Scientists have found they not only help with carbon dioxide but they also help to break down some of the other air pollutants generated by a city.  The designers hope the idea will take off and be used on warehouses and other buildings where appearance isn’t really an important factor.

10) Pollution sensors in street lights 

One key to tackling air pollution in cities is building up a better overall picture of where and when air pollution is highest. This allows interventions to be put in place to try and reduce the levels in that area or can advise citizens which areas to avoid.

To get as much data as possible requires as many sensors as possible. One place to put these sensors in order to get high coverage is on street lights, a great option due to their presence in most cities. This is being referred to as ‘hyper-local’ data. Giving accurate levels of air pollution on a street by street basis.

Researchers in Sweden have recently developed tiny nano-sensors that can be mounted in any streetlights and will monitor levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ). They are so sensitive they can detect levels of NO 2 down to parts-per-billion. The aim is that these sensors will be able to detect other air pollutants soon as well.

11) Tiny backpacks for pigeons (to monitor air quality)

Our #PigeonAir patrol are all roosting and we’re signing off for tonight. Goodnight London – see you in the morning! pic.twitter.com/R8MkU1Gz1V — Pigeon Air Patrol (@PigeonAir) March 14, 2016

I had to include this one because it makes me smile. The innovation isn’t the pigeon, they’ve been around a while. The invention is the tiny pigeon backpacks that have been designed for the pigeons, which contain sensors that can measure several pollutants.

Many say we shouldn’t rely too much on the data captured by these sensors though as tests in the lab revealed they were vulnerable to giving artificial readings . But with these monitoring sensors getting smaller and more accurate all the time maybe pigeon air will take off……sorry.

12) Capturing pollution to use as ink

Air-Ink from Graviky Labs is the first ink to be made entirely from air pollution.

The Labs use their patented KAALINK technology which captures particulates from the air. In fact they claim the unit can capture 99% of particulate matter pollution.

KAALINK is designed to fit diesel generators, car tailpipes or fossil fuel chimney stacks, capturing the pollutant before it can get into the ambient air. This particulate matter is stored in the unit and can then be used safely as ink in various art projects.

Just 25 hours of driving can produce 1.5 litres of ink! This is cool, but also shows you just how much particulate matter is leaving our car exhausts every day!

13) Clean cookstoves

It isn’t just outdoor air pollution that is damaging people’s health. Indoor air pollution is also a big concern. And this concern is highest in less economically developed countries, where the use of cookstoves or open fires indoors is still very common. It is still one of the top five health risks in developing countries.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is led by the United Nations Foundation and hopes to bring clean cookstoves to households, saving lives, empowering women and tackling other environmental issues.

Open fires and old fashioned cookstoves are extremely inefficient with only a small amount of the energy generated from burning the fuel actually going into cooking the food. So the main way that clean cookstoves work is by being much more efficient, producing much less smoke in the process.

Fuel is raised up off the ground on a metal grate, allowing a flow of air underneath into a well-insulated chamber. This means much more of the energy from the fuel is used for cooking. This can then be attached to a small chimney which maintains the air flow and stops the dangerous air pollutants getting trapped in the home.

The key, of course, is to create a market where these stoves are affordable and with prices now down to around $25 charities can afford to donate them to many areas.

14) Smart parking and traffic management

As I’ve mentioned already, cars driving around cities and stuck in congestion are major contributors to air pollution. So before all cars are electric and automated and can do all the thinking for us. We must make the most of the technology we have now and make traffic move around cities more efficiently.

With parking spaces at a premium in cities, this can leave many cars circling around the block or idling on the side of the road waiting for a parking space to appear.

This has been trialed in San Francisco, with the SFPark initiative helping drivers find vacant spaces. Since launching the initiative, the time taken to find a space decreased by 43%, resulting in estimated emission decreases of 30% whilst also decreasing overall traffic volume on the streets.

15) Giant smog sprinklers

Not the most cutting-edge innovation on this list but it does a job. In China, Yu Shaocai proposed the idea of using giant water sprinklers to spray water into the air. This water acts in the same way that raindrops would; by attaching to particles of particulate matter in the smog, causing them to fall to the ground in a process known as ‘wet deposition’.

The idea is to attach the giant sprinklers to the tops of buildings and skyscrapers in the middle of polluted cities.

The jury is still out on the environmental impact of all the water required to perform this though. It feels like very much a last gasp effort to remove pollution (that’s why it’s near the bottom of this list).

16) Smog busting drones

As well as using water vapour to tackle air pollution and smog. The Chinese government also wants to use certain chemicals to ‘freeze’ air pollution particles making them fall to the ground.

But they have to get these chemicals into the atmosphere where the pollutants are and so to do this they have come up with the idea of a ‘smog busting drone’.

The state-owned aviation industry has developed a drone that is attached to a parachute. The idea of using automated drones is because they are not only much cheaper than using piloted aircraft to carry out the operation, but they are also much safer, with visibility in some of the worst polluted areas being very bad indeed.

The drones have started testing in some of the most heavily polluted areas, such as around airports where air pollution is so bad pilots now have to carry out tests for ‘blind landings’!

17) Air filtering bus

At the end of last year, UK transport company Go-Ahead launched a new bus. But this wasn’t any old bus. It was a special bus fitted with a rooftop filter that filters the air as it drives along.

The filter system on the roof works by trapping particulate matter as the bus drives around and then blowing out clean air behind it.

The company want to promote the increased use of buses as not just a solution to congestion by reducing the need for as many cars. But also as a mobile filter doubling the benefits.

As much as we love innovation and disruption on this blog, innovative ways to reduce air pollution are of course only part of the solution.

For us to see a significant reduction in air pollution in our cities we need to be looking at measures such as banning most cars to reduce congestion or using renewable energy rather than burning coals and other fossil fuels nearby.

But whilst we aim to tackle pollution at source, there is nothing wrong with a bit of disruptive innovation to help us breath cleaner air in the meantime.

1 L. Chen, C. Liu, R.Zou, M.Yang, Z.Zhang, Environ. Pollut. 208, 198 (2016).

Rob Wreglesworth

Rob is the head writer at Innovate Eco sharing knowledge and passion cultivated over 10 years working in the Environmental Sector. He is on a mission to build a community of people that are passionate about solving environmental problems.

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how to reduce air pollution in a city

By 2050, Phoenix will achieve a level of air quality that is healthy for humans and the natural environment. This includes out performing all federal standards and achieving a visibility index of good or excellent on 90% of days or more.  (Depending on the year, Phoenix currently achieves this good or excellent visibility rating on 70%-80 of days.)

​ What are we doing now?

The City of Phoenix is strongly committed to reducing air pollution and protecting publi​c health. The city implements a wide range of air quality programs to reduce ozone and particulate pollution (dust and smoke).

Transit, light rail, bikeways, and pedestrian-friendly development reduce vehicle emissions and promote land use planning and urban designs for a more sustainable environment. 

The city's dust control program includes asphalt treatments for roads, shoulders, alleys and city-owned parking lots. Trespass prevention and dust controls for undeveloped parks and other vacant land reduce dust emissions.  In addition, more than 200 city staff are trained each year in dust control methods for city operations to meet stringent rules adopted by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. 

​Check out the latest TV coverage on Clean Air in Phoenix.

Inger Andersen posing for a picture.

how to reduce air pollution in a city

These five cities are taking aim at air pollution

Around the world, more than 90 per cent of people breathe in air that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers potentially harmful.

While the source of air pollution varies – some come from vehicle emissions, some from power plants, some from crop burning – the outcome is the same: airborne contaminants are a dire threat to human health.

Every year, they cause about 7 million premature deaths from ailments such as stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer. Many air pollutants, like carbon dioxide, are also potent greenhouse gases that feed climate change.

That has made it all the more important for cities to improve their air quality, said Maria Neira, the Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health with the WHO.

“We need to reconsider the way we consume resources and the way our cities are built. This is at the heart of the future development of our society.”

Many urban areas are beginning to do exactly that. From implementing ultra-low emissions zones to banning cars, here are five cities that are taking innovative steps to clean their air.

1. Paris, France

Bike lanes in Paris.

The French capital has barred the most polluting vehicles from entering the city centre, banished cars from the Seine River quayside and reclaimed road space for trees and pedestrians.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials recorded a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide — a pollutant emitted by vehicles; particulate matter— a potential cause of respiratory disease; and carbon dioxide. To solidify those gains, and give coronavirus-wary residents an alternative to driving, the city also expanded its network of bike lanes. Now, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is aiming to transform Paris into “a walkable city”, where the needs of residents can be met within a 15-minute stroll.

“Air pollution has been improved a lot in Paris,” said Karine Leger, director-general of Airparif, an organization that monitors air quality. “Since there is a link between COVID-19 and air pollution, improving air quality will also be a focal point in the attractiveness of the city for both tourism and economic activities in coming years.”  

2. Seoul, Republic of Korea

Seoul Yeouido hanriver park

Korea has made headlines for its state-of-the-art campaign against air pollution. 5G-enabled autonomous robots scan industrial complexes to monitor air quality, while a satellite monitoring system offers real-time air quality data to the public.

City leaders have also announced plans to create the first “wind path forest” in Seoul, planting trees close together along rivers and roads to channel air into the city centre. The forest is expected to absorb particulate matter and bathe downtown Seoul in cooling breezes. The city has already transformed an abandoned viaduct above Seoul’s main railway station into an elevated arboretum.

By 2030 it hopes to increase green space by 30 per cent and make sustainable modes of transport, such as walking, biking, and public transportation, account for 80 per cent of trips.

3. New York City, United States of America

New York City

The concrete jungle of New York City is going green. In an effort to improve air quality, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $1.4 billion in funding for renewable energy projects, including solar plants and wind farms, which will power 430,000 homes. It is the largest single commitment to renewable energy by a state in American history. The projects, which are expected to be in use by 2022, will reduce carbon emissions by 1.6 million metric tons, equivalent to taking 340,000 cars off the road.

In another first for the country, a congestion charge will be introduced for drivers in the Manhattan area. Cars passing by checkpoints in the city’s Midtown area will be charged $10-15. As well as aiming to reduce emissions by keeping cars off the road, the initiative is expected to raise $15 billion that will be reinvested in the public transport system.

4. Bogota, Colombia

South Mountains, Bogota

With the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, Bogota— like other cities— saw a dramatic drop in air pollution. Encouraged by this, the city has set out a series of initiatives to try to clean up its transport sector permanently, which Mayor Claudia López says is responsible for 70% of Bogotá’s air pollution. The city has plans to impose strict emissions standards on trucks and other heavy-polluting vehicles; develop a fully electric metro rail system capable of transporting its 8 million residents, and add an additional 60 kilometres to the existing 550 km bicycle paths. Since March 2020, the city has added 80 km, which the mayor says are being used constantly.

“We’re going to take advantage of the fact that the pandemic allowed us to speed up this agenda of clean air and pursue different modes of clean and green transportation,” said López.

5. Accra, Ghana


Accra, Ghana, became the first African city to join the BreatheLife campaign , a joint campaign by WHO, UN Environment Programme, World Bank and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, to mobilize cities to act on air pollution.

The city is also part of the pilot of the WHO-Urban Health Initiative. Through it, the Ghana Health Services and the WHO work to encourage a switch from coal-based cookstoves to ones powered by gas or electricity in order to protect mothers and children from household smoke. They also run a sensitization initiative on the health impact of burning waste. According to WHO, if all open waste burning was stopped by 2030, 120 premature deaths could be avoided yearly.

“In our part of the world, air pollution is not prioritized as a health concern – even in the way we cook,” said the Mayor of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah. “But the statistics are so staggering that we have to wake people up to take action. We have to talk about it loudly so that it becomes part of our discourse in the urban political space.”

Every year, on 7 September, the world celebrates the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies . The day aims to raise awareness and facilitate actions to improve air quality. It is a global call to find new ways of doing things, to reduce the amount of air pollution we cause, and ensure that everyone, everywhere can enjoy their right to breathe clean air. The theme of the second annual International Day of Clear Air for blue skies, facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet."

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how to reduce air pollution in a city

Polluting factory. Pixabay

Cities worldwide understand the health problems associated with living in highly polluted environments and enact various policies to reduce the risk. However, everyone has a responsibility to reduce air pollution in their living environments.

Turn Off Your Vehicle Engine

An idling engine consumes a lot of energy and creates a hot spot for air pollution. Cities know that huge trucks and buses release too many toxic substances into the air when their engines are idle. Many of them have enacted anti-idling laws to help them to deal with the situation.

New York City (NYC) has been implementing this policy. It criminalized the practice of allowing vehicles’ engines to idle for more than three minutes while stopping, waiting for something, or parking in 2009. This law is stricter near learning institutions in NYC. It allows motorists no more than one minute to switch off their engines.

New York introduced ambulances featuring idle reduction technology that detects and reports suspects for legal action. However, the law permits anyone to report non-compliant vehicles to the authorities.

Use Public Transport

Many cities are also tackling emissions by enacting policies that encourage public transport but restrict car ownership. Some of the policies can also discourage motorists from accessing the city center. This is essential for reducing pollution and making public administration easy.

Here are some of the policies that promote the restrict car ownership and promote the use of public transport:

Freiburg is known as one of the cities that has been implementing this strategy for years. Its laws prohibit institutions and individuals from building parking areas on private land. Motorists have to park their cars in costly community-owned spaces.

The city, in return, offers reduced public transport rates and cheaper housing.

Los Angeles launched a demand-based parking system in 2012. It adjusts prices based on occupancy data.

Milan became the fifth city to introduce a congestion charge in its central business district in 2012. This coincided with falling congestion in the city.

From this, we can see that this is a tactic that you can adopt whether your city has similar laws or not.

Invest in Infrastructure to Improve the Experience of Cyclists and pedestrians

how to reduce air pollution in a city

Cyclist to the market. Source

In the city of Copenhagen, you find policies such as:

Due to these initiatives, cycling is one of the most preferred modes of transport in Copenhagen. Workers and students make approximately 41 percent of trips to and from the city by bike.

Copenhagen values cycling more than that. Statistics indicate that 62% of these people commune to study and work by bike.

Many cities also believe that they can reduce air pollution by creating more room for pedestrians and cyclists on the road. Barcelona allows more cycling and crafts pedestrian-friendly laws to develop incentives for road users to switch from using cars.

Make the City Green

These cities create green roofs, green belts, and parks since they play an essential role in their success.

Dresden, the second-largest city on the River Elbe, has set up special walls where they plant moss to clean the air. One of the walls is designed to filter as many particulates as 200 trees.

These green spaces can do the following:

Promote E-Mobility

how to reduce air pollution in a city

Electric cars Pixabay

Over 70% of cars sold in Norway in 2020 were electric. The government expects it will stop selling vehicles with diesel and gasoline engines by 2025. Being the major cities in Norway, Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim benefit from the nations’ e-mobility laws.

Oslo is currently known across the world as the biggest per-capita market for EVs. More than 30% of new cars sold in the city alone in 2015 and 2016 were plug-in hybrids.

The Norwegian government’s generous incentives since 2009 have significantly contributed to the growing demand for green vehicles throughout Oslo. They have made owning and operating EV cheaper than the air-polluting alternatives.

Some of the environment-friendly policies are:

The good news is that other cities are learning from Oslo.

Oslo is targeting 2025 as the deadline when all new cars will be zero-emission. London has set 2040 for the same.

California has not been left behind. It has been boosting the electric vehicle market through shared purchasing power. In 2017, California residents bought 350,000 EVs, close to half of all zero-emission vehicles in the United States.

With the increasing demand for zero-emission and technology availability, many nations will continue to exploit the technology to reduce air pollution in their respective cities.

Reduce Industrial Emissions

Most governments are mindful of this fact and are introducing the following measures to protect human health:

Criminalize and Regulate the Burning of Garbage

When people burn garbage in cities, they increase the amount of carbon in the air. This is dangerous to our environment and health. In Minnesota and other places, it’s a criminal offense.

Other cities have also outlawed the practice of burning garbage using:

Restrict Having Campfires in the City

Toxic gases coming from campfires can cause health complications for thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. This is often a significant concern whenever the weather is stagnant.

Some cities allow people to abide by specific principles when having campfires.

Some of the common recommended conditions are:

Support Champions for Clean Air

Cities are investing more in encouraging people to become champions for clean air. These champions equip local businesses, city offices, and schools with the knowledge and skills they require to participate in reducing air pollution.

Champions of clean air should also report their concerns to the city leadership and collaborate with environmental conservation agencies. Besides, they need to share with others their reasons for sparing time to engage in environmental conservation initiatives.

Recycle and Reuse

The high pollution density in cities can cause a serious waste management problem. If an average American can generate more than four pounds of trash per day, each city in the nation generates too much per year.

how to reduce air pollution in a city

Handmade envelope near a pen and pair of scissors. Source

Cities are recycling some of their used items to create space in landfills. For example, they turn too old aluminum and steel utensils and car tires into raw materials and reuse them to manufacture new materials in demand.

Others encourage households to reuse some old items. This method is simple as it doesn’t require the use of chemicals to treat the products. Families in your city can use their empty cooking fat containers to store salt and contribute towards environmental conservation without spending a lot of time or money.

Landfills generate dangerous gases like methane. So, it’s most welcome for individuals and families to reduce them by reusing and recycling items .

Concluding Ways to Reduce Air Pollution in Cities

There you have it. All cities are working hard to reduce air pollution, and a surprising amount of air pollution starts right at home. Everyone should be part of the solution. When your cities enact laws regulating the ownership of cars, use of fuel, production of commercial and industrial wastes, it is in the best interest of us to support the environment-friendly policies. However, you can also do more by borrowing nice ideas from other cities.

How to Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution

Last Updated: February 28, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Carbonfund.org . Carbonfund.org is a Carbon Offset and Environmental Education Organization based in New York. Carbonfund.org is leading the fight against climate change, making it easy and affordable for any individual, business, or organization to reduce and offset their climate impact and hasten the transition to a clean energy future. Carbonfund.org achieves its goals through climate change education, carbon offsets and reductions, and public outreach. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 12 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 441,756 times.

Smog now darkens the sky in cities the world over, and the World Health Organization estimates that 90% of people breathe polluted air. [1] X Research source Pollutants are hazardous to human and environmental health. So how can you personally clean up the air? You might be surprised to learn how much your efforts can help. Keep reading to learn actions you can take to reduce your contribution.

Rethinking Transportation

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Changing Buying Habits

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Conserving Energy

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Getting Involved

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If you want to take action to reduce air pollution, there are several small steps you can take in your home and at work to help out. Car-related issues, from manufacturing to gasoline, are some of the biggest contributors to air pollution, so try reducing your car use by carpooling, taking public transportation, or walking or biking. Another way to help reduce air pollution is to conserve energy. Heating water requires a lot of energy, so try taking shorter showers and skipping baths. You can also use the cool setting on your washer. Turning off lights when you leave a room, turning the TV off when you’re not watching, and unplugging your appliances when you’re not using them are other simple ways to save electricity and reduce air pollution. To learn how to compost to help combat air pollution, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Let’s Clear the Air: 5 Green Innovations Improving Air Quality in Mexico City

air quality in Mexico City

5 Green Innovations Improving Air Quality in Mexico City

While geographical and ecological challenges occasionally cloud efforts to achieve better air quality in Mexico City, public and private organizations, including the government, have shown openness to innovative solutions. This is not for nothing: the changes have earned attention as models for other pollution-challenged countries like India. However, more consistency and dedication to green innovation is needed to make this vibrant and iconic “city of palaces” a palace not just for tourists, but for those who call it home.

– Andrea Kruger Photo: Flickr

“The Borgen Project is an incredible nonprofit organization that is addressing poverty and hunger and working towards ending them.”

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What you can do about air pollution

Green lawn chairs face smoky fire pit in backyard

There are many small, but critical sources of air pollution in our homes and neighborhoods. Such sources — vehicles, construction equipment, lawn mowers, dry cleaners, backyard fires, and auto-body shops — are located where we live and work. Total emissions from these smaller but widespread sources are significantly greater than all the industrial sources in the state combined.

To prevent pollution from these sources, the MPCA provides education, guidance, and incentives for reducing air pollution. We have programs for businesses, cities, nonprofits, and communities that address a range of environmental problems, including air quality.

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Air Pollution Solutions

While air pollution is a serious problem, it is a problem that we can solve! In the United States and around the world, people are taking action to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

The Clean Air Act: How Laws Can Help Clean Up the Air

Creating policies and passing laws to restrict air pollution has been an important step toward improving air quality. In 1970, fueled by persistent visible smog in many U.S. cities and industrial areas and an increase in health problems caused by air pollution, the Clean Air Act paved the way for numerous efforts to improve air quality in the United States. The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set air quality standards for several hazardous air pollutants reported in the Air Quality Index (AQI) , requires states to have a plan to address air pollution and emissions reduction, and also addresses problems such as acid rain, ozone holes, and greenhouse gas pollution which is causing the climate to warm.

Since the Clean Air Act was passed:

Source: EPA

Most industrialized countries have laws and regulations about air quality. The United Kingdom first passed its Clean Air Act in 1956 following a deadly smog event that killed many London residents. In China, where rapid industrial and urban growth in recent decades resulted in a sharp decrease in air quality, numerous laws about air pollution have been passed, including a frequently updated five-year national plan to meet target reductions in air pollution.

It is important to note that while laws and regulations are helping, the effects of air pollution are still apparent. The decline of toxic air pollutants and health improvements are welcome changes, yet the growing threat of climate change due to fossil fuel emissions remains a problem that still needs to be solved.

There Are Many Solutions to Air Pollution

In order to improve air quality and slow climate warming, change needs to happen on a national and global scale. However, actions at the individual and community level are also important.

This is an illustration showing ways that you can help reduce air pollution: wind turbines are a source of renewable energy; drive low pollution vehicles; choose alternative transportation modes, such as walking, riding the bus, or riding a bicycle; refueling in the evening; and around the house choose low VOC products, use less energy, forgo the fire, and mow the grass in the evening.

Check out the EPA's website to learn more about actions you can take to reduce air pollution.

how to reduce air pollution in a city

Taking control of air pollution in Mexico city

In 1992, the United Nations described Mexico City’s air as the most polluted on the planet. Six years later, that air earned Mexico the reputation of “the most dangerous city in the world for children” — a reputation Mexico has been working hard to improve. But despite more than a decade of stringent pollution control measures, a haze hangs over the city most days, obscuring the surrounding snow-capped mountains and endangering the health of its inhabitants.

Many factors have contributed to this situation: industrial growth, a population boom (from three million in 1950 to some 20 million today), and the proliferation of vehicles. More than 3.5 million vehicles — 30% of them more than 20 years old — now ply the city streets.

Mexico city’s geographic disadvantage

Geography conspires with human activity to produce a poisonous scenario. Located in the crater of an extinct volcano, Mexico City is about 2,240 metres above sea level. The lower atmospheric oxygen levels at this altitude cause incomplete fuel combustion in engines and higher emissions of carbon monoxide and other compounds. Intense sunlight turns these into higher than normal smog levels. In turn, the smog prevents the sun from heating the atmosphere enough to penetrate the inversion layer blanketing the city.

Solving this problem has been a priority of the Metropolitan Environmental Commission. Recent efforts to curb emissions have been relatively successful. In the 1990s, for instance, the government introduced air quality improvement programs — PIICA and PROAIRE — that include a rotating one-weekday ban on private car use. On days of high pollution, the ban extends to every second day and some manufacturing activities are curtailed. In addition, car owners must have their vehicles certified every six months. But if lead, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide are now under control, pollution levels of other contaminants are still far above air quality standards.

A closer look at pollution

When PROAIRE concluded in 2000, environmental authorities undertook a longer, ambitious air quality improvement program — PROAIRE 2002-2010. However, accurate measures were needed to determine how improving air quality would improve health and reduce health expenditures so that new pollution control strategies could be evaluated. A number of questions also needed to be answered about the relationship between the city’s inhabitants and air pollution: How do people perceive pollution? How does it affect them? What are they willing to do or pay for cleaner air? How can they be motivated to help solve it? 

The Mexico City Government set out to answer these questions, with support from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Netherlands Trust Fund, through the World Bank and the Pan American Health Organization.

Examining the impact on health

The researchers focused on health hazards posed by the most serious pollutants: PM10 and ozone. PM10 comes from various sources, including road construction and dust, diesel trucks and buses, forest fires, and the open-air burning of refuse. Both pollutants can irritate eyes, cause or aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular ailments, and lead to premature death.

“It’s not air pollution that kills people but some people die sooner than they would otherwise,” says biologist Roberto Muñoz Cruz, sub-director of information and analysis at Mexico City’s atmospheric monitoring system, part of the Secretaria del Medio Ambiente. The Secretaria coordinated the project in collaboration with the National Centre for Environmental Health, the non-governmental organization GRECO, and the Women’s Institute of Mexico City.

Researchers from eight academic, governmental, donor, and non-governmental organizations in Holland, Mexico, and the US contributed to national and international health studies on ozone and PM10. Surveys also determined people’s perceptions of the pollution problem.

A population exposure model was then developed, using data from Mexico’s sophisticated air monitoring network. The study estimated that pollution levels in 2010 will be much the same as in the late 1990s when ozone levels exceeded standards on almost 90% of days and PM10 exceeded standards on 30-50% of days.

The costs of pollution

Earlier efforts to assess the costs of pollution in Mexico City had focused on direct medical costs such as medicines and hospital visits and on productivity losses. This study, however, sought to provide a more comprehensive picture. A transdisciplinary research team assessed a range of health benefits and “savings,” including people’s willingness to pay for better health and a potentially longer life. Communications and social participation specialists worked to understand peoples’ perceptions and assess indirect costs because, as Muñoz explains, “not only do people who get sick lose days from work, but also mothers who stay home to take care of the children who get sick.”

The research concluded that reducing PM10 would yield the greatest health and financial benefits. Reducing both ozone and PM10 by just 10% would result in average “savings” of US $760 million a year. In human terms that would translate into 33,287 fewer emergency room visits in 2010 and 4,188 fewer hospital admissions for respiratory distress. In addition, it would lead to 266 fewer infant deaths a year.

This detailed information provided the scientific underpinning of PROAIRE 2002-2010, which calls for almost US $15 billion of public and private investments in air quality improvement projects.

Seeking solutions

If people largely cause air pollution, they must also be involved in cleaning it up. Making people part of the solution obviously requires new training and information programs. This phase of the project, carried out through the Women’s Institute, targeted the women who come to the Integrated Women Support Centres, as well as local political and social leaders. Both groups were chosen because of their spheres of influence, explains Muñoz.

The topics covered were defined in collaboration with community members who were not only interested in quality control but also in improving their social and economic situation, in equitable sharing of responsibilities, and in creating networks for communities to work together. Empowering women to foster social and political changes was a key objective, as was increasing recognition of their decision-making role in the family and community.

Community participation

Promoting community capacity to solve problems together was a new endeavour for the government, says Muñoz. Six areas were chosen to test the training program: three poor communities in an outlying mountainous region, and three more centrally located communities where green spaces have given way to concrete. Working with researchers from the project’s first two modules and in collaboration with members of the women’s centres, the Women’s Institute technicians translated the technical data into language and actions that everyone could easily understand.

Through games and participatory activities, promoters helped forge a sense of community. Workshops then helped participants understand the issues, identify community problems and needs, and determine their role in helping solve them. Attention was given to distinguishing the roles of men and women in preserving both environment and health, in the home and in the neighbourhood.

And because community participation is tied to obtaining immediate benefits, the issue of sustainable consumption was added to motivate better practices and lifestyles, explains Muñoz — how to save money by using environmentally friendly products, alternative technologies and fuels, and bulk purchasing, for example.

Finally, individual and collective actions were defined and a support network created to help community members at higher risk — children and the elderly, or those with chronic diseases. Throughout, the main message was “This is preventable. You can take action.”

There is little doubt that this project has helped shape Mexico City’s long-term air quality policy and programs. And although this type of joint initiative is new, says Muñoz, it bodes well for intergovernmental cooperation to attack the problem. It is also a step forward in developing ways to examine the entire cycle and involve populations.

What do Mexicans think? Don’t blame me!

The original PROAIRE programs recognized that people must be involved in any solution and included various formal and informal programs to inform people about the problem and invite them to action. “It recognized that a cultural change was needed to modify the society-city-environment relation,” says Muñoz.

But in a community as large, as socially and culturally diverse as Mexico City, that proved no easy task. As questionnaires administered by the research team to close to 4,000 residents in all sectors or delegations of the city showed, close to 30% believe the government’s motives in seeking to reduce air pollution to be self-serving. More than 30% also think that the government’s online air quality reports are false.

In fact, says Muñoz, “we found that most people don’t even consult the official information.” They base their perceptions on what they experience: breathing in car exhaust in narrow, clogged, downtown streets, for instance. “If people see the mountains, they say it’s a good day. If they can’t, they say pollution is high.”

Close to 40% could not identify any of the government programs to improve air quality. The remainder considered them necessary evils — restrictions rather than preventive measures.

Equally distressing, although everyone recognizes the pollution problem, “people don’t see their responsibility for it,” says Muñoz. A high percentage blame factories. A smaller number point to vehicle exhaust, which, as Borja points out, is the source of 75% of emissions. “They say that the problem is in other areas — in the northwest, in the downtown, not where I live,” adds Roberto Muñoz. “Other people are mainly responsible: my neighbours, maybe, but not me, not my car. My family and lifestyle are not to blame.”

And what do people do to cope with pollution? Usually nothing. What are they prepared to do? Very little. And this, says Muñoz, despite the fact that almost all recognize that air pollution is harmful to health and is particularly hazardous for children.

Focus groups discussions with men and women at all age levels confirmed that perceptions of the pollution problem were largely subjective. They also confirmed that most are not willing to allocate time or money — or to sacrifice comfort — to alleviate the problem. “It seems that the participation of society is limited to complying with programs,” says Muñoz.

This, he says, clearly points to the need for better communication about government programs’ successes in improving air quality. Better communication of risks is also needed. “It’s clear that information needs to be targeted to individual groups — drivers, women, children,” he says. “People need information in a succinct form, they need a consistent message, over a long period.”

Read more results and outputs from this project in the  IDRC Digital Library . 

Michelle Hibler is a writer in IDRC’s Communications Division.

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Dyson air quality backpacks set to help Australians breathe easier, as ‘Breathe Melbourne’ study kicks off

Scientists believe these one-of-a-kind Dyson backpacks being trialled by schoolkids in Melbourne could help solve a massive health problem.

Rebecca Borg

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Schoolchildren in Melbourne’s inner west are paving the way towards a healthier future one backpack at a time thanks to a new initiative helping the city breathe easier.

In a Melbourne first, over 300 children from six primary schools will be sporting one-of-a-kind bags that double up as air quality readers to help scientists explore ways to reduce air pollution.

It’s all part of the study “Breathe Melbourne” where children will become air quality scientists by collecting valuable data while on their way to and from the classroom.

Children are changing how they get to school as a result of the study.

Schools in the council areas of Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay were specifically chosen to be involved in the research due to the high air pollution levels and asthma rates.

This is because of the locations’ industrial history, proximity to the Port of Melbourne and the excessive amount of diesel-fuelled vehicles on surrounding roads, namely trucks.

Consequently, Professor Lou Irving from the Royal Melbourne Hospital says the area has become a “hotspot for active asthma” with more inner west children presenting to hospitals with the lung condition compared to most other areas of Australia.

“The Breathe Melbourne Study is very important because it focuses on a group of children who we know are already at risk because of poor air quality, and it’s aimed at helping to reduce the risk, as well as aiding the management of asthma symptoms.“

Appliance giant Dyson and the Victorian State Government have joined forces with Deakin University to bring the study to life, which will see the schoolchildren and some of their teachers wearing the air quality backpacks over a period of four days between mid-March and the end of May.

Suburbs in the city’s inner west have the highest air pollution levels. Picture: Ian Currie/NCA NewsWire

Dyson engineer and one of the masterminds behind the backpack, James Shale, explained how the air quality readers inside the bag worked, comparing it to the brand’s air purifiers.

In layman’s terms, a small fan within the backpack directs outside air through an opening towards the sensors, which then measures the air particles and volume of carbon dioxide.

A GPS tracker is also connected to the bag which allows experts to see what areas have more air pollution.

“(The bag also) contains a power pack, insulated foam on sensors and a lock on the front section of the backpack so kids don’t spill juice on it,” Mr Shale explained.

Meanwhile, the second section of the bag acts as a functional space so children can pack the items they need for school.

Data from the sensors is then analysed by researchers at Deakin University who will work with participating students to determine ways to improve the air they breathe.

A pilot study with students from Kingsville Primary School showed children willingly changed their walking routes and the ways they got to school following the experiment as they found healthier alternatives.

Additionally, over 31 per cent of students who participated in a similar study in London in 2019 said they would change the way they commuted to school.

Children in Melbourne's inner west are more prone to asthma due to the area's air conditions.

While the study will educate children and develop their awareness around air pollution, lead researcher, Dr Kate Lycett ultimately hopes the data collected will persuade policy makers to take action.

“We have a lot of dirty fuel in Australia compared to other parts of the world and we need to obviously incentivise more electric vehicles, all those types of things … I think there’s a lot at the policy level and some of that is starting to happen,” Dr Lycett said.

“But personally, what I would love to do is get some funding so we could see what happens in two years to go back and do the study again and see how it compares. That would be a huge deal.”

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In addition to “Breathe Melbourne”, two schools will also be participating in the “Idle Off” pilot project which seeks to educate drivers on the risks of idling and encourage them to turn their engines off when they’re not using the car.

“All children have the right to clean air … your postcode should not determine the quality of air you breathe,” Dr Lycett said.

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Meteorologists are warning of another week of unseasonal weather across the country, as Aussies brace for heatwaves, flooding and even snow.

A major election promise from Anthony Albanese hangs in the balance as the Greens continue to hold the government to ransom.

Isolated top end towns are becoming increasingly desperate for food supplies with flooding closing a major outback road.

how to reduce air pollution in a city

how to reduce air pollution in a city

how to reduce air pollution in a city

10 Ways To Reduce Air Pollution Effectively

10 ways how to reduce air pollution effectively

A mixture of various gasses such as Nitrogen, Oxygen, Helium, Hydrogen, Argon, etc. is known as air. Atmospheric motions maintain the uniformity of these gasses. Burning waste and fossil fuels, vehicle emissions, construction and demolition, waste, landfills, and many more factors can hamper the uniformity of the air. When the levels of these gasses exceed the desired limit, the air gets polluted and this is known as air pollution. There are so many ways that we can discuss how to reduce air pollution. Millions of people die every year because of air pollution . The air we breathe every day has many toxic and dangerous pollutants. Everyone should be responsible to reduce air pollution. Let’s discuss the 10 ways how to reduce air pollution.

What Are 10 Ways to Reduce Air Pollution?

1. use of public transport:.

Use of public transport to avoid pollution

Use Public Transportation to Reduce Air Pollution. Facts and figures don’t lie — our transportation needs produce 30% of all carbon dioxide gas emissions. We can use public buses instead of using private cars or vehicles. Let’s say a bus can carry 40 passengers at once; these 40 passengers can reduce the emissions of 40 private vehicles by using one public vehicle instead. Many public vehicles run on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). CNG consists of a very large amount of methane (CH₄). CH₄ burns cleaner than some other fuels, reducing ash emissions. As a result, it reduces the number of fine particles in the air.

The introduction of new technology like E-Busses helps in reducing emissions, and therefore, air pollution. Traffic congestion produces high amounts of soot and carbon monoxide, which contributes to poor air quality. Using public transportation reduces pollution levels, as well as traffic jams on the road.

This is one of the 10 major ways through which we can reduce air pollution. .

2. Buy Energy Efficient Vehicles Like Electric:

buy energy efficient vehicles like electric

When purchasing a vehicle, consider fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. E-vehicles are much more efficient, and when compared to the price of energy. Charging an e-vehicle is less expensive than filling up liquid fuel for your travel needs. Using renewable sources of energy can enhance using e-vehicles, making them environmentally beneficial.

Since e-vehicles have fewer moving parts than petrol and diesel-burning engines, they require less maintenance. As a result, the annual cost of operating an e-car is much lower. Electric automobiles have lower licensing fees and road taxes than gasoline-powered automobiles.

Petrol and diesel- cars release toxic air pollutants which add to air pollution levels. Major pollutants produced by gasoline-powered cars include:

3. Consider “Going Green”:

going green practices to reduce air pollution

“ Going Green ” means practicing an environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible lifestyle as well as making decisions to help protect the environment and sustain natural resources. T hese campaigns entail choosing to live a sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyle. It helps in minimizing pollutants that enter the soil, waterways, and air. Going green minimizes air pollution and environmental pollutants. Going green can impact our body’s immunity to fight infections and expose us to infections and severe illnesses. Another benefit of going green is that it cuts the pollution levels that are released into the air and therefore into the environment. Going green can help your office/home/school become a healthier place. This can have a major influence on staff time and result in fewer employees/staff/students taking sick leave.

It reduces the chances of getting nervous or anxiety problems in humans. Going green, being one of the 10 ways to reduce air pollution; contributes to the preservation of forests, wildlife habitats, and the environment.

Further environmental advantages of going green include better air quality, better health, and less wastage. Recycling and using superior materials for construction and daily life minimize landfill trash as plastic, for instance, is non-biodegradable.

4. Plant a Garden:

plant a garden and trees

Planting trees will help us get enough fresh air we need. Tress enhance air quality in many ways: they consume carbon dioxide and produce O2 via photosynthesis. They can actively collect pollutants on the exterior walls of leaves and the root system of the plant.

Increasing greenery is one of the most basic techniques to reduce the impacts of air pollution. Growing trees, bushes, an organic farm, indoor plants, etc. help us in reducing air pollution. They help to remove pollutants from the air. Plants help people concentrate better at home and work.

All living creatures require O2 for the respiration process. It also helps to preserve the ozone layer. Ozone layer protects Earth’s ecosystem from harmful UV radiation. That is why we must grow more trees and plants. Growing trees is said to be one of the most crucial steps among these 10 ways to reduce the air pollution.

5. Turn Off Lights When Not in Use:

turn off lights when not in use

Don’t waste energy and money. Be very careful and responsible to turn off lights at home when you or your family members are not at home or the lights are not in use.

Electricity generation plants employ fossil fuels, which contribute significantly to air pollution. Save a lot of energy by cutting electricity consumption, by shutting off lights whenever you leave a room.

Since light bulbs are the least productive type of illumination, switch them off when you are not using them. Only about 10% of the power is converted, which they require in lighting, while 90% is converted to heat. Switching off the light bulbs will also make a room cooler, which is incredibly useful in the summers.

6. Avoid Plastic Bags:

avoid plastic bags

Because they are very hard to decompose. Plastic bags are non-biodegradable. That means they cannot easily degrade over time. Dumping plastic waste in water bodies leads to the endangerment of various aquatic animals. These animals can include sea turtles, fish, etc. These aquatic animals eat plastic waste that can lead to suffocation or, can enter their digestive system. Digesting plastic bags is not easy; they are toxic and can lead to the deaths of marine life.

Animals such as cows can easily eat plastic bags while grazing. Multiple experiments have shown that cows that consume plastics eventually quit consuming their normal meal. Plastic harms their internal organs and accumulates inside their bodies. They gradually can’t generate milk, and even if they can, it’s tainted with dangerous compounds like carcinogens.

Proper disposal techniques should be used for plastic bags. Carry your bags instead of asking for plastic bags at shops. Make the habit of using jute or paper bags. .

7. Make use of Solar Energy:

make use of solar energy

Solar power can save a ton of energy for you and, on top of that, it could also end up saving you a  lot of cash in the long run as well. Solar energy, being a sustainable source of energy, plays a crucial role in cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses. Furthermore, dealing with climate change is crucial to preserving human and wildlife, and habitats. Solar energy can help enhance air quality and minimize water usage linked with energy production.

When we burn fossil fuels for the production of energy, there are three major air pollutants released into the air. These pollutants are Sulfur Dioxide, CO2, and NO2. Sulfur Dioxide is responsible for acid rain; carbon dioxide adds to the global warming and greenhouse effect; while NO2 is responsible for acid rain and smog both. Solar panels and electric cars are two innovations that will help in reducing air pollution. Solar energy is clean, renewable energy; that is a substitute way to generate electricity without polluting the air and the environment.

8 . Always Use Recyclable Products:

always use recyclable products

Buy recyclable products if you have access to them and the ability to choose them. Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle helps in cutting down solid waste generation. When we reuse a product, such as a water bottle, we will reduce the air pollution caused by burning the waste in landfills. Other harmful toxins that landfills emit are reduced as well.

Fabrication with recyclable objects saves hydropower while also reducing air and water pollution.

Four major reasons we should use recycling and recyclable products:

9. Quit Smoking:

quit smoking

Smoking is very hazardous to your health and the people around you. It leads to an increase in various disorders and early deaths than air pollution. This is entirely avoidable. Furthermore, medical problems caused by smoking appear at a younger age than chronic illnesses caused by air pollution.

Tobacco farming needs a larger area, water, chemicals, and workers, all of which are precious assets that could be used effectively. Closing tobacco manufacturing units are equal to removing more than 1 crore vehicles from the roads annually.

We can use smoking areas to reduce the effects of air pollution. A smoking area limits the range in which a person can smoke legally. As a result, the smoke’s effects are limited to a small space, aiding in the reduction of air pollution.

10. Educate Your Companions:

educate your companions about air pollution

Let the people around you know about how they can contribute to clean air initiatives and educate them about all of the different ways. Air pollution education fosters the knowledge and behaviors required to challenge our thinking, beliefs, and judgments about sustainable development. The world has transformed over the last century because of new technology and urbanization. Our wellness is linked to the natural environment around us. Therefore, it is critical to educate people and children about pollution and its effects on the environment.

People need environmental education to gain a stronger perspective on environmental challenges and the ability to provide knowledgeable conclusions.

Responsibilities as an individual :

Reducing air pollution is not the responsibility of an individual. Everyone should be very sensitive because millions of people are dying every year. You can meet people, discuss issues, and share ideas on different ways you can do to reduce air pollution. In today’s complex world, with hazardous chemicals in everything we buy, e-waste filling our landfills, and the exponential increase in gasoline-burning vehicles on the highways, the idea of being able to reduce air pollution is not easy to imagine.

Effects of poor air quality on Humans, Plants, and Animals

This polluted air can be harmful to humans, animals , flora, fauna, and the whole ecosystem. Therefore, we need to reduce air pollution and maintain healthy living conditions. Humans are the main reason behind increasing air pollution day by day. Other natural reasons behind the increasing levels of air pollution include forest fires, or wildfires, shifts in the wind patterns, the sun’s positioning, etc. Human activities influence air pollution concentrations to a great extent, so it becomes our duty to reduce air pollution.

Poor air quality affects humans and the environment. It can hamper-

So, these 10 ways to reduce air pollution should be practiced by everyone to live a healthy and sustainable life.

There are some preventive measures that you can control or reduce the air pollution for business organisations , individual houses and public areas by using some good air purifiers. Companies and business organisations must install air quality solutions for applications such as hotels , offices , restaurants , schools , airports , construction sites , and many other applications where emission control is required. This will help in curbing both indoor and outdoor emissions.

Also Read: How Air Pollution Affects Your Health

prana air 2nd gen n95 pollution mask

Author:  Gyane

Gyane is a digital marketer.

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Considering the havoc that pollution in the city is aiming at, our administration should take stricter measures. But the greater onus is on us to follow such rules.

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Air pollution in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last month.

Chiang Mai to hand out face masks as dust from fires hits hazardous levels

Thai authorities struggle to contain forest fires, a persistent cause of air pollution during the dry season

The Chiang Mai authorities in northern Thailand will hand out face masks to the public as the province struggles with dangerously high levels of air pollution caused by persistent forest fires.

The fires are an annual problem between the months of December and April, when farmers set light to their fields to clear the land ready for the next crop cycle.

The government has temporarily closed several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in north and western regions because of the fires, and it is expected that cloud-seeding will be used from Saturday in some areas, Thai PBS reported.

Helicopters have dropped water on fires in Kanchanaburi in west Thailand but with little success because of the dry weather conditions.

In Chiang Mai, authorities sprayed water mist along the roads to reduce dust levels and collected leaves to reduce the likelihood of fires spreading.

Chiang Mai was at one point the worst city in the world for air pollution on Wednesday, according to a live ranking by a Swiss air quality company. IQAir said levels of PM2.5 particulate matter in the city’s air reached 117 micrograms per cubic metre by 11am – far higher than the World Health Organization’s annual guideline of 5µg/m³.

The public in Chiang Mai have been advised to avoid outdoor activities, to use N95 masks or air purifiers and to seek medical care if they experience symptoms of high air pollution. These include respiratory tract problems, as well as dermatitis or eye inflammation.

Some in the province, a tourist hotspot famous for its mountainous landscapes, fear the persistent annual haze could deter travellers from visiting. Pallop Saejiew, the president of Chiang Mai’s Tourism Industrial Council, told the Bangkok Post last weekend that companies running outdoor activities had been hit by a fall in demand.

Bangkok has also recorded dangerous levels of pollution over recent days and was ranked among the top 10 worst cities globally by IQAir, with PM2.5 levels reaching 94.2µg/m³.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said it expected high dust levels again on Thursday in Bangkok but that afterwards southern winds should help to clear particulate matter from the city’s air.

Northern provinces, however, would continue to have high levels of dust for another week, it predicted.

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how to reduce air pollution in a city

Three cartoons: a female student thinking about concentration, a male student in a wheelchair reading Frankenstein and a female student wearing a headscarf and safety goggles heating a test tube on a bunsen burner. All are wearing school uniform.

How do trees clean our air?

Hayley Bennett

Hayley Bennett looks at how trees help combat air pollution and different ways to maximise their effects

An illustration showing trees cleaning the air

Source: © Jim Tsinganos @ Début Art

As well as improving our well-being, trees play an important role in dispersing and removing pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) and particulate matter (PM) from the atmosphere. This has benefits both locally and globally.

From the Amazon rainforest to Europe’s ancient woodlands, trees help slow the march of climate change by taking in CO 2 for photosynthesis. Globally, forests may absorb and store as much as 30% of the carbon emissions from human activities; burning or clearing them releases the stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

In your class

This article sits nicely at the boundary between chemistry and biology and is certainly one to share with colleagues who teach plant science. Students find plants one of the less interesting parts of the biology curriculum, perhaps because they don’t see the immediate relevance to their own lives. This article reminds them of the local impact of tree populations and of their global significance. It makes a useful addition to lessons on atmospheric chemistry and pollution as well as the carbon cycle and plant science.

Read through the article with your class and use the data analysis download to practise skills in data handling. It can be difficult to find appropriate data sets to use with students and this activity presents students with a real data set and prompts them to look at calculations of mean and range, and representing data in graphs and charts.

Greenhouse gases circulate at a global level, so we’re all party to the climate-regulating benefits of trees, wherever they are. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to envisage how we in the UK, for example, might benefit from the trees in Brazil. It takes a disaster in the Amazon – like the 2019 surge in wildfires – to make us worry about what it all means for us. We might be more concerned with the trees in our local parks and school yards. And that’s not always a bad thing, because the quality of the air we breathe is also directly connected to the trees closest to us. It’s the balance between these global and local benefits of trees that makes them indispensable for the protection of our planet and our health.

So what do the trees lining your street and in your local green spaces do for you? Well, apart from soaking up CO 2 , they shield us from some of the impacts of local air pollutants, including ozone (O 3 ) and NO 2 . These two gases are absorbed through the same pores (stomata) that trees use to inhale CO 2 . In the case of O 3 , the tree suffers damage by chemical oxidation or ‘burning’ of plant tissue.

Particulate matter

Trees also reduce the effects of PM – particles made from a mixture of different chemicals and soot that clog up the air, causing heart and lung disease. Kieron Doick is head of the Urban Forest Research Group at Forest Research in Surrey, and he’s seen the effects of particle pollution in his own back yard, or rather front garden. ‘I used to live on a very busy road and I could see the particulate matter deposited on my windowsill,’ he says. ‘I planted a cherry laurel, a really thick, bushy and quick-growing bush in my front garden, to act as a barrier and when I used to clip it I used to wear gloves because [my] hands would get caked in the residue.’

PM can be solid or liquid and can come from car engines, building sites, fires and a whole range of other sources. There are two main types: PM 10 (particles smaller than 10 μm, or micrometres, about the same size as dust mite poo) and PM 2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 μm). There are also ultra-fine particles smaller than 0.2 μm whose effects we know less about. Recent studies have even linked ultra-fine particles to brain health  in diseases such as dementia, although a lot more research is needed to understand the possible mechanisms. As Kieron explains, trees do take up some of the very smallest particles through their stomata. ‘They’re so small you can almost think of them as gases,’ he says. But what about all the rest of this sooty stuff?

An image showing a growing green sapling tree plant

Source: © Shutterstock

The main reason that trees are beneficial in city air choked with pollution is that they act as physical barriers that block the pollutants from reaching people, just like Kieron’s cherry laurel. Another example would be planting a row of trees between a school playground and a busy road. The effect is similar to putting up a brick wall, says Paul Monks, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Leicester. In the case of PM, trees either disperse it like other pollutants, or they act as a surface for the particles to deposit on. In other words, the PM isn’t absorbed but it sticks to the leaves and bark, or is moved elsewhere. The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s new online tool shows you the value of the trees in your own local area based on how much PM 2.5 they ‘remove’.

As part of their research, Paul’s team made a computerised 3D model of Leicester city centre to try to learn more about how the city’s trees reduce PM levels. They used a tool called computational fluid dynamics to simulate the air carrying the PM in the wind. ‘What we did [was] flow the air with the particles emitted from the roads and then [we looked] at the way that the air moves those particles around the urban environment, so the trees, the grass, the buildings,’ Paul says. Using this approach, they were able to show that the dispersal effect – moving the particles elsewhere – was bigger than the sticking effect and that, overall, Leicester’s trees reduce particle pollution by about 7%.

Planting for the future

Modelling could also help urban planners to reduce air pollution when they’re designing new spaces in our cities and towns. Although much of tree planting is common sense, according to Kieron: ‘If you’ve got trees on both sides of the street and the canopies grow up and touch each other, then logic tells you there’s a blanketing effect there trapping pollution in. The Trees and Design Action Group does include some basic advice for tree planting in its guidance for building and planning professionals. For instance, mixing up surfaces of different heights creates more air turbulence, which helps to disperse air pollutants. However, getting the best from new trees when it comes to air quality means spending time looking at specific aspects of the urban environment in the intended location, such as wind speed and building heights.

So if trees are so good at getting rid of air pollution, why don’t we just plant loads more of them? Manchester’s City of Trees project , for example, aims to plant a tree for every person who lives in the city. It’s not that planting more trees is a bad idea, Paul says, but we shouldn’t forget that it’s only part of the solution to our air quality problems. ‘The analogy I use in terms of air pollution is that if you don’t want milk in your coffee, don’t put it in your coffee and stir it and then try to remove it,’ he says. By which he means: it’s really hard to get air pollution back out of the air, however many trees you plant. A better solution is to stop producing as much air pollution in the first place.

Download this

Data analysis task, for age range 11–14

This activity presents students with real data on the levels of NO 2 taken from diffusion tubes at sites in Dudley, West Midlands. This can be used in an open-ended ‘goal free’ problem or the accompanying questions can be used to guide students in their analysis.

Download the data set and question worksheet as MS Word or  pdf , the teacher notes as MS Word or  pdf  and this article as pdf .

Download the data set and worksheet from the Education in Chemistry website: rsc.li/xxxxxxx

Because trees mostly move pollution around, the pollution isn’t totally removed. We’re just less likely to come into contact with it. And although a row of trees might work as well as a brick wall for protecting a school playground from pollution during the summer months, in the winter their bare branches won’t provide as much cover. In certain conditions, trees can even add to pollution problems, by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which mix with the nitrogen oxides from traffic fumes to produce O 3 . However, most scientists agree that the VOC effect is only important for certain tree species in already polluted cities that are exposed to low winds and lots of sunlight, like Los Angeles.

Other benefits

As Kieron points out, though, we don’t usually plant trees just to combat air pollution – there are other reasons, too. They look pretty, for a start, which might seem unimportant, but being in sight of greenery is well known to benefit our mental health . They also reduce surface flooding by capturing water in rainstorms, provide much-needed shade in the summer and, if well situated, can reduce building owners’ spending on air conditioning. So when we talk about planting trees, it’s usually with all this in mind, not just air quality. ‘It’s about taking in lots of different considerations and balancing those,’ Kieron says.

Of course, our local trees also contribute to mitigating global climate change, meaning their relationship with the air has both a direct and indirect impact on our health – the effects of climate change are already leading to more heat-related deaths and crop shortages in some areas of the world. For this reason, Kieron and Paul agree that, in general, more trees in the urban environment can only be a good thing. ‘There’s not really a downside to planting more trees in a city,’ Paul says.

Currently, the Forestry Commission, funded by the UK government, is giving out grants for community tree-planting projects , with the aim of adding 130,000 new trees to UK towns and cities. However, in order to combat climate change, we also need to conserve and increase the number of trees outside of the urban environment – in our woodlands. In June 2019, Forestry Commission figures suggested that England was falling far short of its target of creating 5000 new hectares of woodland per year. Now, to hit the Committee on Climate Change’s target of increasing UK woodland cover to 17% by mid-century, 30,000 hectares of new woodland will need to be planted every year until 2050.

Article by Hayley Bennett, a science writer based in Bristol. Resurce by Kristy Turner, a school teacher fellow at the University of Manchester and Bolton School

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How to Reduce Exposure to Air Pollution

While most of us do not have the power to make the air cleaner, there are some ways to protect yourself.

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how to reduce air pollution in a city

By Beth Gardiner

Hot summer days can bring spikes in air pollution, as traffic exhaust and other emi ssion s bake in the sun.

Scientists have linked dirty air to a long list of health problems, and the danger can seem all the more frightening because, unlike with many other risks, we have no choice about breathing. But while most of us do not have the power to make the air cleaner, there are some things individuals can do to protect themselves.

Steps like changing travel and exercise routes, buying an air purifier and choosing not to light a fire at home can reduce your exposure to air pollution in any season, experts say.

“It’s basically about awareness,” said Frank Kelly, director of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London. “You need to understand where you’re being exposed the most, and then you need to be able to take measures to avoid that.”

Doing so is especially important for those most vulnerable to dirty air’s effects — children, older people and those with heart or lung conditions.

The evidence on pollution’s dangers is powerful. It is linked not just to breathing problems but also to increased rates of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, premature birth and much more. Those who live with polluted air are more likely to die prematurely .

While the United States’ air quality has improved significantly since the 1970 Clean Air Act became law, dirty air still cuts short more than 100,000 American lives every year.

Here are some things you can do to help protect yourself and your family.

Choose Your Route Wisely

As researchers have focused recently on hyper-local variations in pollution levels, they have come to understand that within the same city — even the same neighborhood — individuals take in different amounts of contamination, depending on exactly where they live, and where their routines take them.

That insight offers a measure of control. When walking, running or biking, “the things you can vary are, where do you go and when do you go,” said Darby Jack, associate professor of environmental health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “With both of those, some relatively small changes in behavior can result in meaningful changes in exposure.” Limiting exposure is particularly important during exercise, when we take in more air.

Steering clear of the busiest roads, even just by choosing a parallel route a block away, can halve the pollution you breathe, Dr. Kelly said. The Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group, analyzed data from Oakland, Calif. , and found pollution levels can vary by as much as eight times in the space of one block.

Route choice is as important for drivers as for pedestrians, since exhaust fumes can become concentrated inside a car. “It’s just like a mini-gas chamber,” Dr. Kelly said.

While it is easy to feel protected inside a sealed car, walking on a traffic-clogged road generally exposes you to less pollution than driving on one, he said.

Testing the air along New York’s bike paths , Dr. Jack — in research conducted with Steven Chillrud, of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory — found levels of sooty black carbon were 25 percent lower on those more than 50 meters away from roads designated as truck routes than those on or near truck routes, he said.

Time of Day Matters

Traveling at less polluted times also helps. Rush hours, of course, generally bring pollution peaks. Less obvious is that in many places air quality is worse in the morning, because of a meteorological condition known as temperature inversion, in which a warm layer of air holds down a colder one, trapping pollution in place.

Inversions do not happen everywhere, so researching local conditions is important.

Dr. Jack suggested using one of the new generation of portable or wearable monitors to learn when and where air is most breathable. “You can do some little experiments,” he said, and see what readings are “if I ride at 7 in the morning, if I ride at 9 in the morning, if I ride on this route.” In New York, he said, “you do see pretty significant differences riding the bike path that goes along the river versus riding the bike path that goes in the street canyon” of Midtown.

Avoid Wood Fires

While they may seem more natural than cars and trucks, wood fires are also a pollution source , producing smoke that is thick with the tiny pollution particles that penetrate deep into the body and are dangerous to health. Choosing not to light one is a simple way to reduce the pollution you — and your neighbors — breathe.

A Reality Check on Masks

Pollution masks may seem like an easy fix, but the reality is murkier. While many successfully filter out pollution in the lab, they are less effective in practice, because if they do not seal tightly to the face, dirty air can seep around them, said Miranda Loh, head of environmental and public health at the Institute of Occupational Medicine, a research firm based in Edinburgh.

Even masks that fit well at first often shift when the wearer moves around or talks, said Dr. Loh, who has tested masks available commercially .

“I wouldn’t say don’t bother” wearing one, she said. But know that even a high-quality mask may not live up to its label’s promises. “If you wear it and it fits you, even if it moves a little bit, you’re still getting some protection. But what we don’t want people to think is they shouldn’t take other protective measures, they shouldn’t be cautious.”

Consider an Air Purifier

Home air purifiers may provide some benefits . They can be particularly useful in the western United States, where smoke from increasingly frequent and intense wildfires has blanketed cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, pushing pollution dangerously high, said Dr. Kari Nadeau, director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research at Stanford University, who has studied the devices’ effectiveness.

It is important to choose the right purifier — HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) models are best — and use it in a room of the size it is intended for, Dr. Nadeau said.

[ Read Wirecutter’s guide to air purifiers . ]

“They can’t get out everything,” and are unable to remove some of the toxins that wildfire smoke carries, she warned. “Nevertheless, it’s better to have one than not. “

No protective measure, though, can substitute for policies and regulations that make the air cleaner. The best advice for combating pollution, Dr. Jack said, can be summed up in one word: “Vote.”

Beth Gardiner is the author of “ Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution .”

Company proposing N.J. county’s 7th power plant is cited for air quality violations

Reverend Donna Stewart speaks out against new proposed CPV Woodbridge power plant

CPV Woodbridge Energy Center in Keasbey on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. CPV Woodbridge has proposed building a new power plant directly adjacent to an existing one. Julian Leshay | For NJ Advance Media

Competitive Power Ventures, an electric power generation company that operates a power plant in Woodbridge, was cited for more than $69,000 in air quality violations that date as far back as 2015, state officials confirmed to NJ Advance Media on Wednesday.

The notice comes just over a week after a meeting to discuss a controversial proposal for the Maryland-based company, also called “CPV,” to build a new 657-megawatt plant next to an existing 725-mega­watt plant it has run in the township since 2016.

Residents have expressed health concerns surrounding several of the emission sources flagged in the new violations.

A compliance evaluation of the facility at 1070 Riverside Dr. in Woodbridge on Jan. 1, 2019, found that Competitive Power Ventures violated the Air Pollution Control Act and the Air Pollution Control regulations, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection notice sent to the company March 2.

Specifically, the violations letter said the company went above the state’s acceptable range of pH (potential of hydrogen), which measures how acidic a substance is, between July 9, 2019 and July 10, 2019.

In addition, the department told Competitive Power Ventures it went beyond the range of its oxidation reduction potential, or ORP, which measures the ability of a substance to either oxidize or reduce another substance.

Caryn Shinske, a spokeswoman for the DEP, said Wednesday the department did not have further comment.

A spokesman for Competitive Power Ventures did not immediately provide comment on the violations Wednesday afternoon.

A different letter sent to Competitive Power Ventures on Feb. 28 — based on several compliance evaluations conducted between August 2015 and December 2021 — also cited the company for the following violations:

In all, the DEP identified 13 instances of “noncompliance.” Additional violations of the kind flagged in February and March carry fines of up to $10,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second and as much as $50,000 for additional offenses, the DEP said.

The citations will result in $69,900 in fines, the state department outlined in its letter.

7th power plant in county

If approved, Competitive Power Ventures’s new plant would be Woodbridge’s third gas-fired power plant (a second located in the township’s unincorporated Sewaren community) and the seventh in Middlesex County.

More than 160 people attended a meeting Feb. 28 to discuss building the additional power plant in the predominantly Hispanic section of Keasbey, Woodbridge — among the more than 340 towns the state hopes to protect with its Environmental Justice Law .

Of the more than 40 people to speak at the meeting, all but two spoke against the plant despite claims from Competitive Power Ventures that its new facility would be low-emitting and follow state and federal regulations.

“When my son was just one year old, we had to rush him to the hospital in an ambulance because he could hardly breathe. We soon learned that he had asthma, which is sadly becoming more and more common in our area due to the increasing air pollution,” James Dabrowski, secretary of Perth Amboy’s NAACP chapter, said during the virtual February meeting.

“We should be looking for ways to reduce air pollution,” he added, “not the opposite.”

Many speakers at the gathering last month pointed to health concerns they fear are linked to the facility.

READ MORE: Concerns over N.J. county’s 7th power plant grow as environmental justice law lingers

The American Lung Association gives Middlesex County, where Woodbridge is located, a grade of “F” for ground-level ozone pollution. The town has also seen water quality issues in the past and state figures show people there also face problems linked to air quality.

Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman, previously said the state will evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of the Title V permit application for the new Competitive Power Ventures project and consider the state administrative order, which looks to follow “the spirit” of the pending Environmental Justice Law.

At least a dozen towns, various non-profits and commission boards have also come out against the plant.

Food & Water Watch, a New Jersey nonprofit, previously said the new plant would release nearly 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gasses each year, as well as “hundreds of tons of toxic air” pollutants like carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, and lead.

The figures check out, according to an application for the plant from Competitive Power Ventures.

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17 Simple Ways to Prevent Air Pollution in Your Home

pollution free home

When you think of  air pollution , you most likely don’t conjure up images of the inside of your home or office. But because we spend so much time indoors — especially in colder weather — keeping the air quality as clean as possible in your home, car and workplace is important for your health.

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And, unfortunately, we bring most of those pollutants indoors ourselves.

Cigarette smoke

Experts say that one of the most common indoor air pollutants is cigarette smoke.

“The residual gas and particles from cigarette smoke that settle pose health hazards, particularly in rooms with a lot of fabric or carpeting,” says pulmonologist  Sumita Khatri, MD . “We all have heard of second-hand smoke; this is called third-hand smoke.”

She says the risks are disproportionately high in children, who are more likely to be playing on the ground, and in people with chronic heart and lung problems.

Electronic cigarettes are a similar source of pollution to consider, Dr. Khatri adds. The vapors emitted when someone smokes e-cigarettes  contain  volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and other chemicals linked to lung disease. 

“Being smoke-free, including in the home, is your best approach,” she says.

Household cleaners

Household cleaning supplies are another common cause of indoor pollution. Harsh chemicals that give off fumes can irritate your nose, mouth and lungs, as well as your skin.

“Those with sensitive lungs and upper airways, like people with  asthma  and chronic  sinusitis , may notice their symptoms getting worse,” Dr. Khatri says.

The fumes can cause inflammation that can make it more difficult for people with chronic lung conditions to heal from infections. It can also worsen inflammation due to other triggers, such as  allergies .

Dr. Khatri recommends using natural cleaning supplies and elbow grease to minimize risks.

Other indoor pollutants that exacerbate asthma or other chronic lung conditions include:

Illnesses caused by indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can increase a person’s chances of having flares of chronic lung problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“In addition to worsening the symptoms of asthma and other chronic respiratory problems, indoor air pollution can also cause irritation of the nose, throat, eyes and lungs,” Dr. Khatri says. There are also likely longer-term effects from ongoing exposure that are more difficult to measure, such as the likelihood of lung cancer from radon exposure, as well as secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

Role of ventilation and air filters

Although opening windows helps ventilate your home, car or office, that’s not always possible due to allergies or extreme temperatures.

Consider using air filters and getting your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems) checked regularly.

Also, air purifiers and aromatherapy can often make air quality worse unless they are the right kind, Dr. Khatri says. They need to be HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) air filters.

How to cut down your risk

Fortunately, there are ways you can minimize air pollution in your home, car or at work, Dr. Khatri says. Try these simple steps:

Taking some simple precautions can help boost air quality in your home and improve your health.

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how to reduce air pollution in a city

Keeping the air quality high in your home, car and workplace is important for your health. Find out how to minimize indoor air pollution.


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