Smog- Harmful Effects On Health And Environment

Every year many of us face Smog and its harmful effects. Smog is a mixture of fog and smoke. It is prevalent in Delhi, especially after Diwali, October, and November. As a result, people burst crackers despite the government banning them. But this brings out a lot of Smog in the air. Also, the act of stubble burning is a significant cause of Smog. The farmers burn the leftover straws of the crops after harvesting them before growing new crops. It makes the soil as well as the air toxic. In addition, stubble burning releases harmful environmental gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, and black carbon. It also kills good bacteria, a characteristic of good soil.

What is Smog?

Smog is a type of air pollution, a combination of air pollutants like nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, sulfur, ground-level ozone, etc. Particulate matter and ground-level ozone are the two main components of Smog. These pollutants are through both natural means and human processes. It is like a dark cloud or fog, which is why it reduces visibility.

Smog is of two types-

  • London-type Smog or Normal Smog: This type of Smog occurs in colder temperatures. The drop in temperature, burning of coal, sodium chloride, fly ash, sulfur dioxide, sodium chloride, etc. But burning more sulfur compounds is the leading cause of London-type Smog. This type of Smog can have many health problems like respiratory issues, dyspnea, lung disorders, etc.
  • Photochemical Smog OR Los Angeles Smog- This type of Smog occurs mainly in urban areas, with a more significant number of automobiles. These automobiles release hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Los Angeles Smog occurs in months when the temperatures are relatively high. It forms when Nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons react in the presence of sunlight. It causes blurry vision, and a brown cloud appears.

Harmful effects of Smog on Health

Smog affects human health on a large scale. It is because there are so many health problems that can occur due to Smog. Children and the elderly are at a higher risk of diseases. Here are some overall health issues of Smog-

  • Wheezing and coughing- These are prevalent symptoms of Smog. And as a result, they can be long-term and short-term.
  • Premature death- Long-term exposure to Smog can cause sudden death, especially in people suffering from respiratory problems and heart diseases.
  • Asthma- People are more likely to develop asthma due to Smog. And the ones who already have asthma have asthma attacks repeatedly.
  • Lung Cancer- According to the World Health Organisation, particle pollution can be a significant cause of the development of Lung Cancer.
  • Cardiovascular diseases- Smog is likely to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Through the lungs, the polluted matter gets inside our bloodstream, which can go to our hearts.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease- Many people develop COPD due to Smog, which keeps worsening for those already suffering from it.
  • Headaches and dizziness can also occur due to Smog and poor air quality.
  • Mental damage- Smog is also harmful to cognitive development. Also, Smog can increase the risk of cognitive decline and sometimes even causes depression.
  • Miscarriages – Smog can negatively affect the fetus to a great extent. It can even result in miscarriages. And sometimes, miscarriages do not occur, but it causes the baby to be underweight.
  • Burning of the eyes is another common symptom of Smog. In addition, you may experience swelling, redness, irritation, and itching.
  • Respiratory problems- Respiratory problems are the most occurring diseases due to Smog. Lung malfunctioning, shortness of breath, bronchitis, asthma, COPD, and breathing problems can all occur due to poor air quality.
  • Chances of road accidents- Since Smog reduces visibility, there are more chances of road accidents and plane crashes.

Harmful effects of Smog on the environment-

Smog harms human health, our surroundings, and the environment.

  • Smog increases the amount of nitrogen on the land. Nitrogen is essential for plant growth, but too much nitrogen makes the soil infertile and prevents plant growth.
  • Too much Smog reduces Ultraviolet Rays ( UV Rays) significantly. It reduces the natural source of vitamin D, which animals and plants require.
  • Certain animal species find it very difficult to breathe during this Smog. It is very toxic for them, and as a result, many animals die.
  • Particulate matter causes the formation of haze in the atmosphere and reduces visibility.
  • Ground-level ozone causes infections in plants. Therefore, it harms and causes disease in the plants like cotton, tomatoes, wheat, soybean, etc.
  • Smog causes acid rain and makes the lakes and streams acidic.
  • Smog harms the ecosystem and causes devastating results on the ecosystem.
  • It withers with the nutrient balance in the water bodies.
  • Smog can also bring a reduction in its temperature, and it may also increase precipitation.

How can we reduce Smog?

  • Fewer vehicles- The more vehicles, the more will be Smog. We should use more public transport. There will be fewer vehicles on the road, and as a result, there will be less emission of harmful gasses.
  • Recycle and Reduce- If we reuse the materials, it will require fewer things to make new ones. There will be lesser emissions from the factories.
  • If you can only rely on your cars, service them on time. Changing their oils and improving the mileage can help to a great extent. Also, try to fuel your vehicles early in the morning or evening. When we fuel up during the day, the gas fumes heat up and form ozone.
  • We should encourage people to stop stubble burning. Burning of agricultural material is a significant cause of Smog. In addition, we should make the farmers aware of its side effects.
  • Avoid fireworks- Even though we think we only burst crackers once or twice a year. But these two days in a year can make a massive difference in the air quality. So, avoid bursting crackers.
  • Avoid products with Volatile organic compounds like nail polishes, pest repellants, oil paints, etc. Avoiding the use of these can control the formation of Smog.

Smog can have devastating effects on us as well as the environment. Therefore, we must be careful, protect ourselves and prevent Smog as much as we can.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors