The smog problem has become a big environmental issue for this World. After USA, China and other big developed nations, Pakistan and India are also affected by the smog. To overcome the smog, first we have to know what smog really is and how we can fight with it.
What actually the smog is?
July 1905, Dr Henry Antoine des Voeus presented his paper “Fog and Smoke” in a meeting of Public Health Congress in which he coined the term first time after observing the smoke and fog blanket over London. The word “smog” generated by putting the words “smoke” and “fog” together.
Smog is a harmful, blackish yellow toxic mixture of dust, fog and air pollutants including fine particles, water vapors, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides which combine with the sun rays lead to thick layer of harmful ground level ozone.
Now, the question arises that ozone layer protects us from harmful UV rays and now why it is behaving as harmful? Here the catch is that the ozone protects from UV when it is high in the atmosphere but when it touches the ground, it behaves like a hazardous health bomb.
The gases and atmospheric pollutants released in air by fuels burning forms smog. The smog formed when sunlight and heat of sun reacts with these pollutants and gases in atmosphere. The smog is a type of air pollution consists of harmful substances including PM10s, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide along with ozone. Smog forming pollutants generated from plastic popcorn packing, charcoal started fluid, hairspray, paint, fireworks, power plants, automobile exhausts, slash and burning of crops, industrial activities, heating due to human activities and large amount of coal burning are the main causes of smog formation.
The smog is caused by calm winds, sunshine, high temperature and heavy traffic. During winter, the wind has low speed and it helps the smoke and fog to become stagnate. The formation time of smog directly depends on the temperature. The temperature inversions retard the recycling of the vertical layers of air, causing it to accumulate near the ground.. As the area becomes calmer due to less wind and temperature inversion smog tends linger for longer time.
Effects of smog
The worst effects of smog are observed on the places farther away from the source where it is generate. Smog tends to thicken as it moves with wind and reacts with the chemicals present in the air.
- Smog has severe effects on infants, children, the elderly having cardiac and respiratory problems including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma etc. The person has unusual vulnerability to ozone and stay in smog for long time daily also have adverse effects.
- The small doses of this harmful smog can cause minor issues including headaches, throat and eye irritations. While, long time exposure will lead to worst effects in body.
- The inhaling of smog for a long time can inflame the respiratory pathways in the way similar to cigarette smoking.
- Smog not only affects the human beings but also the other forms of life. The smog also inhibits the plant growth and causes severe damage to forests and crops. Vegetable crops including cotton, peanuts, tomatoes, wheat and soybeans are infected by the exposure of smog.
- Smog causes inflamed lungs leads to the secretion of interlukin-6 that causes blood clots in people having respiratory and cardiac disorders.
- It can affects the working capacity of the lungs, resulting to discomfort in deep breathing, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath and asthma attach to the asthmatic patients.
- It can also damages the protective membranes of throat and nose.
- It can endanger the body’s ability to resist infection leads to numerous diseases.
- It can lead to cold and pneumonia.
- It can considerably decrease the beneficial UV radiations resulting to low production of significant elements including Vitamin D cause rickets among people.
- Smog can cause lung cancer and fatal pulmonary diseases.
- In last but not the least, smog leads to severe accidents on roads because of low visibility for the drivers.
- The suitable way of protection from smog is to stay inside or move to smog free place, which is very hard option to avail.
- Use the face masks having pollutant filters
- Use air purifiers at home
- Try to avoid the smog area
- Avoid outdoor exercises
- Drive carefully and slowly
- Stay hydrated
People of all ages and occupations need to be educated about smog and how it affects our life. . Some basic and common information about the smog has been stated above for the awareness of the people. Smog has potential to generate healthcare crisis and its imperative that we take all measure necessary to fight back. We also need to cut back on burning fossil fuels and try to use alternative means that leave smaller carbon footprint. The government should take policy decision in shifting its energy priorities on global scale. These things take time, but as the alternative energy has now become more viable option compared to a decade ago. Government should arrange trainings and seminars for the people for awareness about smog. Farmers should be strongly discouraged from burning the leftovers of their crops. Emissions from vehicles should be kept in check by the traffic police as per recommended guidelines. Government should have to make strict laws regarding this matter and also implement the laws forcefully. The environmentalists and researchers should have to design novel methodologies and strategies to handle this deadliest smog.
The author is the Lecturer of Bioinformatics, from Department of Biosciences COMSATS Institute of Information Technology Sahiwal Pakistan and TWAS-PhD (Scholar) State Key Laboratory of Membrane Biology; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Beijing, China.