Air pollution is a phenomenon affecting everyone’s likes – the rich and poor, young and the old, urban, and rural residents, students, and professionals. People are not new to air pollution; however, the intensity of pollution is increasing year-on-year. Air pollution may be a mixture of hazardous substances from both human-made and natural sources. Vehicle emissions, fuel oils and gas to heat homes, by-products of power generation, particularly coal-fuelled power plants, and fumes from chemical products are the first sources of human-made pollution. Nature releases hazardous substances into the air, like smoke from wildfires, which are often caused by people; ash and gases from volcanic eruptions; and gases, like methane, emitted from decomposing organic matter in soils. Pollution also includes over usage of environmental polluting substances such as CFCs found in air conditioners and refrigerators.
Air pollutants include vehicle emissions such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, methane formed due to rotting of waste, and greenhouse gases such as nitrogen dioxide.
Air Pollution Specifics
Traffic-Related pollution (TRAP) from motorcar emissions is the only recognizable type of pollution. It contains most human-made air pollution: ground-level ozone, various carbon, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine particulate.
Ozone, an atmospheric gas, is commonly called smog when at ground level. It is created when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, and other sources chemically react within the presence of sunlight.
Noxious gases, including greenhouse gas, CO, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur oxides (SOx), are components of automobile emissions and by-products of commercial processes.
Particulate matter (PM) consists of chemicals such as sulfates, nitrates, carbon, or mineral dust. Vehicle and industrial emissions from fuel combustion, cigarette smoke, and burning organic matter, like wildfires, all contain PM.
A subset of PM, fine particulate (PM 2.5) is 30 times thinner than a person’s hair. It is often inhaled deeply into lung tissue and contributes to serious health problems. PM 2.5 accounts for many health issues.
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) vaporize at or near room temperature—hence, the name volatile. They are called organic because they contain carbon. VOCs are given off by paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, some furnishings, and even craft materials like glue. Gasoline and fossil fuel are significant sources of VOCs, which are released during combustion.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are organic compounds containing carbon and hydrogen. Of almost 100 PAHs known to be widespread within the environment, 15 are listed within the Report on Carcinogens.
And the Consequences
Similar to the multi-fold causes of air pollution, the effects too are multiple. Apart from making the air unbreathable, this pollution significantly impacts the environment – causing climate change and damaging the ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
What are we Doing For it?
Government organizations worldwide are taking initiatives to reduce air pollution and are bringing in policies to enforce pollution reduction measures in their respective nations. Apart from this, individuals and business entities are coming up with exciting innovations to battle air pollution’s environmental and health hazards. Here is a list of the Top 10 designs than can disrupt this space:
Inks from air pollution
Graviky Labs was the first ever to produce Air-Ink, ink made out of pollution. Their invention, Kaalnik, can be fitted onto generators and fuel tanks to capture air pollution and convert it to usable ink. Their retrofit technology can be modified to all sizes for capturing air pollution.
Street furniture to drive away pollution
Planting more trees is the best way to tackle pollution. With urbanization coming into the picture, there is a lack of space to plant more trees. Green City Solutions from Europe have set up tree benches in significant landmarks in cities across Europe. These benches extend vertically and are covered with moss. This moss can suck the pollutants out of the air and plays the role of 275 trees. The contaminants are then digested by bacteria found in the moss, thus, naturally reducing air pollution. Not only are they resourceful, but they are also beautiful, adding to the décor of the streets.
Vertical residential forests
It sounds like a fantasy, right? This structure has been constructed in Milan to absorb the chemicals in polluted air and prevent it from harming the ozone layer. Residential towers are built covered with plant and tree cover, acting as filters and providing the vegetation for birds and insects.
One of the most notable innovations to curb pollution was the smog-free tower. It is a vertical structure, placed in public locations, which turns like a giant wheel. It sucks in smog and converts it into breathable air using ionization technology.
Curtains made of algae
Photosynthesis absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and converting it to oxygen. What if the curtains at your home could do the same function?
Sounds interesting, right?
Algae curtains are curtains made of plastic tubes stacked next to each other. These tubes contain microscopic algae and can be used to suck the carbon-dioxide from the air and do photosynthesis, thus reducing pollution.
Electric cars have become a common term these days. But these are the ones that can drastically reduce pollution. Vehicle emissions are a significant air pollutant – with electric cars in the picture, pollutants from vehicles will be reduced as people start to adapt to the new form of transport.
A form of rain dance, this technique is dry ice in the air to clear pollution. Dry ice is shot into the air using a hose or rocket, which induces condensation when it comes into contact with other particles in the air, causing rain. This system is currently in use in China.
China, one of the hard-hit countries by pollution, has come up with the idea of giant sprinklers. These can be mounted on top of high-rise buildings. These sprinklers will spray water into the air, which will settle the dust and other pollutants hanging in the air.
These are large solar panels covered with tiny plants. These plants suck the carbon-dioxide in the air and release oxygen for consumption. Cultivating these plants is also beneficial because the system generates organic biomass, which can be used in plant-based food products.
Pigeon Air Patrol
Finally, a fascinating innovation is the use of pigeons to monitor the levels of air pollution. Pigeons, earlier used for delivering messages, are now used to measure and monitor the air’s intensity. These birds are fitted with air sensor backpacks, and these sensors measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone.