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Smog: A serious environmental crisis

By Dr Asif Channer

November 10, 2020 10:45 PM

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Humans are paying the cost of urbanization, industrialization and modernization, besides others, in the form of a severe environmental condition, the smog.

Smog, a visible air pollution, is a combination of a word smoke and fog and was designed by Dr Henry Antoine in his work, “Fog and Smoke”. It was early 1900’s when the term “Smog” became popular in London for the first time in the Victorian period. It is both man-made and natural. There are two types of smog, the furious smog and photochemical smog.

Smog is composed of nitrogen oxides, ozone, and sulfur oxides, smoke, particulate matters, carbon monoxide, CFCs and radioactive sources. Manmade smog is result of industrial emissions, vehicular emissions, coal emissions, and wild fires from forest and agriculture sector.in addition Overpopulation, Excessive consumption, abundant waste production. Increased Construction and demolishing activities, Fireworks especially during certain events like New Year celebrations etc. are the main causes. Volcanic eruptions also contribute in the smog creation. However, the smog created as a result of a volcanic eruption is known as “Vog”.

Smog effects all dimensions of human health either primarily or secondarily. The pollutants present in the smog have Potential health hazards. Respiratory system is the main system effected. Allergies, Asthma, Chorionic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs) develop or aggravate. Even the lung cancer have been attributed to it. In addition the skin allergies, eyes irritation may result. In the long run Smog lowers lif quality of life and e expectancy.

The pollutants have different detrimental effects like Nitrogen Dioxides is an Eye and respiratory irritant. Sulphur Dioxide and Particulate materials Irritate respiratory tract, impair gases exchange in the lungs. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) form Ozone, methane causes Global warming and benzene is Carcinogenic. Ground level ozone even in Low concentrations can irritate throat, eyes and nose. Peroxyacetyl Nitrates (PAN) has toxic and irritating properties for human tissues

Furthermore, Smog can produce certain birth defects, the common are neural tube malformation, spina bifida, underdeveloped head and low birth weight babies.

Premature deaths in adults are due to cancer and respiratory diseases as Canadian Medical Association recorded that smog is responsible for an estimated 9,500 premature adult deaths in Ontario each year.

It reduces resistance to colds and lung infections. Even in the Covid pandemic the condition can be worsen by the smog hence it must be taken seriously as Covid related mortality and morbidity may increase in the presence of smog

Smog may also play a role in occurrence of Air, Railways and Road crashes due to compromised visibility.

However all these serious consequences of the smog depends on the levels and types of pollutants in the air. The age and general state of health. The weather and Duration of exposure

It is interesting that the smog can affect the animals as well as the plants and vegetation. The animals can also contract respiratory illnesses. It can damage leaves and reduce growth, productivity of crops and fruit. Amazingly, Smog also effects inanimate objects for example it accelerates the deterioration of plastics, rubber, dyes and paints, metals, stone, concrete and clothing etc. Ozone, the one of the major component of smog augments the greenhouse effect leading to global climate change.

In short it can compromise human health, harm the environment, and even cause property damage.

It is clarified that Fog and Smog are two different phenomenon and should not be mixed and both are easily differentiable by color and the smell. The smog has yellow or grey color and has a smell whereas the fog is white and has no odor. In addition the fog tend to fall down but the smog is suspended in the air and it is ingested or inhaled by the people

The severity of smog is measured by Nephelometers. The International Environment Protection Agency (IEPA) measures the Air quality by Quality Index (AQI), which varies from zero to 500. The higher the AQI, the more is danger to health and environment.

At present, the top twelve cities in world having intense smog in the chronological order include, Ghaziabad India, Hogan China, Gujranwala Pakistan, Faisalabad Pakistan, Delhi India, Noida India, Guru Gram India, Rawalpindi Pakistan, Greater Noida India, Bandhwari India, Luck now India and Lahore Pakistan. It is alarming that eleven out of twelve worst smog  affected cities of the world are located in the former subcontinent and the Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi are at position number three, six respectively and Lahore is at number twelve In this  global ranking.

Smog can be minimized by taking certain steps like use vehicles as less as possible, use cycles or walk for short distances, use public transportation like the newly lauded orange train, Metro, BRT Busses and others as available.

Inspection of engines, lubricants and tyres of all types of vehicle is mandatory at a regular interval as these measures reduce emissions. Another measure to reduce the emission is fueling the vehicle at early morning or night because of low temperature as this practice prevents heating up of gas fumes hence producing ozone. Replace fuel dependent appliances with electric or manual ones.

Reduce waste production by Reusing and recycling. Protect yourself against smog. Plan external activities when ozone levels are low for example the early morning and evening. Teleworking or working from home can be useful to avoid smog. To get protection against smog use face masks and goggles this will also provide protection against ongoing Covid pandemic at the same time

The neo legislation in the environment, agriculture, forest, livestock, municipal laws and other relevant departmental laws with strict implementation is inevitable for the reduction in smog both at the national and international level. The strategic development goals also focus on the environmental sustainability and global partnership to overcome this threatening situation for coming generation

Along with these suggested preventive measures, everyone citizen of the world should contribute his role to reduce Smog by not only by following SOPs and laws but also by changing behaviors as well.


Dr Asif Channer

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