In my opening post (see 17th August 2018), I introduced the topic of air pollution and why it’s causing us so many problems. I now want to introduce you to the causes of air pollution, and what we can do to try to prevent it.
As I mentioned, PM2.5/10, NOX and SOX are some of the most prevalent air pollutants in our atmosphere, and they are emitted from a variety of sources. Unsurprisingly, industry and traffic are a significant source of these pollutants, as large amounts of fossil fuels are burnt in these practices.
Deep breath for incoming data.
First off is the number of kilotonnes emitted of each pollutant:
Below are average annual emissions of NOx, SOx, PM10 and PM2.5, in the United Kingdom, by sector:
As we can see, industry contributed the most to PM2.5 and PM10 emissions in 2016, whilst energy and road transport did so for SOx and NOx emissions respectively.
Trying to make industry ‘cleaner’ is not an easy task, especially at an individual level. We can make more informed choices about the companies we buy from e.g. sourcing products from companies that have made a commitment to reducing their environmental impacts, and lobbying companies that haven’t. There is a definite trend in companies improving their environmental credentials, such as by investing in carbon offsetting schemes and using recycled materials. Manufacturers also invest heavily in pollution reduction technologies, for example in sulphur dioxide scrubbers that remove SO2 from emitted gases.
Happily, the transport sector is somewhere we can make a real difference. There are roughly 31 million cars on the roads in the UK today, with about 12.5 million of these being diesel. The cleanest diesel vehicles emit around 500 mg/km. Widely lauded as a 'cleaner' fuel 20-30 years ago due to lower CO2 emissions as compared to equivalent petrol vehicles, diesel has recently come under closer scrutiny by the scientific community and governments alike for other emissions, particularly for nitrogen oxides. Switching to electric vehicles, using public transport and engaging in active commuting methods, such as running or cycling will make a significant difference in overall transport emissions.
I hope you can appreciate that air pollution is a multi-faceted issue, with many sources. But, creative actions can be taken to try to prevent it, or at least mitigate some of the worst effects.
As always, I hoped you enjoyed reading this post. Please let me know what you think by dropping a comment below, or by liking the article.