Is air pollution worse in summer or winter? Explains Dr Srikanth Sola

The winter has come, and the capital is again the talk of the town. Delhi has comparatively had a cleaner start this year, considering air pollution levels. The news catches the eyes yearly but ends up like a page 3 tabloid that doesn’t drive action but attracts mere gossip. But the dilemma of air pollution that the city and the region face year after year needs much more than a plan. It needs action. And before that, Dr Srikanth Sola, Director, CEO, and Co-founder, of Devic Earth, will make us understand why this happens every year, specifically in winter.

What Is Air Pollution?

The presence of toxic particles (also called pollutants) in the air. The release of these substances is harmful to human health and the environment. This contamination of the air is called air pollution. The substances that cause air pollution belong to both natural and human activities. However, industrial and vehicular are the most prominent human activities that cause air pollution, whereas forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and windblown dust are the natural sources of air pollution. There are many pollutants from the sources mentioned above; here are a few you should watch out for:

  1. Particulate Matter
  2. Carbon monoxide
  3. Lead
  4. Ground-level ozone
  5. Nitrogen dioxide
  6. Sulfur dioxide

Is Air Pollution Worse In Summer Or Winter?

  • It is impossible to collectively state whether air pollution is worse in winter or summer. Seasonal and chronic changes can also be a factor behind increased air pollution during winter. The activation of pollutants in different seasons also varies. Specific contaminants are harmful in summer, while some activate in winter.
  • The cold winter winds have a huge role in the secret sauce of Delhi’s consistent air pollution in winter. Cold air is dense compared to summer air; the more viscous the air, the more and longer it traps the pollution. In addition, the air in winter is drier and less humid. The molecules of cold air hold less moisture than warm air, which is another significant factor in the rise of air pollution.
  • We generally notice a rise in air pollution in winter months. This is because the increased use of fireplaces and wood stoves during winter to heat our homes releases smoke into the atmosphere. This smoke contains Nitrogen oxides and interacts with sunlight, chemical compounds, and hydrocarbons, resulting in the creation of ground-level ozone gas, which then comes into contact with particulates in the air. These fine particles, also known as PM2.5, pose health threats and may lead to severe harmful respiratory illnesses.
  • As its the winter season, there is an increase in brick kilns, and 15% of the total PM 2.5 that affects Delhi comes from brick kilns. Another polluting activity responsible for the rise in air pollution in and around Delhi during winter is stubble burning, which is the end of the harvest season.
  • A rise in air pollution in winter does not necessarily mean that the pollutants in the air have increased. However, it’s important to mention that the emissions from industries remain the same throughout the year, whereas the burning of fuel, car exhaust fumes, and burning wood increases during the winter season, which leads to a rise in the level of PM 2.5 and thus deterioration in the air quality.

How Does It Impact Our Health And Well-Being?

  • Air pollution seriously impacts everyone’s health and well-being in many ways. Other than causing approximately 4.2 million premature deaths yearly, short-term and long-term exposure to pollutants can lead to various illnesses, such as lung cancer, asthma, and heart disease. PM is the most common culprit for these illnesses, which are made of fine solid and liquid particles created by fuel combustion and vehicle traffic.
  • What’s more, air pollution affects different age groups in specific ways, meaning it will pose health risks to you throughout your lifetime. For example, as adults, pollution can increase your likelihood of stroke. However, it can also have severe effects on children and older adults. In addition, an emerging study indicates that there may be a connection between particulate matter and dementia.

What Can You Do To Prevent Exposure To Winter Air Pollution?

  • Limit the use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves in winter.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that masks reduce transmission.

Conclusion

  • One example of the government initiative is Smog Towers, a vast tower spiralling into the sky is undoubtedly a visual reassurance. It symbolises grand endeavours to fight air pollution and restore public conscience. However, the country and the world need more than visual reassurance regarding air pollution.
  • The national capital suffers from 54,000 premature deaths and a whopping $ 8 billion loss annually due to air pollution. A rise in these numbers and a steep decrease in the quality of life are the prices we pay if we continue not addressing air pollution effectively.
  • We need a vision for 2030 with actionable steps to overcome air pollution, not just a seasonal agenda during winter that is forgotten in months. With awareness drives and actionable goals regarding monitoring and controlling air pollution, we can move towards solving the problem.

Also read| A New Drug Could Slow Alzheimer Disease, Data Show

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