Clean air is supposed to be an inalienable right of every person on the planet. However, companies are continuing to spew out greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic pollutants at a prodigious rate.
This atmospheric contamination causes wholesale environmental devastation in addition to chronic health problems, including cancer.
A lack of regulation is a major contributor – for example, a glaring loophole in EPA regulations allows industrial waste such as plastics, tires, and materials containing harmful chemicals to be burned with little regulatory oversight. This causes heavy metals and other carcinogenic contaminants to be emitted into the atmosphere, where they get into the respiratory tracts of people.
Egregious corporate behavior has catastrophic ecological consequences that become more difficult to reverse the longer they are allowed to continue. That’s why ordinary citizens must do everything in their power to radically alter the status quo so that things like this are no longer tolerated. This guide will tell you what air pollution is, the industry’s role in creating it, and how you can help reduce it.
Let’s dive in!
What is air pollution, and what role does industry play in producing it?
Air pollution is a serious existential threat to our planet and species.
Climate scientists define air pollution as toxic chemicals or compounds in the air that pose a significant environmental and health risk. Any form of atmospheric contamination that can be traced back to industrial processes is known as industrial pollution.
Air pollution happens when companies buy raw materials, process them, and manufacture goods. Byproducts from the industrial process get released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide makes up 82% of these carbon emissions.
Some of the biggest polluters on the planet are oil and gas companies.
Their operations don’t only belch out carbon dioxide — they also emit nitrogen oxide and hydrogen sulfide, which contribute to smog formation. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) such as benzene, toluene, and n-hexane are other byproducts of oil and gas activities.
What are the health risks associated with air pollution?
When you think of risk factors for lung cancer, you might not even consider air pollution. However, research has conclusively shown that particulate pollution in the air we breathe can cause cancer.
In 2013, an 8-year-old Chinese girl became the country’s youngest lung cancer patient. Shockingly, her physician concluded that air pollution had caused her disease.
In 2018, UC Berkeley researchers translated local Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings into an equivalent number of cigarettes. They estimated that breathing San Francisco air was the same as smoking 12 cigarettes a day. Some of this pollution was caused by the wildfires that raged out of control at the time. However, industrial processes were responsible for some of it.
Over seven million US citizens living near oil refineries have an increased cancer risk. That’s because of the over 20,000 tons of harmful air pollutants they give off, like arsenic, mercury, and lead.
Air pollution can cause chronic airway swelling and irritation, which is especially dangerous for those with preexisting respiratory conditions. Atmospheric impurities can also increase the chances of developing asthma, and children are particularly susceptible.
Prolonged exposure to air pollution contributes to the development of COPD in healthy individuals. COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is an inflammatory lung condition that causes breathing difficulty and inhibits healthy lung functioning.
The dangers of fracking
Fracking, or drilling for gas using hydraulic fracturing, discharges harmful compounds into the atmosphere. A toxic mixture of water and chemicals is often stored in outdoor pits, allowing massive amounts of benzene and volatile organic compounds to find their way into the air.
Prolonged exposure to this environmental poison results in birth defects, cancer, central nervous system damage, and tuberculosis. It can also cause silicosis, a long-term lung disease people get when inhaling significant quantities of crystalline silica dust.
How can industries reduce air pollution?
Manufacturing industries burn fossil fuels that release massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Besides CO2, industrial processes are responsible for discharging mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.
Companies can reduce air pollution by finetuning their operations to be more energy-efficient. Factory operators can employ abatement mechanisms that destroy volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants before they find their way into the skies.
For example, a regenerative thermal oxidizer uses high temperatures to annihilate pollutants before they have a chance to wreak environmental havoc. Using more environmentally friendly fuel sources rather than relying on hydrocarbon-spewing oil or gasoline can reduce the output of harmful smoke and smog.
While natural gas is a fossil fuel, its contribution to pollution is negligible. Even if this is true, companies should find ways to use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind in their operations.
Commitment to renewable energy sources should extend to corporate transportation. Electric Vehicles (EVs) can help companies lower fuel and maintenance costs and reduce toxic greenhouse gas emissions.
Top ways activists can work to reduce industrial air pollution
Buy recycled products
Think for a second about what it takes to create a new item from scratch. You’ve got to mine the raw material, then use fossil fuel to transport it. You need to scrub the impurities from the material and then process it to transform it into your brand-new product.
At every stage of the manufacturing process, greenhouse gases, heavy metals, and poisonous chemicals are released into the atmosphere. On the other hand, manufacturing products from recycled materials is much less energy-intensive and emits less pollution.
Above all, avoid buying new items where possible. If you need to purchase things that just came off the assembly line, get them from companies that engage in sustainable manufacturing practices. Use your Aspiration Zero card when making these purchases to track your carbon footprint as you go along.
Choose sustainable merchandise
The International Journal of Science conducted a study that showed that 22% of premature deaths caused by air pollution occurred in countries that produce cheap goods for export to developed nations. Our love of insanely inexpensive technology has indirectly killed thousands of people in geographic areas where this merchandise was manufactured.
Higher pollution levels in these regions are typically due to insufficient emission standards. However, the air they’re contaminating is still part of the same ecosystem you, me, and everyone else we know is a part of. In other words, the kinds of products you buy determine whether you’re supporting environmentally irresponsible businesses or companies that are excellent ecological stewards.
Buy organic and reduce meat consumption
Livestock farming produces high concentrations of methane, which causes widespread environmental devastation. Pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture emit something called “persistent organic pollutants” into the air, including hexachlorobenzene, hexachlorocyclohexane, and pentachlorophenol.
These chemicals are as nasty as they sound and can do a lot of damage to the human respiratory system. That’s why you should consider buying only organic agricultural products if you can. While organic farming practices aren’t entirely emission-free, they produce fewer pollutants.
Sustainable soil conservation practices like green manuring and crop rotation help keep nutrients in the soil instead of being released into the air. The latter often happens with crops that are heavily tilled.
Choose organically grown produce instead of conventionally grown vegetables. By purchasing local products, you cut down on the environment-destroying transportation emissions generated as a result of getting the food to your neighborhood supermarket.
Lastly, choose to eat less meat. The livestock industry causes lots of greenhouse gases to escape into our air. Even if it’s only one day a week, choosing to go meatless is a powerful way to take environmental action.
This is one of the most effective ways to make a difference when it comes to boosting air quality. By raising awareness, you can change the deeply entrenched attitudes of people around you, which can have a profound ripple effect.
Helping to create a critical mass of individuals making better ecological choices can add up to huge societal transformation over time. Offer your wholehearted support to politicians who are working to protect the planet.
Industrial polluters need to be held accountable for the wholesale destruction of the environment. That way, companies polluting our beautiful skies for years will no longer be allowed to do so with impunity.
Join the fight for cleaner air with Aspiration Zero
Let’s say you’re deadly serious about doing everything you can to reduce air pollution. In that case, you’ll probably want to partner with businesses that are fiercely committed to making the world a better place.
One way to do this is by staying away from conventional banks that still heavily invest in industries powered by fossil fuels. Instead, consider using Aspiration. We’re a neobank that gives you the power to make an ecologically vibrant world a glorious reality by using the financial services you would use anyway.
Give us a call today!