Air pollution has recently become increasingly prevalent globally due to the spread of contaminants and emissions, which sets into motion the impending disaster of global warming and physical harm on people who breathe contaminated air. Air pollution is caused by many factors such as the smoke and dust from wildfires, personal emissions, or fossil-fuel combustion. According to the World Health Organization, 4.2 million people die per year due to ambient air pollution exposure (WHO). This astronomical number puts the world in perspective and begs the question: how safe is the air I am breathing? Another statistic recorded by the World Health Organization indicates that 91% of the world’s population lives in areas where the air quality does not meet proper safety guidelines (WHO). This detail puts into perspective how problematic air pollution has become since it is more likely for people to be living with unsafe air as a result of humanity’s advancements taking a massive toll on the quality of the atmosphere.
The problem is clearly evident in our world, but it also has been shown to disproportionately affect those with a lower financial status to make matters worse. In a study by the Atlantic, research indicates that people in poverty are exposed to more fine particulate matter than people living above poverty (Newkirk). The reason for this is because there is a correlation between poverty-ridden areas being in closer proximity to industrial facilities giving off harmful emissions, putting people living in these areas under unsafe conditions. Along with this, poverty-ridden regions tend to be smaller in size, with living quarters being more compact, which means that the air quality would be much worse than in an area where living quarters are larger and more spread out. Through some studies conducted by the American Lung Association, it was found that a “low socioeconomic status consistently increased the risk of premature death from fine particle pollution” (American Lung Association). With air pollution already affecting most of the population’s wellbeing, the fact that lower-income areas face a more devastating effect makes the situation even worse.
With this ongoing harsh reality, we must ask ourselves what measures we need to take in order to prevent more potential harm. Therefore, one way to combat this issue would be to prohibit houses from being constructed near factories or other industrial facilities to protect the potential inhabitants from hazardous exposure. Another way to counteract this problem is to have people in low-income areas near high emission producing facilities be resituated to other regions. Though this would require heavy planning and expenses, it is vital to do since the effects of air pollutants put lives at risk. Fortunately, policies have already been put in place to limit the magnitude of air pollutants being put in the air near residential areas, but this still poses a threat. Lastly, reducing the population’s personal emissions is essential to making a lasting impact, so the gradual implementation of electric cars on our roads is necessary to prevent further harm to the atmosphere and people’s well-being. Air pollution has been worsening, but society must take drastic action to develop a means of prevention and protect the people who are directly and disproportionately impacted.