Air quality indicates how clean and healthy the inhaled air is. Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the atmosphere that are harmful to human health and the planet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the cause of death for about 7 million people worldwide each year.

Air pollution is the ratio of gases and small particles suspended in the air to clean, breathable air consisting of oxygen, nitrogen, and argon. Effects of air pollution on human health depends on the amount of pollutants in the air, how long the person is exposed to these pollutants, as well as the person’s health conditions, age, and genetic background. Children, elderly people, and people with chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart, or lung disease are more vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution. It is recommended to use air purifier air conditioner types in the homes of especially people who have respiratory health problems.

Air quality is a measure of how clean or polluted the air is. It is important to track air quality because polluted air is very dangerous for both human and environmental health.

Air quality is measured by the Air Quality Index (AQI). The Air Quality Index is a method of showing changes in the amount of air pollution between 0 and 500 units. Although they are not visible to the naked eye, thanks to air quality measurement, the amount of particles and gases in the air can be determined and necessary precautions can be taken.

What Is Air Pollution?

A physical, biological, or chemical change in the air can be defined as pollution. When any toxic gas, dust, or smoke enters the atmosphere, it contaminates the air, making it difficult to breathe for plants, animals, and people.

The healthy breathing of living creatures depends on certain levels of gas mixing in the air. The fact that one of these gases is high or low also leads to air pollution.

The ozone layer, which is very important for the existence of ecosystems on the planet, is thinning due to increased pollution. Today, global warming, which is a direct outcome of the increasing gas imbalance in the atmosphere, poses serious threats.

Types of Air Pollution

There are two types of air pollution: visible and invisible. Visible air pollution refers to situations where air pollutants become visible. The smoke that appears above a city is an example of visible pollution. Invisible air pollutants are more difficult to spot but may be more deadly. Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides are examples of invisible air pollutants. 

Air pollution can be caused by either primary or secondary sources. Pollutants that are a direct result of the process are referred to as primary pollutants. Sulfur dioxide gases emitted from factories are examples of primary pollutants.

Secondary pollutants are produced as a result of the reactions caused by the mixing of primary pollutants. For example, smoke generated by the interaction of several primary pollutants is a secondary pollutant.

Top 10 Air Pollutants

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Particles
  • Ozone
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Unburned hydrocarbons
  • Lead and heavy metals

Causes of Air Pollution

There can be a lot of causes of air pollution. Because secondary pollutants exist in most areas, it becomes difficult to determine the source of pollution. However, some known reasons are more dangerous than others. The most effective causes of air pollution are listed below:

  • Burning Fossil Fuels

Sulfur dioxide, emitted from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and other flammable materials, is one of the most important causes of air pollution. Every day, billions of vehicles burn oil to generate energy. Petroleum is composed of hydrocarbons and releases these hydrocarbons into the atmosphere as the engines consume fuel for energy.

As a result, pollutants such as PM, nitric oxide and NO2 (commonly referred to as NOx together), carbon monoxide, organic compounds, and lead spread from vehicles such as trucks, SUVs, cars, trains, airplanes, etc., causing high levels of pollution.

  • Agricultural Activities

Ammonia is a very widely used byproduct in agricultural activities and is one of the most dangerous gases in the atmosphere. The use of insecticides and pesticides in agricultural activities has also increased considerably. Ammonia fertilizers and pesticides used in agricultural activities pollute both air and water.

Farmers also set fire to the field and old crops to keep the field clean for the next planting. Burning stubble to clean the fields releases hazardous gases into the air, causing pollution.

  • Waste in Sanitary Landfills

Sanitary landfills are areas where waste is stored or buried. This accumulated or buried waste produces methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is extremely flammable and very dangerous.

  • Exhaust Gas Emitted from Industrial Plants

Manufacturing industries release large amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and chemicals into the air, reducing air quality. Manufacturing industries exist in every part of the world and there are no areas that are not affected by this.

Furthermore, oil refineries emit hydrocarbons and other chemicals that pollute the air as well as the soil.

  • Mining Activities

Mining is a process in which minerals under the earth are extracted using massive machinery. During the process, dust and chemicals released into the air cause air and water pollution.

This is one of the reasons why the health conditions of workers and those living nearby the mine have deteriorated.

Results of Air Pollution 

Air pollution causes serious health issues in the human body. The following are the results of air pollution:

  • Respiratory and Heart Problems

Air pollution has been proven to cause a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart attack, as well as cancer and stroke. It is known that several million people die every year due to the direct or indirect effects of air pollution.

  • Maternal and Child Health Problems

Exposure to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy might cause miscarriages or premature births. At the same time, as a result of breathing dirty air during pregnancy, newborn babies may have autism or asthma, and young children may have spectrum disorders. Therefore, in areas with high air pollution, pregnant women are advised to use an air purifier air conditioner indoors and to avoid going outside unless absolutely essential.

In addition, air pollution can damage children’s early brain development and cause pneumonia, which kills almost a million children each year. Children are at great risk for short-term respiratory infections and lung diseases in regions with polluted air.

  • Global Warming

Another direct effect is the sudden climate changes that the globe is experiencing due to global warming.

Rising temperatures worldwide, rising sea levels and melting glaciers, displacements and habitat loss are threatening the world’s future.

  • Acid Rain

When fossil fuels are burned, hazardous gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the atmosphere. When it rains, water droplets combine with these air pollutants and become acidic which then falls to the earth as acid rain. Acid rain be extremely harmful to humans, animals, and crops.

  • Eutrophication 

The term “eutrophication” refers to an extreme increase in nutritional salts in a water source. Nitrogen found in some pollutants can cause eutrophication in water sources.  If rehabilitation work is not carried out immediately after eutrophication, the algae in the water grow and clog the gills of the fish. Eventually, life in the water ends, and the water turns into a swamp.

hava kalitesi - air quality

What Is Air Quality?

The process of estimating the amount of harmful gases in the air is referred to as air quality measurement. When air quality is good, the air is clean and contains only a small amount of solid particles and chemical contaminants. Poor air quality with high levels of pollutants is often hazy and dangerous to health and the environment. The Air Quality Index, which is based on the concentration of pollutants in the air in a particular location, defines air quality. Air Quality Index value is reached as a result of air quality measurement.

What Is Air Quality Index?

The Air Quality Index is set as a benchmark in a range from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the higher the level of air pollution, and the greater the health risk. For example, an Air Quality Index value of 50 or less represents clean and high-quality air, while a value above 300 represents hazardous air quality.

There are six categories in the Air Quality Index. Each category corresponds to a different level of health problem risk. Each category also has a color.

Daily Air Quality Index:

ColorLevel of Concern Index ValueDefinition of Air Quality
GreenGood0 to 50Air quality is satisfactory and air pollution poses little or no risk.
YellowModerate51 to 100Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
OrangeUnhealthy for Sensitive Groups101 to 150Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.
RedUnhealthy151 to 200Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
PurpleVery Unhealthy201 to 300Health alert: The risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
MaroonHazardous301 and higherHealth warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.