The Haze We Walk-in Nowadays: Understanding Smog
Every morning, as I wake up, the first thing I do is open my curtains. There is something about the crisp bright sunlight that kick starts my day. Winter is everyone’s favorite time for some sunshine. From the last year, that sunshine has been hazy, dull and depressing. The reason behind it is SMOG.
When I started to work on this article, I found a lot of science and logic, chemical reactions and facts to help understand what smog is. What is smog, how it forms, what are its main types etc. all of this information can be searched by just typing in a word SMOG, without even going into in depth literature. But I wanted to make it as simple and easy to comprehend as it can be, without putting in too much science into it.
What is Smog?
In the simplest terms, Smog is a form of air pollution which arises when smoke meets fog. The word “smog” itself is a portmanteau of “smoke” and “fog”.
If I try to simplify it further, I would say, imagine a plate and a glass bowl placed upside down on it. The plate is our earth, and the glass bowl is the environment. Now put a burning candle inside the setup. When the candle is burnt, everything remains inside the bowl, the fumes, and the carbon particles in its soot, the gases and even the wax. Now let’s burn ten candles inside, and we can well imagine what will happen with the environment. If the system is cooled, as in winters, the air condenses and the gases become thick, mixing with the fog. This dangerous combination is called smog. Now imagine breathing in that environment and I guess you can picture the situation.
What are the types of Smog?
Also called “London Smog”, this type is basically composed of high concentrations of sulfur oxide. The cause is sulfur emitting fossil fuels, particularly coal, used by factories. This gets worst by dampness and suspended particles in the air.
This one is also termed as “Los Angeles Smog”. This is more common in urban areas and is caused by the emission of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon particles by a large number of vehicles. These emissions undergo a photochemical reaction under the sunlight and the gas ozone is released. This type of smog gives a yellowing tinge to the environment, reduces visibility, causes respiratory diseases, eye and skin irritation. It also causes harm to animals, plants and crops.
The smog over Lahore is a mixture of fumes from vehicles, dust from the ongoing construction projects and the smoke from burning crop stubble in the suburbs.
Why is it dangerous?
Smog has very hazardous effects on us, and also the plants and animals. Some of them are:
- Respiratory problems, including bronchitis, asthma and general throat soreness
- May affect heart, due to respiratory distress
- Irritation in eyes, nose and throat
- Aggravates allergies
- Reduction in visibility disrupts road and air traffic; if care is not taken it may lead to fatal accidents
- Electronic equipment is affected
- Plants and crops are damaged due to the toxic gas Ozone.
- Persistent smog adversely affects forests
- Animals have similar respiratory and heart disorders
Who is at Risk?
As a matter of fact, every one of us is at risk. It’s worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. But the highest risk is to:
- Old people
- People having existing ailment, such as asthma
- Heart diseases
- Pregnant women
- People who work or spend more time outdoors
.How to protect ourselves?
First and foremost we must plant as many trees as possible. They are the lungs of our planet. Then there are two tiers to protection from smog; first is to avoid exposure, and second is to try to reduce it (by reducing air pollution).
Avoid Exposure and Stay Safe:
- Try to stay indoors, keep windows closed
- Exercise indoors and avoid walk, jog and strenuous activities outdoors
- Combine errands and run them together
- When you go out, choose a cleaner commute preferably with less traffic
- Wear a mask whenever you’re out
- Stay hydrated
- Take special care of children and old people, also of those who are at high risk
Reduce Air Pollution:
Reducing air pollution is more important to keep our generation safe from this perilous condition. A few steps we can take are:
- Reduce car trips and unnecessary driving around
- Keep vehicles tuned, get engines regularly checked
- Try to car pool, use public transport, cycle or walk
- Take care of your tyres, keep them properly inflated
- Fill up your cars in the evening or early morning. Cooler gas prevents fumes from heating and producing ozone
- Avoid burning coal, or wood, for heat or to cook. Also avoid using gas fueled machinery(lawn mowers etc.) and replace with electronic ones
- Do not burn leaves, trash and other material. Try to follow proper recycling channel. Mulch or compost leaves
- Conserve energy, electricity and water
- Try buying environment friendly and energy efficient equipment
- Use environment friendly paints, cleaning products, sprays, perfumes etc., no cfcs and low-VOC paints for example
Smog is not an issue to be taken casually. In addition to all the prevention and caution, it’s a combined effort of the government and society that will help us overcome this situation. Something needs to be done immediately; lest the situation will become irrepressible, and our cities will be uninhabitable.
According to China dialogue Dutch architect’s smog-eating tower could suck pollutants out of the air in Beijing