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How Is It Possible to Reduce Air Pollution? - F. Yaren Öztürk



Many studies have been conducted about the damage caused by environmental pollution on human health until today. The most comprehensive research emphasize that an environment consisting of polluted air and polluted water kills more people every year than almost all dangerous substances in the world, natural disasters, events such as wars and diseases. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution, which is one of the points that forms the basis of environmental pollution, kills seven million people in the world every year. It is stated that almost the entire world population breathes highly polluted air that exceeds the global air quality limits set by the WHO. Most affected people by air pollution live in middle or low-income countries such as South Asian and African countries. In most countries that suffer from air pollution, especially in India, one of the most populated countries globally, air pollution causes almost a quarter of all deaths. At the same time, it becomes a considerable obstacle to economic development for these countries.

Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, and they were assertive that it would be one of the best Olympic events ever. Despite this, increasing air pollution in the city caused the athletes and spectators to encounter the lowest air quality in the history of the Olympic Games. At the 24th Winter Olympic Games held in Beijing last February, the situation was almost the opposite. Although there is high political tension and the ongoing coronavirus debates shadow the Olympic Games, there was one difference: the visibly reduced air pollution in Beijing. Since the Olympics were held fourteen years ago, air pollution in China's capital has decreased by nearly 50 percent, and air quality has improved noticeably. From 2013 to 2019, policies developed and implemented by China played a significant role in reducing air pollution. As a result of policies such as increasing renewable energy investments across the country, limiting the number of vehicles in cities with high population density, limiting the number of coal power plants to be established, and determining new carbon emission standards to be applied in coal power plants, a 29% reduction in air pollution has occurred. According to the University of Chicago Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) report, published in September 2021, it was emphasized that if China could maintain this reduction in air pollution, the life expectancy of people living in China could increase by 1.5 years.


Contrary to the abundance of air pollutants and the simplicity of polluting the air in the living era, reducing air pollution may not be cheap for countries. It is estimated that in the past years' China has spent about $400 billion to reduce air pollution. Air pollution poses a global health threat to every creature on earth and is a remarkable obstacle to overcoming the climate crisis. At this point, the amounts to be paid should not be more critical than reducing air pollution and keeping creatures alive. In the long run, investments made to reduce air pollution will benefit both economically and in a humanitarian sense. In 2019, India lost approximately $36.8 billion from neonatal deaths and diseases due to air pollution. Globally, air pollution causes about $8.1 trillion in a year and 6.1 percent of global GDP to be lost. The rational short and long-term policies and investments to be determined to improve air quality can save many people's lives by enabling countries to grow economically and balancing their costs in the field of health.


The air quality life index (AQLI) is one of the tools developed by the University of Chicago to estimate how much life expectancy will be added to people's lives by reducing air pollution and forecasting the life spans lost due to air pollution. Estimations of the air quality life index are based on a study in China that used a home heating program to forecast lifespans lost because of air pollution. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Chinese government distributed free coal for winter heating to the houses located north of the Huai River, but it did not provide any coal aid to the homes situated in the south of the Huai River. The people living in the houses to the north and south of the Huai River had no significant difference other than the free access to coal. This situation being the case, this policy followed by the Chinese government presented an experiment. The people living north of the Huai River did not hesitate to burn as much coal as possible for heating. However, the life expectancy of the people living north of the Huai River has decreased by 5.5 years due to the pollution of the air they breathe. The researchers used the outputs to identify other factors that reduce life expectancy and determine the difference between them and air pollution. At the same time, they developed the air quality life index to calculate the effect of different particle concentration levels on life expectancy.


Even though air pollution is an urgent and global problem, it is not an impossible problem to solve. The policies implemented by China, Japan, the USA and European countries in the past fifteen years have shown other countries that air pollution is not that arduous. Except for the policies implemented by the governments, even the tiny changes people will exercise in their daily lives has great importance in the fight against air pollution. Changes in people's lifestyles, such as preferring electric cars instead of cars that use traditional fuel types, and preferring energy-saving light bulbs instead of conventional light bulbs, can reduce air pollution and make people live longer lives.