What is air pollution?


posted on: December 18th, 2018

Air pollution is the term used to describe the dirtying of the air we breathe in. Air it is not always obvious, in some cases, a visible smog (thick smoke) can be seen, but not all air pollution can be seen by the eye. Pollution of the air takes place when anything makes its way into the air that would not normally be expected to and that could act as a threat to normal human health.


Due to the rise of industrial activity, ambient air pollution affects nearly all regions, settings, ages and groups of people on the planet. The World Health Organisation (a branch of the United Nations concerned with health all over the world) sets guidelines on air pollution limits.The organisation has estimated that 91% of the world’s population live in areas that have air pollution higher than these limits.

The factors that cause air pollution are released when we burn fuels. For this reason, major sources of air pollution are vehicles, power generators, factories and rubbish incinerators. Inside the home, air pollution can be produced by burning fuels such as charcoal and firewood for cooking on open fires.

In today’s society, using many of these things cannot be avoided. Thankfully, there are solutions available to prevent excessive release of toxic products in to the air we breathe.


Lagos, in the Nigerian state of Lagos, is a hugely industrialised and commercialised city in which air pollution is present. This is due to burning of ‘dirty fuel’ that releases toxic substances, as well as a reliance on generators due to an electricity grid that can’t handle the city’s needs. In 2016, the government of Nigeria promised to put in higher standards on the fuel that could be burned. These new rules have yet to be put in place, and ‘dirty fuel’ is still being burned.


There are steps that can be taken to reduce air pollution. First and foremost, more information is needed on air pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa. Governments do not tend to monitor the issues too closely which make it harder to then make changes. This is beginning to change though. For example, air pollution monitors have been placed in schools in Kampala, Uganda, and were previously set up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As more data is gathered, it will be easier for decisions to be made.

Stopping the use of ‘dirty fuels’ and burning cleaner fuel will reduce pollution from both vehicles and industry. In addition, burning rubbish in a controlled way will reduce the pollution it causes near to where people live. Inside the home air pollution can be reduced by reducing the use of open fires and directing smoke out of the home using chimneys.

Measures to lower air pollution must be realistic and allow us to carry on with our day to day life. For this reason, change will likely be gradual.

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