On a chilly Tuesday night, wrapped in the warmth of a blanket, I was stolen from sleep when I heard bursts of successive coughs emitting from downstairs. At 2 in the morning, my family and I hauled ass to the emergency room of Subang Jaya Medical Centre because my mom would not stop coughing.
It was odd because mom had never smoked a cigarette in her life, yet her coughs mimicked dad’s who had been smoking since high school (very gangster like that).
We were surprised to find many kids waiting at the lobby of the emergency room. Their parents, lugubrious from lack of sleep, nodded off in between intervals when their child was not coughing or crying in pain.
It was a morbid scene with the sounds of sick children as its soundtrack.
It turns out that my mom had bronchitis and the reason was because of poor air quality. In addition to that, my nephew, the cutest and bubbliest boy you’ll ever meet, has acute bronchitis and he’s only 2 years old.
I am ashamed to admit that I only realised the gravity of this situation after it had affected two of my loved ones. After all, there have been copious news reports detailing these events since the moment the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve 2019.
According to a research, the number of early deaths caused by air pollution has doubled in the year 2019. In essence, toxic air is killing more people than tobacco smoking. This is what Prof Thomas Münzel at the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany and one of the scientists behind the new study had to say,
“To put this into perspective, this means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking. Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.”
On our own soil, the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings have been deteriorating drastically.
In Pahang, the air quality level breached the ‘unhealthy’ level registering at 191 on the API. The reason for this egregious state is due to our own carelessness. Reports have detailed that a forest fire triggered the proliferation of the API and the smoke has begun to envelop neighbouring states.
To illustrate, this is an API chart:
With conditions exacerbating by the minute (and it’s only the third month of the year), we need to take measures into our own hands.
Here are 5 small but effective steps in order to reduce air pollution…
Picture this. You and your colleagues all agree to eat at the same place. Instead of driving separate cars, try carpooling! Not only will this decrease the saturation of fumes in the air, but it’s also a great way to engage in non-work conversations with your peers. Who knows? Maybe you can even do a carpool karaoke ala James Corden. Do keep your eyes on the road though (unlike the two girls depicted above).
Another tip is to always plan your destinations before getting into a car. This will hinder the dreaded, “Eh, where are we going ah?” which will then prevent unnecessary idling and fumes exuded. Strategise and keep your journeys quick, mostly to save the earth but also to save yourself from getting murdered by the designated driver.
2. Invest in a small garden
With the rapid pace of deforestations, it’s a wise idea to start planting our own gardens to compensate for the lack of clean oxygen in the air. Now of course we don’t expect you to build greenhouses anytime soon. A small, quaint garden will suffice. To get you started, try having plants on your desk or windowsill. I promise you, it will significantly change the freshness of the air in your environment.
3. Stop smoking
Ahh, this is the one that’s going to get me in trouble…
As I mentioned before, my mom was admitted to the hospital for bronchitis. According to her doctor, a lung specialist at SJMC, one of the main causes of her illness was due to secondhand smoking. To corroborate, Philip Landrigan, MD, a paediatrician and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City had this to say,
“Probably the single most important aspect of indoor air pollution is secondhand cigarette smoke”
I know we have been conditioned by the media to believe that smoking is cool and integral to having a social life, but the next time you light up, remember that you are inhaling more than 4,000 chemicals that could not only kill you but the person next to you as well. Just a friendly reminder.
4. Stop littering
Yes, yes, I know how repetitive it is to hear the words “Stop littering”, but guess what, people still do it. How often have you gone to the beach and instead of ravishing in the feeling of warm sand, you’re forced to avert stepping onto plastic bottles and dirty condoms (yes, this happens- nasty). While incorrectly disposing cigarettes can cause air pollution because of its ability to trigger fires, littering plastic bags and other items kill aqua life.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now of turtles choking from plastic straws. After the situation went viral, food and beverage establishments have banned plastic straws which have significantly improved the situation. But we can’t stop here.
In February 2019, scientists have found microplastic in the bowels of aqua life living in the Mariana Trench. This is highly concerning because Mariana Trench is the deepest ocean trench in the world. From this research, they have concluded that there are no existing marine life that has not been affected by pollution.
This revelation really highlights the importance of keeping your trash to yourself!
5. Educate your friends & family
Finally, the most important step to reducing air pollution–and any pollution in general–is to spread awareness. A collaborative effort is infinitely better than a solitary effort. Once you have brushed-up on the detrimental effects of climate change, tell your friends about it. Tweet it. Text them. Share this article with your friends *wink*.
Make an initiative and persuade them to follow in your footsteps. Gradually, we will all start to notice a difference in our present and in our future.
Main image: Paul Mullins/Flickr
For more shocking revelations on the state of our planet, click here.