The five big contributors to air pollution are households, industries, transport, agriculture and waste. JCU researcher Dr Zsuzsa Banhalmi-Zakar has completed significant work in environmental impact assessments, of which air quality is a key aspect. Growing up in Europe, she saw first-hand the effects of air pollution.
“Smog is a huge problem in Europe. It’s a combination of smoke and other air pollutants, all trapped closer to the ground, so people can breathe it in. It’s much more visible pollution – it settles on your car, all around you. The particles are quite damaging to your lungs,” she said.
Cars are also a major contributor to pollution, as they produce significant amounts of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. A recent increase of car-use in Asia has added a huge pressure on the environment.
“Millions of people who have never used cars are suddenly all in cars, and it’s made a big difference,” said Zsuzsa. “It’s very difficult to manage and prevent.”
Once a pollutant is released into the air, it’s almost impossible to control, and once breathed in, the tiny particles of toxic chemicals can attack your lungs, heart and brain. Even if there are no immediate effects, the long-term impact of breathing in pollution can be devastating, particularly for those who are sensitive or have respiratory problems like asthma.
Zsuzsa urges the community to collectively advocate for more green spaces in the city and better public transport.
“We have the capability right now to design a really good public transport system. A lot of cities have already introduced completely free public transport for residents, which also increases the liveability of the city or the inner city.”
Other ways to reduce air pollution include being mindful of turning off lights and electronics not in use, choosing energy-efficient appliances, and walking or cycling to work where possible.