WHEN OUR LUNGS TAKE THE BEATING

2020 was a year like no other.

Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement came to the forefront because of the death of George Floyd.

George Floyd’s final words resonated with most of us…

‘I can’t breathe’…

These were not only words but a plea to the rogue police officer kneeling on his neck.

A plea for life.

But his words resonate not only with colored people facing instances of systemic racism.

They also ring true among most of us living in urban areas in developing nations.

BURNING RUBBISH

Just ask yourself where rubbish collected from residential areas and offices ends up.

Well, the easiest way to deal with rubbish is to burn it…most of us would say.

Just pile it up somewhere then light it up.

At least it will be here now and gone after a while.

The power of heat will suddenly convert this mound of solid waste into gaseous products never leaving our air the same.

AIR POLLUTION

Though this habit might look small time, imagine the amount of air hazards that could be generated if every neighborhood decided to burn rubbish?

Of course, some of us would muse, ‘…why worry over a habit that’s ingrained in our culture…after all, this has been happening since time immemorial and we haven’t see any negative effects’.

But things weren’t always this way.

Way back when, systems functioned and rubbish collection was organized.

When we were growing up in the 80s and early 90s, most of us could relate with municipal trucks collecting rubbish on a regular basis.

Well, today these systems don’t function with efficiency.

And yet again, more garbage is produced by an ever expanding middle class some of which ends up in smoke in estate backyards and rubbish dumps.

But these smoky releases might not be an issue of concern if they were not laced with pollutants that could compromise our health in the long run.

OUR LUNGS

Of course the organs that take the greatest hit from air pollution are our lungs.

Increased instances of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and breathing problems indicate to us an increased need to tackle air pollution.

But not only do air pollutants compromise our breathing system.

Some of them are potent enough to lead to long term illnesses such as cancer.

DIOXINS

Among the key culprits, dioxins are in a class of their own.

Dioxins matter because they are easily produced when most types of rubbish are exposed to very high temperatures.

This is what makes long term exposure to ground level pollutants such as those from burning rubbish an issue of great concern.

But not only are dioxins infamous in this regard.

Polycyclics and particulates are also produced by such practices.

And their effects manifest long after exposure.

This makes continuous air quality monitoring a key aspect in reducing these risks.

Of great concern are industrial workers exposed to such air quality problems.

These may include leather tannery workers, workers in plastic and paints related industries, those in iron smelting, fertilizer manufacture, battery processing among others.

But not only are workers important to consider.

Air quality in neighborhoods around industrial zones should be constantly monitored by air quality specialists.

Also key are points of interest such as bus stages, residential areas near rubbish dumps among others.

Our air is our responsibility.

We can all do something about it for our sakes and for the generations to come.

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