LAST Wednesday, June 5, was World Environment Day (WED). This event was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. It was also on this date that the General Assembly created the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through a resolution. UNEP is the principal body of the United Nations in the field of environment.
In the Philippines, we commemorate WED not just for a day. The whole month of June is observed as Environment Month. This yearly observance started in 1988 when President Corazon C. Aquino signed proclamation No. 237 declaring the month of June as Philippine Environment Month.
The theme for this year is "Beat Air Pollution." According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution and 3.8 million deaths due to household exposure to smoke from dirty cook stoves and fuels. Also, 91 percent of the world's population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits.
Here are the sources of air pollution:
Household: Due to indoor burning of fossil fuels, wood and other biomass-based fuels to cook, heat and light homes. Around three billion people continue to use solid fuels and open fires for cooking, heating, and lighting. The adoption of cleaner, more modern stoves and fuels can reduce the risks of illness and save lives.
Industry: In many countries, power generation is a leading source of air pollution. Coal-burning power plants are a major contributor, while diesel generators are a growing concern in off-grid areas. Industrial processes and solvent use, in the chemical and mining industries, also pollute the air.
Transport: The global transport sector accounts for almost one-quarter of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and this proportion is rising. Air pollution emissions from transport have been linked to nearly 400,000 premature deaths. Almost half of all deaths by air pollution from transport are caused by diesel emissions, while those living closest to major traffic arteries are up to 12 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Agriculture: Comes from livestock, which produces methane and ammonia, rice paddies, which produce methane, and the burning of agricultural waste. Methane emissions contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which causes asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Waste: Open burning and organic waste in landfills release harmful dioxins, furans, methane, and fine particulate matter like black carbon into the atmosphere. Globally, an estimated 40 percent of waste is openly burned. The problem is most severe in urbanizing regions and developing countries.
Air pollution also comes from natural causes such as volcanic eruptions and dust storms. Remember the Mt. Pinatubo eruption? Volcanic ash traveled thousands of miles and caused respiratory problems.
All of us can do something to have clean air. Let's not burn garbage, maintain our cars properly or reduce their use, reduce the use of electricity and plant trees. I pray that the time will not come when bottled clean air will be sold because of too much air pollution.