Breathing hazard


Air pollution is a critical environmental and health issue affecting millions of people not only in Pakistan, but also in other countries across the globe. The quality of air in Pakistan’s major cities has been deteriorating at an alarming rate due to unplanned urbanization and rapid population growth.
An annual global survey by a Swiss maker of air purifiers has made an alarming revelation that Lahore, one of the biggest cities of Pakistan, has jumped more than 10 places to become the city with the worst air in the world in 2022. The consequences of this trend are dire, as air pollution poses significant risks to public health and the environment.
Australia’s Monash University has used machine learning in a recent study to bring together perhaps the most comprehensive set of readings of daily ambient fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, across the globe. Owing to its tiny size, PM2.5 can penetrate the thoracic region of the respiratory system, leading to increased risk of death from respiratory and cardiovascular conditions such as asthma and lung cancer.
One of the many primary contributors to air pollution in Pakistani cities is vehicular and industrial emissions. The increased number of rundown and old vehicles on the roads, coupled with poor emission control standards, has led to high levels of air pollution. The concentration of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in the air, which are harmful to human health, has exceeded safe levels in many cities.
Industrialization is another significant contributor to air pollution in Pakistani cities. The emission of toxic gases and other pollutants from industries, especially those located in densely populated cities, has contributed to the high levels of air pollution. Additionally, the burning of waste, including plastic and rubber, has further aggravated the situation.
The impacts of air pollution on public health are severe. Exposure to polluted air increases the risk of respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. It also affects the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections. Children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions are particularly vulnerable.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum PM2.5 concentration of 5 micrograms per cubic meter. Pakistan, which has two of the five cities with the worst air in 2022, stood third in the country-wide ranking at 70.9, followed by Bahrain at 66.6.
The report said India and Pakistan experienced the worst air quality in the Central and South Asian region, where nearly 60% of the population lives in areas where the concentration of PM2.5 particles is at least seven times higher than WHO’s recommended levels.
To address the issue of air pollution in Pakistani cities, a multi-pronged approach is needed. The government needs to implement and enforce strict regulations on industrial emissions and vehicular emissions. Encouraging the use of public transportation, cycling, and walking can help reduce vehicular emissions. Additionally, awareness campaigns can be launched to educate people about the hazards of air pollution and how they can contribute to reducing it.
The current air quality and air pollution in Pakistani cities are critical issues that require immediate attention. The government, civil society and individuals need to work together to combat this breathing hazard and create a safer and healthier environment for everyone. It is time for the government to take action and make the necessary changes to the law to ensure a cleaner and healthier future for all.