Is Qatar’s air safe to breathe?

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Ashlee

Air pollution is termed as a ‘contamination of air that alters its quality and is in turn harmful to human health, and that of animals and plants.’ It also affects everyone around the globe. However, some countries are at a higher risk for health problems due to worsening air quality, such as decreased lung function, cancer, stroke, ischemic heart disease, and pneumonia. 

The World Health Organization measures air quality through annual levels of atmospheric particulate matter (PM2.5), which are fine, microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter that are suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. In PM2.5, 50 per cent of particles are smaller than 2.5 microns. These particles can enter the human body through inhalation, and can fixate in the lungs. Their pollutants can occur naturally, from dust and storms, to forest fires, but are mainly produced by vehicles and factories.

As Qatar is among the world’s top producers of petroleum, the burning of fossil fuels is a major cause of pollution alongside incomplete combustion of carbon monoxide emitted from vehicles, and smoke from cars, trucks, airplanes, factories and industries.

Recently, The Guardian published a table of statistics based on global data gathered by the World Health Organization, where we can see that Doha and Al Wakrah made the list of those cities world-wide that are at elevated risk from air pollution.

Qatar is one of the biggest producers of oil but, from the given data, Doha has 93 micrograms of pollutants per cubic metre. This means the average cyclist/runner will have to ride/run outdoors less than 105 minutes per day to benefit from exercise. Any more than that, and the risk of adverse health effects from air pollution begins to outweigh the positive impact of exercise.

Compared with other global cities that have a break-even point of 30 minutes of outdoor exposure, such as in India for example, Doha and Al Wakrah have about two hours of exposure to reach the peak point of pollutants per cubic metre inhaled. Though the effect of this exposure isn’t immediate within healthy adults, its cumulative effects over time can be significant – making it hazardous not only to people, but also to livestock and plant life.

Because pollution generates a domino-effect of health and environmental problems that have a tremendous impact to our population, the logical next step is to ask ourselves what we can do to reverse its impact?

Here’s a few ways you can be environmentally proactive starting from home:

1.)  Try to reduce your carbon footprint by car-pooling or using public transportation. (We can’t wait for Qatar Rail to be up and running!) By reducing the number of cars on the road, the amount of gasoline emissions will also decrease.

2.)  Conserve energy on a daily basis by remembering to switch off the lights, electronic devices, and air conditioning units in your home.

3.)   The three R’s – reduce, re-use, recycle. It something that’s taught in school, but the problem is implementation. How many of us actually follow through? Try it at home and learn more about where Qatar’s garbage goes here.

There’ s still time to reverse the negative effects of air pollution for our future generations, so it’s crucial that we all do our share to save our Earth. Tell us your thoughts on the air we breathe in the comments section below and don’t forget to give us a like or a share – it keeps us going!