Air Pollution Control: Does Your Action Matter?


(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Margareta Evelyne Adriani, a fourth year medical student from Sebelas Maret University, Indonesia. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Everybody knows that air pollution is a serious threat happening that affects not only the climate but also our health. But, pollutant-emitting activities has been a big part of our life and a habit we can’t easily change. Changing trends to a more eco-friendly transportations and energy generations, preventing deforestation, and reducing industrial emissions sounds like a big thing we can’t do by our own. What can we do, as a citizen, and how significant our actions could be?

One of the air pollutant that affects our health, even in a very low concentration, is the particulate matters (PM). There are three categories of PM based on its diameter size, but let’s focus on the common fine PM with high damaging capability, PM2.5, particulate matters that has diameter of less than 2.5 μm. Compared to human hair’s diameter that has an average of  90 μm, PM2.5 is very small that it can penetrate into our lungs barrier and enter the blood system, eventually cause inflammation and lead to diseases.(1) The World Health Organization air quality guideline(2) stated that the highest level of PM2.5 concentration allowed is 10 μg/m3 annually and 25 μg/m3 daily. Based on WHO global health observatory data(3), PM2.5 concentration assessed in 194 countries by 2016 has an average of 24,84 μg/m3, with the lowest concentration at 5,7 μg/m3 and the highest at 94,3 μg/m3. Every 10 μg/m3 raise of PM2.5 concentration, increase the relative risk of stroke by 1%, heart failure (2.1%), diabetes (39%), atrial fibrillation (0,89%), and 1-3 mmHg blood pressure elevation.(1)

Two main source of PM2.5 emission that we can control as a citizen are emission from fossil fuel combustion for transportation and electricity power generator. Passenger cars in Europe consumed a mean of 0,07 kg/km petrol fuel, while heavy duty vehicles (HDV) such as buses consumed 0,5 kg/km compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel. PM emission in passenger cars has a mean of 0.03 g/kg fuel for petrol, while PM emission from HDV has a mean of 0.02 g/kg fuel for CNG. Therefore, passenger car emits 0,0021 g/km (2100 μg/km) and CNG bus emits 0,01 g/km (10.000 μg/km). With one bus can carry up to 70 passengers, pollutant emitted per person using bus is 142,85 μg/km and 525 μg/km per person in a passenger car filled with 4 people.(4)

65% electricity power source in the United States (US) are using fossil fuels and it also emitted PM2.5. The majority of power plants in the US have PM2.5 emission rates ranges in 0.00 to 0.10 kg/MW-h (0 to 100.000 μg/kW-h) for natural gas, oil, and coal fired plant. (5) An average household usage of electricity in the US are 539 to 1.289 kW-h per month.(6)  Therefore, 1 kilometer trip using public CNG bus and 1 kilowatt hour reduction of electricity usage can reduce PM up to 382,15 μg and PM2.5 up to 100.000 μg.

As everything else in life, there are things we can control and things we can’t. Our duty is to maximize things we can control.









  1. Rajagopalan S, Al-Kindi SG, Brook RD. (2018). Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 72(17), 2054–2070.
  2. (2018). Ambient (Outdoor) Air Pollution. World Health Organization.
  3. (2016). Global Health Observatory Data Repository. World Health Organization.
  4. Ntziachristos L, Samaras Z, Kouridis C, Samaras C, Hassel D, Mellios G, McCrae I, et al. (2019). EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook 2019. European Environment Agency.
  5. (2016). North American Power Plant Air Emissions. Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
  6. (2018). 2018 Average Monthly Bill Residential. US Energy Information Administration.

About the author

Margareta Evelyne Adriani is a fourth year medical student from Sebelas Maret University, Indonesia. She worked in CIMSA Indonesia, an affiliated NMO of International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). Formerly worked as Treasurer of the National Committee on Research Exchange (NCRE) CIMSA Indonesia and currently as Treasurer of CIMSA Indonesia. She has a keen interest in environmental and health issues and wanted to be apart of the change for a better environment.

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