It’s Valentine’s day and it’s the day for celebration of love. Love is likened to be an intense feeling of deep affection and attraction. Every February 14, people honor their significant other by going on dates, exchanging gifts, and sending love notes as token of love and affection. A few even take advantage of the day and put their love footprints on the day with a wedding proposal. Many people associate the most romantic day of the year with all these activities but do we really know the origin of Valentine’s day and why it falls on February 14?
Valentine’s day is understood by many to have originated as a Christian religious festival honoring a saint. Hence the name, St. Valentine’s day. The popular belief about St. Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the Third century AD. Stories tells us that Emperor Claudius II banned marriages because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair and arranged secret marriages. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death. While in jail, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and when he was taken to be killed on February 14, he sent her a love letter bearing a signature “From your Valentine”.
Prior to that time, the Romans had a festival called Lupercalia held in mid-February. This festival celebrates the coming of spring and it involves fertility rites and pairing of men and women. Males drew names of females from a box and they would befriend each other during the festival and sometimes get married. In a bid to turn this festival into a Christian celebration, Pope Gelasius I decided to use it to remember St. Valentine. Till date, February 14th, known as Valentine’s day is celebrated as a day of romance.
This year’s valentine falls on a Friday and no doubt, love is indeed in the air. Everywhere I look, every sound I hear sends the message that love is all around but sadly, the air is too polluted to permit the development of long-term profound love. We all want love but nothing is more vital to life than breathing and air pollution has been a major public health issue.
What Then Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution is an alteration of air quality by chemical, physical and biological agents. It ia simply the presence of undesirable impurities in the atmosphere. Air pollution can be classified into- Outdoor and Indoor Pollution.
Outdoor Pollution: this involves exposure that takes place outside the built environment. It could be from Natural (Biogenic) or Human (Anthropogenic) sources.
Natural sources includes: wildfires, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, pollen, etc.
Human sources includes: combustion of fossil fuels, emissions from industries, vehicle exhausts, bush fires, etc.
Indoor Pollution: this can be affected by outdoor air quality but the quality indoors can still be significantly different. Common indoor pollutants are Carbon monoxide (which comes from tobacco smoke, charcoal and fuel used in cooking or heating) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) coming from pesticides, paints, household cleaning products, chemicals from building materials, glues, etc. Inadequate ventilation also causes indoor air pollution.
Other Air Pollutants Includes–
Particulate Matter: major sources are from fossil fuel power plants, gasoline-powered vehicles, etc. Health effect of particulates are mostly due to particles that are less than 10 in diameter. They can be inhaled deep into the lungs and enter into the blood stream.
Ozone: this is created when sunlight reacts with certain chemicals that comes from burning of fossil fuels. When particles in the air combines with ozone, a smog is formed. Smog can irritate the eyes, throat and also damage the lungs.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2): this is usually formed when fuel is burned at high temperature. It is known to cause pulmonary edema, an accumulation of excessive fluid in the lungs. Sources include vehicle exhausts, power plants, industries, etc.
Carbon Monoxide (CO): is a colorless and odorless gas formed as a result of incomplete combustion of carbon in fuel. Sources are from vehicle exhausts, incinerators, bushfire, industries, etc. Exposure to CO can cause asphyxiation, where there’s reduced flow of oxygen in the blood stream and can impair mental alertness and vision.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2): produced from the combustion of sulphur containing fuels like in power plants or refineries. This gas can cause eye and throat irritation and harm lung tissue when inhaled.
Lead (Pb): produced from metal and ore processing. In children, inhaled lead particulates can cause learning disabilities, seizures and even death.
Health Effects: exposure to air pollution results in long range of short and long term effects. This depends on the type of pollutant, concentration, length of exposure and individual characteristics of the person exposed to it. It could range from minor (eyr, nose or throat irritation) to severe (cancer, respiratory or cardiovascular diseases and even death).
How Can I Reduce My Risk For Air Pollution Exposure?
Indoor air pollution can be reduced by proper ventilation and regular cleaning of the house. Outdoor air pollution exposures can be reduced by avoiding heavy traffic, cutting down on fossil fuels and using renewable energy.
How Is Air Quality Measured?
Air quality can be measured using laser-based technologies, chemiluminescence, flame ionization, etc. The data collected are read into a value scale called Air Quality Index (AQI). This is a numerical or coded color representation of how clean the air is. It is usually a measure of the level of pollutant in the atmosphere compared to the national standards.
In this season of love, love is not the only thing in the air. We need to be alive to fall in love. As you celebrate St. Valentine’s day don’t forget to show love to mother earth.