What is Transboundary Air Pollution?

Transboundary pollution from industrial sources

Having countries closely linked to each other can have significant benefits—like how globalization has facilitated the exchange of goods, services, and information on a global scale. However, having countries in close proximity also means that air pollution can travel easily across borders.  

Transboundary air pollution has become a pressing issue that transcends borders, affecting the health of our planet and the life it sustains. In this article, we’ll explain what causes transboundary air pollution and how you can take action to protect the air you breathe every day. 

What is Transboundary Pollution?  

Transboundary pollution, also known as cross-border pollution or transnational pollution, refers to the movement of pollutants across national or regional boundaries. Transboundary pollution can happen by water or soil contamination. There can also be transboundary air pollution, which is where harmful emissions travel by wind currents from one region to another.   

When transboundary air pollution happens, dangerous chemicals, Particulate Matter (PM), and substances from industrial facilities, power plants, or vehicles in one region travel long distances by wind. This can in turn affect the air quality in neighboring areas and across national borders. Studies have found that poor air quality can be harmful to our respiratory system and our ecosystem as a whole. 

Examples of Transboundary Pollution  

Transboundary air pollution is a pressing global concern. For example, airborne contaminants from Mexico and Canada can cross borders and affect the United States. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is actively engaged in efforts to comprehend and minimize the impact of air pollution originating outside the country for better citizen health and environmental quality.  

Another example is a study on transboundary air pollution that examined two instances of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for a year. The results show that both events had consistently high levels of PM2.5 with over 60% of the Air Quality Index (AQI). Moreover, the PM2.5 levels were 100% and 115% higher on average compared to local pollution levels in the same months.  

Notably, the second event in 2015 was primarily caused by biomass burning in Indonesia. This was worsened by a specific weather pattern related to the El Niño phenomenon, emphasizing the significant impact of pollution coming from outside the city.  

Lastly, we can examine the air quality in Sri Lanka, where the country is experiencing transboundary air pollution from pollutants drifting in from India and China. This pollution can lead to issues like hazy air and acid rain. In some cities like Anuradhapura and Kandy, pollution is even worse because of pollution from other places carried by the wind. 

How to Combat Transboundary Pollution  

Combatting transboundary air pollution requires a collective effort involving governments, industries, and individuals. Here are six ways you can contribute to mitigating this issue: 

#1 - Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Support Clean Energy

    You can reduce your carbon footprint by using public transportation, carpooling, biking, or walking instead of driving alone. Additionally, supporting clean energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power can significantly reduce harmful emissions, which are a major contributor to transboundary air pollution. Even small things like avoiding wood burning can also improve air quality. 

    #2 - Make Eco-Friendly Choices

      Choose eco-friendly and non-toxic products to minimize the release of harmful chemicals into the environment. This includes using biodegradable cleaning products and reducing the use of single-use plastics. Moreover, actively participating in recycling and waste reduction efforts helps prevent pollution from landfills and incinerators, which can release harmful substances into the air.  

      #3 - Advocate for Sustainable Practices 

        Support sustainable practices, such as purchasing locally grown, organic, and sustainably produced food. You can also advocate for better alternatives to harmful pesticides that contribute to poor air quality, especially during harvest season. Doing these things not only reduces harmful emissions associated with long-distance transport but also promotes eco-friendly farming practices.  

        #4 - Plant Trees and Raise Awareness

          Planting trees and vegetation can be a simple yet effective way to combat transboundary air pollution. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, helping to purify the air and combat climate change, a major driver of transboundary air pollution. Additionally, spreading awareness about the harmful effects of transboundary air pollution and encouraging others to take action can create a collective impact.  

          #5 - Properly Dispose of Hazardous Waste

            Some waste can be particularly harmful to the environment. That’s why we need to safely dispose of hazardous materials like batteries, electronics, and chemicals through designated recycling programs to prevent contamination of the air and soil

            #6 - Reduce Water Usage

              Also, consider reducing water usage at home and advocating for water conservation in your community. This helps minimize the energy required for water treatment and distribution, reducing pollution from power plants. 

              Transboundary pollution requires transboundary efforts from all societies to solve. By participating and doing as much as you can to protect yourself and the environment, you can ensure that the air you breathe remains clean and safe. 

              Worried About Air Quality? 

              Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map, or join PurpleAir’s mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home. Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.