How do pets, insects, and other wildlife fares when it comes to dealing with the negative effects of air pollution? Spoiler: It’s not good.
Air pollution produces countless problems for humans including allergies, chronic illness, and even skin problems. There is a lot of information on how air pollution affects us humans, but what about animals? To get a better understanding of how air pollution impacts more than just humans, we examine some of the ways poor air quality is detrimental to wildlife and pets alike.
Indoor Air Pollutants
Our furry friends are exposed to many of the same indoor air pollutants we are, if not more, considering the fact that pets spend the majority of their time indoors. Because of this constant exposure to polluted indoor air, pets are more susceptible to developing nose and throat ailments, as well as asthma and bronchitis.
To help protect our pets, it is important to keep homes well ventilated and pollutant-free. To create the perfect indoor air environment, choose a Venta Airwasher for the right balance of humidification and purified air. With no over-humidification, you don’t have to worry about an influx of mold and dust mites causing allergies. The Airwasher does not use dirty filters and does not produce ozone or white dust, so be assured your pet will be comfortable and safe around a Venta Airwasher.
For all the bird owners out there, pet birds, in particular, need adequate indoor air quality. Mary McQueen, founder of Hand and Beak, and owner of Luigi the Lovebird explains how the Airwasher has made a difference in her air quality:
Birds have a complex respiratory system and air quality is supremely important, clean air as well as humidified air. Also if a bird gets sick the vet bills can be astronomical, thousands of dollars is not unheard of for a serious illness. People say all the time that the air in my apartment is “different” from the air in the hallway outside my door. I love my Venta so much that one time I kissed it!
Outdoor Air Pollutants
Similar to humans, pets have negative reactions to outdoor air pollution. Multiple studies found physical signs of harm in dogs that were exposed to air pollution. One study examined dog’s brains from Mexico City, a heavily polluted city:
The Mexico City dogs’ brains showed increased inflammation and pathology including amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, clumps of proteins that serve as a primary marker for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Pesticides were the focus of an additional study, showing the negative impact of airborne toxins on dogs:
The University of Massachusetts and the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine did a study with 700 dog owners regarding the use of pesticides and the results were astounding. According to this study, approximately 33% of the dogs were diagnosed with with canine malignant lymphoma, a form of cancer. The study also revealed that dogs had a 70% higher chance of getting lymphoma if their owner used pesticides in their yard.
While you can’t single-handedly stop all air pollution, you can do your part to improve overall air quality. Be ‘air aware’ about your air quality and choose healthy, safe products to use in your home and yard. Avoid taking your pets near high-traffic areas where exposure to pollutants (vehicle exhaust, construction dust, and other airborne toxins) is prevalent.
One of the most interconnected groups of animals on Earth, insects are very susceptible to the consequences of air pollution. Small fluctuations in air quality force insects to relocate, alter their food intake and reduce their colony size.
Bees, in particular, are a hot topic when it comes to discussing the effects of air pollution on wildlife. Air pollutants break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate food. When these odors are modified by pollution, bees become confused, increasing their foraging time and decreasing pollination.
Experts studying this topic are confident air pollution is a major factor in the bee population:
We found that when we confused the bees’ environment by modifying the gases present in the atmosphere, they spent more time foraging and would bring back less food, which would affect their colonies […] Because the concentration of scents changes drastically in air polluted environments, this could impact important interactions between plants and insects […] Declines in the pollination of wild plants may lead to increases in the population of plants that do not rely on pollinators, and pollinator declines would lead to decreases in crop yields. Honeybees and other pollinators are in trouble almost everywhere, and they pay us a lot of services through their pollination.
By studying the correlation between bee populations and pollution, experts can better understand what factors are affecting the declining numbers and what actions need to be taken to better the situation.
Amphibians and Fish
Acid rain falling on shallow bodies of water causes pH levels to fluctuate, causing fish to relocate their native location, to have respiratory problems and even die. Soft-bodied animals like amphibians absorb pollutants through their skin and are much more sensitive to decreased pH levels in water. Some amphibious species are more immune to water acidification than others, altering populations by affecting competition and predation between amphibians.
Birds are directly and indirectly affected by air pollution. They spend more time in the open air and have a higher breathing rate than humans, exposing themselves to greater levels of air pollution. Studies have shown that for birds with long term exposure to pollution, there was reduced egg production and hatching, lung failure, inflammation, and reduced body size.
Bird habitats are affected by pollution as well. Ozone damages plants that birds rely on for food, nesting, and shelter. When acid rain impacts the fish population that birds feed on, their food sources become scarce and populations decline.
Air pollution has an intricate effect on our planet. All the ways air pollution affects humans, animals, and our ecosystem are connected. It is important to understand and recognize this in order to know how to take action.
For more information on how air pollution and other types of pollution are disrupting wildlife life cycles and ecosystems around the world, and on how you can get involved in protection and conservation, visit the World Wildlife Fund’s special report on pollution.