The Relationship among Air Pollution, Population and Traffic Density

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Most epidemiological studies are normally conducted in cities, and they appear to show a connection between air contaminants primarily caused by cars, as well as a decline in life expectancy and the general population (Hoek et al, 1203). Traffic, especially diesel-related emissions, is a major source of air pollution exposure for residents of Beijing and its surrounding areas. Children living in these areas are more likely to experience complications such as asthma and respiratory disorders as a result of exposure to traffic-related toxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Populations residing in Beijing and its environs lack long-term monitoring of relevant traffic pollutants hence making the town susceptible to traffic-related pollutants (Hoek et al, 1205). Besides, people tend to release various chemicals in the atmosphere, and this impact them negatively as they breathe air to live and what they breathe has a direct impact on their health. Therefore, this paper intends to focus on the relationship between air pollution, population and traffic density while focusing on Beijing as a hometown that needs the change from these environmental impacts.

Relationship between Air Pollution and Population

The quality of air in Beijing and relevant health effects have been of some concern to the world for several years (Brunekreef et al, 299). Several Chinese researchers have undertaken various studies affiliated to health effects due to air pollution. Evidence suggests that the quality of air in the town has improved dramatically in the recent past. The levels of SO2, NO2 and PM10, were 37, 50 and 120 mcg/m3 in 2009 in that order. There has been a reduction in these levels hence resulting in a decrease in cardiovascular death rates that were apparently high in the past decades (Brunekreef et al, 301). It, therefore, implies that the measures that were put in place to control air pollution have been successful to some extent hence benefiting the residents of Beijing. Particulate Matter (PM), NO2, and O3 are considered traditional air pollutants, are commonly used as indicator pollutants for fuel combustion and traffic-related air pollution. In the twentieth century, total suspended particulate (TSP) levels were very high in the major cities. The levels of NO2 and O3 tend to increase due to the increase in the number of motor vehicles around the world. Megacities such as Beijing and Tokyo experienced annual average NO2 that exceed the standards of WHO air quality criteria (Brauer et al, 232).

Adverse Health Effects Related to Air Pollution on Population

Exposure to ambient air pollution has been linked to a series of adverse health effects ranging from physiological changes in how the pulmonary functions to subclinical effects and sometimes premature death. High-risk population includes the elderly, young children and people who have predisposed diseases as well as individuals with low socioeconomic status in the society (Brauer et al, 235). Despite the reason that health effects due to pollution are relatively small, the total number of people who have been affected globally is quite significant. Moreover, even when the WHO quality guidelines are still met, it is evident that the health risk is still present. Substantial evidence from various researchers shows that exposure to particulate matter (PM) is connected to different adverse effects on morbidity and mortality. Moreover, there is a possible risk of acute events such as stroke and myocardial infarction.

The evidence of PM that is airborne seems to be consistent in various cities, both developing and developed alike. Ground level ozone also forms a significant air pollutant that poses adverse effects to people in Beijing and around the world (Brauer et al, 237). It is formed when the volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen react with the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The fundamental source of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides is mobile sources such as trucks, buses, cars as well as agricultural and construction equipment. The ground-level ozone reaches its peak during the early evenings and the afternoon hours especially in the months of summer. It is a small irritant that can lead to constriction of the airways, to compel the respiratory system to work extra so as to offer oxygen. It can also lead to other health effects such as increased fatigue, chest pain, and hard thought and reduced resistance to infection (Chen et al, 545).

Engaging in physical activity requires the intake of oxygen as the demand for oxygen increases as the intensity of the exercise increases. Using the mouth to breathe becomes more familiar with exertion hence bypassing the nasal filtration system and increasing the amount of pollution inhaled. It, therefore, indicates that exercising in an environment that is polluted exposes people to combustion linked airborne pollutants (Chen et al, 548). Such exposure can trigger health challenges through inflaming airways and making asthmatic responses worse. Despite the fact that exercising is known to be beneficial to health, engaging in the process in a polluted environment may increase the risk of population concerning health. In some instances, the risks might outweigh the benefits due to the potential long-term harmful effects on health. Most recreational activities in Beijing are done outdoors hence making exposure to ambient air pollution a public health challenge (Chen et al, 551).

Increased uptake of air pollutants in the lungs as a result of minute ventilation during physical activity may increase the adverse effects of air pollution on the health of people in Beijing and its environs. Numerous studies have presented evidence of acute harmful health impact of physical activity with even short-term exposure to the air pollution (Brook et al, 2335). For instance, individual who has asthma and walks in the busy street of Beijing for only two hours is likely to register reduced function of the respiratory system. In the same manner, young children participating in an exercise that is high level in communities such as Beijing with elevated levels of ozone have higher chances of suffering from asthma compared to their counterparts who use in areas with low concentrations of ozone. Runners who run near busy highways have experienced reduced lung function as well as the cyclists who rode on busy roads especially during rush-hour traffic (Brook et al, 2337).

Implications of pollution on Population Health

Despite the fact that the presented adverse health impacts of air pollution indicate that engaging in physical activity in an environment that is polluted may not ultimately diminish the benefits of exercise hence should not be avoided (Zhou et al, 3090). Moderate physical activities such as cycling, walking may still present considerable benefits for individuals who are healthy if done where there is the low concentration of airborne. However, it is important to note that there is no sufficient evidence on balance between the benefits and health risks in different at distinct pollution levels and in diverse populations. It indicates that some approaches may be required for subpopulations facing greater danger (Zhou et al, 3089). Engaging in physical activity outdoor is a tradition in China hence making it vital to be put into consideration in environmental changes and protective strategies for exercise. Some air pollutants such as PM can be modified hence it is important to put down interventions that can help in mitigating the level of air pollution. One such strategy is to come up with green spaces that can respond to health hazards brought about by air pollution. There should also the promotion of conducts such as physical activities. Other strategies that can control atmospheric pollution and adverse health effects include taking antioxidant supplements, putting on facemasks and shunning traffic areas.

Relationship between Air Pollution and Traffic Density

The total number of vehicles on Chinese roads has increased more than five times in 10 years, and China has been number one automotive market around the globe since 2009 (Brook et al, 2333). Similarly, China is the number one greenhouse gas emitter as it produces 9670 Mt CO2 which accounts for one-fourth of the total emission in the world which doubles 28 EU countries combined concerning the rate of discharge. Beijing being the center of Chinese urban towns have been at receiving end concerning the relationship between air pollution and traffic density. It is because there are numerous vehicles in Beijing alone and the exhaust emission for motor vehicles is known to contain carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxides. Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides have been tested and proven as the key pollutants from the motor vehicles (Brook et al, 2342).

The challenges regarding pollution in Beijing are mainly caused by the rapid urbanization. Population in Beijing has been multiplying at the rate of 2% annually (Brook et al, 2354). As the population grows, so do the number of automobiles due to the high demand for vehicular transport. It is estimated that the number of vehicles has increased from 1.3 million in 1999 to 2.5 million in 2005 (Delfino et al, 573). The pollution challenges are also elevated by geological conditions of the town. It sits on a plain surrounded by hills and escarpments capable of trapping pollution on occasions when there is little wind. High winds from Northwestern carry dust from the Gobi desert to the town hence leading to increased concentrations of PM10 as well as low visibility that poses a danger to the health of inhabitants of Beijing. The combination of the rapid growth in automotive and unfavorable geological conditions has caused air pollution in the town hence making it surpass the required international average (Delfino et al, 573).

Concentrations of PM2.5, when monitored in major cities around the world, indicate that 10% to 60% comes from transport. In various urban settings, transport is the leading source of other air pollutants (Hao et al, 454). In cities around the Asian continent, transport is approximated to contribute 35-96% of the total emission of the CO. A sizeable proportion of air pollution emission that is affiliated to transport is from motorcycles that comprise 80% of the vehicle fleet. Two engines of vehicles alone are estimated to emit large proportions of CO and NOx per individual per kilometer of travel (Hao et al, 457). Besides it is a clear indication that when there are too many automobiles, then there is reduced physical activity hence leading to most premature deaths annually. It is a risk factor, and it is the one driving the global epidemic to elevate heights in diseases that are non-communicable. Research has demonstrated that people are commuting using bicycles to work live longer compared to their counterparts who commute using motor vehicles (Hao et al, 460).

The issue of traffic density and the environment is somehow paradoxical in nature since transport has socioeconomic benefits to the society, but also it has an adverse impact on the environment. The immediate and direct impacts of traffic density are well understood, and they include noise and emission of carbon monoxide that has a direct harmful effect on people (Kan et al, 12). There are other indirect impacts of traffic density that usually has elevated consequences than the direct effects. Particulates in the indirect effect are directly connected with incomplete combustion in an internal combustion engine which is indirectly linked to the respiratory problems because they contribute among other factors. Similarly, there are also cumulative impacts that take into account varied effects of direct and indirect impacts of traffic density on the environment. For instance, there is a climate change that exhibits complex causes and consequences that result in a cumulative impact of various natural and anthropogenic factors which transport is a part (Kan et al, 15).

Relationship between Population and Traffic Density

One of the key reasons that smart growth of urban cities around the world cannot reach their objective of decreasing traffic growth and congestion is because population density and traffic volumes have a robust and compact connection (Laumbach et al, 4). Population densities rise as well as the use of vehicles. However, cities with large population densities may have fewer carbon emissions when compared suburban areas because of walking accessibility and public transport services. The geographical variations in density about carbon emissions indicate that there is a need to come up with policies to increase urban residential densities because it will have significant different effects on emissions related to vehicles. Population densities have increased as well as the emission of carbon in the same period.

However, when people live closer together, then the vehicular population decreases according to most researchers. It, therefore, means that making the central part of Beijing denser will probably reduce the amount of emission per person from vehicles (Laumbach et al, 8). It is important to note that is happening because people in Beijing are switching from driving to other means of moving around due to the population density. Sprawling cities such as Guangzhou and Shanghai have four times as much as vehicle emissions per capita when compared to a densely populated city like Beijing. It is also important to note that density alone does not determine transportation emissions. The layout and design of the towns also matter. For instance, Los Angeles is relatively dense, but the structure of the city is designed for cars and not for people. It, therefore, indicates that Los Angeles will exhibit more transportation emissions compared to cities that are more pedestrian oriented like Seattle and Baltimore in the United States (Laumbach et al, 10).

Sometimes even relatively densely populated lack nearby stores that give room for shorter shopping trips that are made on foot. It happens when vital points such as shopping centers are segregated. Density is not only critical in the cities but should also reflect on the suburbs. Behavior is also a significant factor that should also be put into consideration while dealing with traffic density and population density. It is because increasing the population of a town in this instance Beijing will not only not affect the common behaviors of people in the city (Wang et al.). The behavior of people must change if Beijing is to meet the goal of massive carbon emission reductions. These issues will also be adequately solved by imposing a price in carbon like carbon tax which will make driving more expensive hence creating demand for denser areas and alternatives in the transport sector. Moreover, there is a need for the local and regional government to be more aggressive through building up reorient streets, transits as well as fixing the zoning issue. It is through having a denser urban community that will make people get out of their cars and that what needs to be developed by the relevant authority of Beijing (Wang et al.).

Traffic that is more concentrated leads to congestion in traffic and excessive air pollution. It is therefore vital for the authorities in Beijing to start regulating the air pollution right from the highways because it is through this particular strategy that public health risks due to traffic density will be minimized (Wang et al.). Any public policy that is put in place that intends to increase air pollution will be working contrary to the air pollution regulations that are aimed to promote public health. Air pollution in urban areas varies significantly, and people who live close to congested highways are exposed to elevated health risk.

The emission of NOx is higher in places that are close to busy roadways. It indicates that all things being in a balanced state, larger population, traffic congestion and higher concentrations of air population goes hand in hand (Wang et al.). Similarly, the smart growth policies that are put in place in urban areas makes things difficult for people because it is linked to higher prices of houses as well as higher cost of living. The livability approach also tends to induce economic growth that is muted and decreased access to jobs in such areas. People at risk are also affected by this strategy in that it makes air pollution worse while increasing congestion of traffic.

Solutions to Air Pollution on Population

It is estimated that over 1 million people die annually as a result of air pollution in China. The deaths are due to smokes from coal factories around the cities (Zhou et al, 3089). Over one decade ago, China declared war on air pollution and to make the skies of that country blur again. The country has started to roll out to reduce the production of coal as well as the manufacture of steel and investing the wind and solar power as alternatives. The benefits of such a step will not only be felt in cities around China such as Beijing but all over the world. It is because China is the largest world emitter of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. In Beijing, people are also feeling the cost of the fight for cleaner air (Zhou et al, 3092). One cannot deny that economic rise has lifted many people out of poverty around the cities of China but it has the same way left most of them with undrinkable water, toxic air, and food that is tainted. It has prompted officials in new Beijing to be very strict and severe about improving the quality of Air not only in Beijing but the whole of China. Chinese cities are pressing down the residents to give up their furnaces and stoves at home (Zhou et al, 3093).

Officials have also called for higher quality diesel for vehicles as well as gasoline, and car emissions standards are set to take effect in 2020 and cities around China will be comparable to those of America and Europe. However, the focus remains thick on industries because the government has in the recent past announced the closure or the cancellation of more than 100 power plants that are coal powered. The move is expected to cut down steel production capacity by approximately 40 million tons. Levels of fine in particulate pollution around Beijing had fallen between 2014 and 2015 but in the late 2016 and 2017 has witnessed the increase in these fine (Zhou et al, 3097).

Solutions to Traffic Density on Population

There are close to three steps that have been proposed to solve the issue of traffic density in Beijing and reduce the air pollution. They include avoiding of trips, shifting to the transport system that embraces low carbon mode instead of high carbon mode as well as improving the method by the use of technology better policies put in place (Wang et al.). The move of constructing rail transits has an effect on the choice of individuals concerning residential location and urban sprawl hence avoiding unnecessary increase in congestion due to car ownership. It is because when construction of the road is given priority in a city, the citizens of that particular country will quickly form a habit of using private cars in what is known as the preconception. Once the preconception habits are established in the mode of transport, then it will be challenging to transform such practices. It is therefore advisable to build many rail transits when the demand for cars has not yet begun, and this applies best to countries that are still developing (Wang et al.).

Similarly, in most instances, when making strategies and regulations on urban transport policies, individuals tend to invest in the expansion of road capacities as a way of relieving congestion in traffic. Conversely, it is also perceived that advancing the rail transit systems could also act as a good alternative in solving the traffic demand hence relieving congestion and reducing the car use demand. If it is a must for people to use the vehicle, then it is advisable for people to improve the technology for engines, networks, and fuel. However, it is important to note that improvements in engine and energy consumption technology solely will not be enough to achieve the reduction of air pollution due to the emission of the CO2 (Wang et al.).


It is evident that the three factors impact one another in one way or another in the town of Beijing with air pollution having an antagonistic relationship with the population (Jensen et al, 1512). However, Beijing as a town does not have any community issue. What seems to be a problem is how the town is structured and planned. It has prompted authorities to take the initiative to rein the population growth in which some blame the undertaking of bringing about increasing foil air as well as worsening the traffic. The solution to most of the environmental challenges that the country is facing needs either technological intervention or behavior change among the residents so as to reduce the issues of traffic density and air population (Jensen et al, 1512). Coming up with policies without engaging the locals through proper channels will not only be a failure on the part of the local government but will also elevate other issues unaffordable living standards by the less fortunate in the society due to livability undertaking. However, one cannot deny that the town has in the past years taken bold steps on the issues of traffic density concerning air pollution and population (Wang et al.). Investing in wind power and solar energy is a measure that will not only transform Beijing alone but will be replicated to another town around China to cut down the issues related to air pollution, traffic density hence giving hope to the entire world given that China is the number one air polluter globally.

Works Cited

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Brook, Robert D., et al. "Particulate matter air pollution and cardiovascular disease." Circulation 121.21 (2010): 2331-2378.

Brauer, Michael, et al. "Estimating long-term average particulate air pollution concentrations: application of traffic indicators and geographic information systems." Epidemiology 14.2 (2003): 228-239.

Chen, Tong-Bin, et al. "Assessment of heavy metal pollution in surface soils of urban parks in Beijing, China." Chemosphere 60.4 (2005): 542-551.

Delfino, Ralph, et al. "Epidemiologic evidence for asthma and exposure to air toxics: linkages between occupational, indoor, and community air pollution research." Environmental health perspectives 110.Suppl 4 (2002): 573.

Hoek, Gerard, et al. "Association between mortality and indicators of traffic-related air pollution in the Netherlands: a cohort study." The lancet 360.9341 (2002): 1203-1209.

Hao, Jiming, et al. "A study of the emission and concentration distribution of vehicular pollutants in the urban area of Beijing." Atmospheric environment34.3 (2000): 453-465.

Janssen, Nicole AH, et al. "The relationship between air pollution from heavy traffic and allergic sensitization, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and respiratory symptoms in Dutch schoolchildren." Environmental health perspectives 111.12 (2003): 1512.

Kan, Haidong, Renjie Chen, and Shilu Tong. "Ambient air pollution, climate change, and population health in China." Environment international 42 (2012): 10-19.

Laumbach, Robert J., and Howard M. Kipen. "Respiratory health effects of air pollution: update on biomass smoke and traffic pollution." Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 129.1 (2012): 3-11.

Wang, Jin-Feng, et al. "Estimation of citywide air pollution in Beijing." PloS one 8.1 (2013): e53400.

Zhou, Ying, and Jonathan I. Levy. "The impact of urban street canyons on population exposure to traffic-related primary pollutants." Atmospheric Environment 42.13 (2008): 3087-3098.

October 25, 2022
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