What is Air Pollution?
Pollution is now a common place term, that our ears are attuned to. We hear about the various forms of pollution and read about it through the mass media. Air pollution is one such form that refers to the contamination of the air, irrespective of indoors or outside. A physical, biological or chemical alteration to the air in the atmosphere can be termed as pollution. It occurs when any harmful gases, dust, smoke enters into the atmosphere and makes it difficult for plants, animals and humans to survive as the air becomes dirty.
Air pollution can further be classified into two sections- Visible air pollution and invisible air pollution. Another way of looking at Air pollution could be any substance that holds the potential to hinder the atmosphere or the well being of the living beings surviving in it. The sustainment of all things living is due to a combination of gases that collectively form the atmosphere; the imbalance caused by the increase or decrease of the percentage of these gases can be harmful for survival.
Read here more about 40 facts of air pollution.
The Ozone layer considered crucial for the existence of the ecosystems on the planet is depleting due to increased pollution. Global warming, a direct result of the increased imbalance of gases in the atmosphere has come to be known as the biggest threat and challenge that the contemporary world has to overcome in a bid for survival.
Types of Pollutants
In order to understand the causes of Air pollution, several divisions can be made. Primarily air pollutants can be caused by primary sources or secondary sources. The pollutants that are a direct result of the process can be called primary pollutants. A classic example of a primary pollutant would be the sulfur-dioxide emitted from factories
Secondary pollutants are the ones that are caused by the inter mingling and reactions of primary pollutants. Smog created by the interactions of several primary pollutants is known to be as secondary pollutant.
Causes of Air pollution
1. Burning of Fossil Fuels: Sulfur dioxide emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and other factory combustibles is one the major cause of air pollution. Pollution emitting from vehicles including trucks, jeeps, cars, trains, airplanes cause immense amount of pollution. We rely on them to fulfill our daily basic needs of transportation. But, there overuse is killing our environment as dangerous gases are polluting the environment. Carbon Monooxide caused by improper or incomplete combustion and generally emitted from vehicles is another major pollutant along with Nitrogen Oxides, that is produced from both natural and man made processes.
2. Agricultural activities: Ammonia is a very common by product from agriculture related activities and is one of the most hazardous gases in the atmosphere. Use of insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural activities has grown quite a lot. They emit harmful chemicals into the air and can also cause water pollution.
3. Exhaust from factories and industries: Manufacturing industries release large amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and chemicals into the air thereby depleting the quality of air. Manufacturing industries can be found at every corner of the earth and there is no area that has not been affected by it. Petroleum refineries also release hydrocarbons and various other chemicals that pollute the air and also cause land pollution.
4. Mining operations: Mining is a process wherein minerals below the earth are extracted using large equipments. During the process dust and chemicals are released in the air causing massive air pollution. This is one of the reason which is responsible for the deteriorating health conditions of workers and nearby residents.
5. Indoor air pollution: Household cleaning products, painting supplies emit toxic chemicals in the air and cause air pollution. Have you ever noticed that once you paint walls of your house, it creates some sort of smell which makes it literally impossible for you to breathe.
Suspended particulate matter popular by its acronym SPM, is another cause of pollution. Referring to the particles afloat in the air, SPM is usually caused by dust, combustion etc.
Effects of Air pollution
1. Respiratory and heart problems: The effects of Air pollution are alarming. They are known to create several respiratory and heart conditions along with Cancer, among other threats to the body. Several millions are known to have died due to direct or indirect effects of Air pollution. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants are said to commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma.
2. Global warming: Another direct effect is the immediate alterations that the world is witnessing due to Global warming. With increased temperatures world wide, increase in sea levels and melting of ice from colder regions and icebergs, displacement and loss of habitat have already signaled an impending disaster if actions for preservation and normalization aren’t undertaken soon.
3. Acid Rain: Harmful gases like nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the atmosphere during the burning of fossil fuels. When it rains, the water droplets combines with these air pollutants, becomes acidic and then falls on the ground in the form of acid rain. Acid rain can cause great damage to human, animals and crops.
4. Eutrophication: Eutrophication is a condition where high amount of nitrogen present in some pollutants gets developed on sea’s surface and turns itself into algae and and adversely affect fish, plants and animal species. The green colored algae that is present on lakes and ponds is due to presence of this chemical only.
5. Effect on Wildlife: Just like humans, animals also face some devastating affects of air pollution. Toxic chemicals present in the air can force wildlife species to move to new place and change their habitat. The toxic pollutants deposit over the surface of the water and can also affect sea animals.
6. Depletion of Ozone layer: Ozone exists in earth’s stratosphere and is responsible for protecting humans from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Earth’s ozone layer is depleting due to the presence of chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. As ozone layer will go thin, it will emit harmful rays back on earth and can cause skin and eye related problems. UV rays also have the capability to affect crops.
When you try to study the sources of Air pollution, you enlist a series of activities and interactions that create these pollutants. There are two types of sources that we will take a look at: Natural sources and Man-made sources.
Natural sources of pollution include dust carried by the wind from locations with very little or no green cover, gases released from the body processes of living beings (Carbon dioxide from humans during respiration, Methane from cattle during digestion, Oxygen from plants during Photosynthesis). Smoke from the combustion of various inflammable objects, volcanic eruptions etc along with the emission of polluted gases also make it to the list of Natural sources of Pollution.
While looking at the man-made contributions towards air pollution, smoke again features as a prominent component. The smoke emitted from various forms of combustion like in bio mass, factories, vehicles, furnaces etc. Waste used to create landfills generate methane, that is harmful in several ways. The reactions of certain gases and chemicals also form harmful fumes that can be dangerous to the well being of living creatures.
Solutions for Air Pollution
1. Use public mode of transportation: Encourage people to use more and more public modes of transportation to reduce pollution. Also, try to make use of car pooling. If you and your colleagues come from the same locality and have same timings you can explore this option to save energy and money.
2. Conserve energy: Switch off fans and lights when you are going out. Large amount of fossil fuels are burnt to produce electricity. You can save the environment from degradation by reducing the amount of fossil fuels to be burned.
3. Understand the concept of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Do not throw away items that are of no use to you. In-fact reuse them for some other purpose. For e.g. you can use old jars to store cereals or pulses.
4. Emphasis on clean energy resources:Clean energy technologies like solar, wind and geothermal are on high these days. Governments of various countries have been providing grants to consumers who are interested in installing solar panels for their home. This will go a long way to curb air pollution.
5. Use energy efficient devices: CFL lights consume less electricity as against their counterparts. They live longer, consume less electricity, lower electricity bills and also help you to reduce pollution by consuming less energy.
Several attempts are being made world wide on a personal, industrial and governmental levels to curb the intensity at which Air Pollution is rising and regain a balance as far as the proportions of the foundation gases are concerned. This is a direct attempt at slacking Global warming. We are seeing a series of innovations and experiments aimed at alternate and unconventional options to reduce pollutants. Air Pollution is one of the larger mirrors of man’s follies, and a challenge we need to overcome to see a tomorrow.
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Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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A cause and effect essay is a type of essay that explains why the event or the situation occurs (causes) and the results of its happening (effects). Writing a cause and effect essay takes students lots efforts cause the main idea of writing such an essay is to examine the reasons and the results of the phenomenon. But as for the structure, a cause and effect essay outline is simple: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. If you are assigned to write a cause and effect essay here is a list of great cause and effect essay topics.
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In case you are looking for cause and effect essay examples, you can read the one below.
Air Pollution Poignant Matters
Air pollution refers to a chemical, physical or biological alteration to the atmospheric air. It results whenever harmful gasses, smoke, or dust enters the atmosphere and in turn, hinders the survival of animals and plants as the air contains toxic substances.
The survival of human beings and animals greatly depend on the combination of gasses in the atmosphere; slight disruption of this composition can cause devastating effects on their existence. An imbalance in these atmospheric gasses is known to result in global warming, a great threat to the contemporary world. We cannot underestimate the effects air pollution has on the ozone layer which largely contributes to the existence of organisms on the planet.
Causes of Air Pollution
For the causes of air pollution to be well articulated, it is important to delve into the types of air pollutants. Air pollutants can be caused by secondary and primary sources. If a process directly results to pollution, then this forms the primary source. For instance, factories emit sulfur dioxide which is a primary source of air pollution. Reactions and interactions between primary sources form the secondary pollutant. For instance, the intermingling of primary pollutants forms smog which is a secondary pollutant.
Burning of fossil fuels
The main cause of air pollution is burning of coal, gasoline, petroleum, and other fossil fuels. These fuels are the main cause of acid rain, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, and presence of heavy metals in the air.
Fossil fuels form an important part of the society; they are used in transportation, heating, manufacturing, and even in electricity generation. This makes them an important part of the society making it difficult (but not uncontrollable) to curtail. In modern society, the use of fossil fuels can be made so that its burning becomes efficient, but this comes with a monetary cost. It is important to note that unless alternative cleaner option is found, we will have the future facing the same problems of pollution.
Increased use of motor vehicles, and emission of nitrogen
Vehicles use fuel which sometimes is not completely burnt in the engine; therefore, they release VOCs (Volatile Organic Chemicals) into the air. VOCs and nitrogen are a common source of air pollution.
Decomposition of garbage and solid wastes
Disposal sites containing biodegradable substances are known to emit methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane gas is known to be a harmful gas, it is highly flammable and a potential disaster to the ozone layer. Garbage and other household products release VOCs to the air.
Air pollution can come from natural sources such as dust, wildfires, and volcanic activity. Wildfire is known to emit VOCs and particulates into the atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions spew sulfur dioxide and volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Volcanic ash is usually dumped in the upper atmosphere, and as a result, global temperatures are lowered. However, pollution resulting from natural causes remains in the atmosphere for a short period and does not result in a permanent change as it might be the case with human activity-based pollution.
Effects of Air Pollution
1. Respiratory infections
Air pollution is the leading cause of respiratory diseases. Exposure to air pollutants can cause lung cancer and even asthma. Asthma can lead to death if not well treated, as it might cause difficulty in breathing. A prolonged exposure of pollutants can cause lung cancer.
2. Global warming
The rise in sea level, rising temperature in the world, and the melting of ice glaciers are the evidence for the global warming. Global warming is a direct effect of air pollution in the world. The only way to curb this increasingly destructive menace is to reduce air pollution.
3. Depletion of ozone layer
With the greenhouse effect which is the major contributor of the release of chlorofluorocarbon into the atmosphere has led to the depletion of ozone layer. This layer is important in shielding the earth from the destructive ultraviolet (UV) radiations.
4. Formation of acid rain
Emission of harmful gasses such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen into the atmosphere lead to the formation of acid rain. It is quite common for rain water to have sulfuric acid due to rampant cases of air pollution in the modern society. Acid rain is a major threat to the aquatic life as well as human beings.
There are carcinogenic substances in the acid rain, and it has devastating effects to even metal which can be observed by the extent of corrosion that often results.
Air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide speed up the growth of algae on the water surface. This growth competes with aquatic life for oxygen, therefore, posing a major threat to fishing. The only way to reduce the devastating effects of air pollution will be to come up with effective ways of reducing air pollution.
Earth’s atmosphere has a self-regulating mechanism that ensures sequestration of carbon among other pollutants. The mechanism works to ensure that the ecosystem is not affected by the changes occurring in the atmosphere. However, if people continue to add more pollutants than the earth is able to remove, then the response will be increased smog, acid rain, global warming and a number of health problems.
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