What is Air pollution?
- Air pollution occurs when gases, dust particles, fumes (smoke) or odour are introduced into the atmosphere in a way that makes it harmful to humans, animals and plant. This is because the air becomes dirty (contaminated or unclean). Ramsawak., A, and Umraw., R. (2001)
- Anything additional gas, particles or odours that are introduced into the air (either by nature or human activity) to destroy this natural balance can be called air pollution.
- Things that pollute the air are called pollutants. Examples of pollutants include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, hydrocarbons, sulphur oxides (usually from factories), sand or dust particles, and organic compounds that can evaporate and enter the atmosphere.
There are two types of pollutants: Primary pollutants are those gases or particles that are pumped into the air to make it unclean. They include carbon monoxide from automobile (cars) exhausts and sulfur dioxide from the combustion of coal.
Secondary pollutants: When pollutants in the air mix up in a chemical reaction, they form an even more dangerous chemical. Photochemical smog is an example of this, and is a secondary pollutant.
What are the common air pollutants around us?
Some of these polluants cannot be avoid in the amosphere but should be use in minimal contribution.
What Causes Air Pollution?
Air pollution can result from both human and natural actions. Natural events that pollute the air include forest fires, volcanic eruptions, wind erosion, pollen dispersal, evaporation of organic compounds and natural radioactivity. Pollution from natural occurrences are not very often.
Human activities that result in air pollution include:
1. Emissions from industries and manufacturing activities,
Have you seen a manufacturing company before? You will notice that there are long tubes (called chimneys) erected high into the air, with lots of smoke and fumes coming out of it. Waste incinerators, manufacturing industries and power plants emit high levels of carbon monoxide, organic compounds, and chemicals into the air. This happens almost everywhere that people live. Petroleum refineries also release lots of hydrocarbons into the air.
2. Burning Fossil Fuelsand differnt types of transportation.Cars and heavy duty trucks, trains, shipping vessels and airplanes all burn lots of fossil fuels to work. Emissions from automobile engines contain both primary and secondary pollutants. This is a major cause of pollution, and one that is very difficult to manage. This is because humans rely heavily on vehicles and engines for transporting people, good and services.Fumes from car exhauts contain dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbons and particulates.
3. Household and Farming Chemicals Crop dusting, fumigating homes, household cleaning products or painting supplies, over the counter insect/pest killers, fertilizer dust emit harmful chemicals into the air and cause pollution. In many case, when we use these chemicals at home or offices with no or little ventilation, we may fall ill if we breathe them. Ramsawak., A, and Umraw., R. (2001)
Sources and Methods
What are the Effects of Air Pollution?
Chemical reactions involving air pollutants can create acidic compounds which can cause harm to vegetation and buildings. Sometimes, when an air pollutant, such as sulfuric acid combines with the water droplets that make up clouds, the water droplets become acidic, forming acid rain. When acid rain falls over an area, it can kill trees and harm animals, fish, and other wildlife. Acid rain destroys the leaves of plants. When acid rain infiltrates into soils, it changes the chemistry of the soil making it unfit for many living things that rely on soil as a habitat or for nutrition. Acid rain also changes the chemistry of the lakes and streams that the rainwater flows into, harming fish and other aquatic life. Rain can carry and deposit the Nitrogen in some pollutants on rivers and soils. This will adversely affect the nutrients in the soil and water bodies. This can result in algae growth in lakes and water bodies, and make conditions for other living organism harmful.
Ground-level ozone: Chemical reactions involving air pollutants create a poisonous gas ozone (O3). Gas Ozone can affect people’s health and can damage vegetation types and some animal life too.
Particulate matter: Air pollutants can be in the form of particulate matter which can be very harmful to our health. The level of effect usually depends on the length of time of exposure, as well the kind and concentration of chemicals and particles exposed to. Short-term effectsinclude irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Others include headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions. Short-term air pollution can aggravate the medical conditions of individuals with asthma and emphysema. Long-term health effects can include chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves, liver, or kidneys. Continual exposure to air pollution affects the lungs of growing children and may aggravate or complicate medical conditions in the elderly. Chung-Harris., T, (2010).
Air pollution prevention, monitoring and solution.
Solution efforts on pollution is always a big problem. This is why prevention interventions are always a better way of controlling air pollution. These prevention methods can either come from government (laws) or by individual actions. In many big cities, monitoring equipment have been installed at many points in the city. Authorities read them regularly to check the quality of air. Let's see more below:
Government (or community) level prevention
- Governments throughout the world have already taken action against air pollution by introducing green energy. Some governments are investing in wind energy and solar energy as well as other renewable energy to minimize burning of fossil fuels, which cause heavy air pollution.
- Governments are also forcing companies to be more responsible with their manufacturing activities, so that even though they still cause pollution, they are a lot controlled.
- Companies are also building more energy efficient cars, which pollute less than before.
- Encourage your family to use the bus, train or bike when commuting. If we all do this, there will be less cars on road and less fumes.
Channer. L., Hacker., G. (2008) The New integrated gsat science workbook Mid-Island Educators
Chung-Harris., T, (2010) Integrated Science for CSEC
Ramsawak., A, and Umraw., R. (2001) Modules in social Studies third edition