Air pollution is a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air. Car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen and mold spores may be suspended as particles. Ozone, a gas, is a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution, it’s also called smog.
Air pollution is the introduction of particulates, biological molecules, or other harmful materials into Earth’s atmosphere, causing disease, death to humans, damage to other living organisms such as food crops, or the natural or built environment. Air pollution may come from anthropogenic or natural sources.
The atmosphere is a complex natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth’s ecosystems.
WHERE IT OCCURS
There are various locations, activities or factors which are responsible for releasing pollutants into the atmosphere. These sources can be classified into two major categories.
Anthropogenic (man-made) sources:
These are mostly related to the burning of multiple types of fuel.
• Stationary sources include smoke stacks of power plants, manufacturing facilities (factories) and waste incinerators, as well as furnaces and other types of fuel-burning heating devices. In developing and poor countries, traditional biomass burning is the major source of air pollutants; traditional biomass includes wood, crop waste and dung.
• Mobile sources include motor vehicles, marine vessels, and aircraft.
• Controlled burn practices in agriculture and forest management. Controlled or prescribed burning is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest.
• Fumes from paint, hair spray, varnish, aerosol sprays and other solvents
• Waste deposition in landfills, which generate methane. Methane is highly flammable and may form explosive mixtures with air. Methane is also an asphyxiant and may displace oxygen in an enclosed space. Asphyxia or suffocation may result if the oxygen concentration is reduced to below 19.5% by displacement.
• Military resources, such as nuclear weapons, toxic gases, germ warfare and rocketry
• Dust from natural sources, usually large areas of land with few or no vegetation
• Methane, emitted by the digestion of food by animals, for example cattle
• Radon gas from radioactive decay within the Earth’s crust. Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring, radioactive noble gas that is formed from the decay of radium. It is considered to be a health hazard. Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as the basement and it is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.
• Smoke and carbon monoxide from wildfires
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.
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.
METHOD OF PREVENTION
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.
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 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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