Air pollution is a major problem in the world. It causes a wide range of health problems and it can even shorten lives. Air pollution comes from many different sources: factories, power plants, cars, airplanes, chemicals, dust, and more. Some of the air pollutants that are produced come from natural sources, but they are increased by human activity such as fossil fuel combustion and other industrial processes.
Two Causes of Air Pollution
Air pollution is common in the world. There are two causes of air pollution: natural causes and human activities.
First, natural causes contribute to air pollution. In this case, volcanoes are the main contributor to air pollution. Volcanoes occur mainly in Asia, Africa, and America. Huge quantities of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and ash are released into the atmosphere when the volcanoes erupt. These gases react with the moisture in the atmosphere to produce acid rain. Besides, volcanic eruptions cause climate change because they destroy a large number of forests near them. As a result, many plants die and emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Second, human activities are also one of the causes of air pollution. In this case, industries are considered one of the biggest polluters on earth. Factories release large amounts of smoke containing harmful gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere every day. These gases cause acid rain which makes our environment unhealthy for all living things on earth. Besides factories, vehicles also play a big role in polluting our environment. The exhaust from these vehicles produces harmful gases like carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide that cause acid rain as well as global warming.
Natural causes vs Human Activities of Air Pollution
|Human Activities||Natural causes|
|Human activities that contribute to air pollution include burning fossil fuels for transportation and industrial processes as well as burning solid waste.||Volcanic eruptions can be huge natural sources of air pollution.|
|These activities cause large amounts of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides to be released into the atmosphere.||The ash and gases released during an eruption contain many types of particles and chemicals that can harm human health and damage the environment in other ways.|
|Chemicals such as chlorine, bromine, and iodine can cause stratospheric ozone depletion if they reach the upper atmosphere.||Ash particles also reflect solar radiation back into space, which has a cooling effect on climate.|
What are the effects of Air Pollution?
Air pollution affects the health of humans, the atmosphere, and the ecology. Following are the effects of air pollution on human health:
Respiratory and Heart Problems: Air pollution affects the lungs and heart. It can cause respiratory diseases, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Acid Rain: Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide released from industries and motor vehicles react with atmospheric moisture to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid which fall down on earth in form of rain, thus causing acid rain. Acid rain damages vegetation, surface water, buildings, etc.
Global Warming: Carbon dioxide (CO2) gas is produced in large quantities by vehicles burning fossil fuels, factories producing chemical fertilizers, etc. CO2 traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere leading to global warming which is a major cause of climate change.
Components of Air Pollution
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 a complicated problem with many causes and effects and few solutions. Reducing air pollution and its effects will require the cooperation of people everywhere. Driving less, conserving energy and recycling are just a few ways you can help reduce air pollution.
The main components of air pollution are:
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to the formation of photochemical smog and acid rain;
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which contributes to acid rain;
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to smog;
- Particulate matter (PM), which contributes to haze;
- Carbon monoxide (CO), which contributes to global warming by trapping infrared radiation in the atmosphere;
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), not only deplete stratospheric ozone but also contribute directly to global warming in the lower atmosphere;
- Toxic chemicals such as benzene, mercury, and lead.
Steps to Reduce Air Pollution
There are many steps that you can take to reduce air pollution. Some of these steps require a little extra effort and money, but others are simple and even enjoyable.
- Don’t burn your yard waste.
- Use less energy.
- Change your air filter regularly.
- Buy products with less packaging.
- Recycle and buy recycled products.
- Don’t idle your car engine if you’re not driving anywhere.
- Buy an energy-efficient car and take care of your vehicle to keep it running smoothly and efficiently.
- Shop locally to reduce the number of miles food travels before it gets to your home and table, which helps save energy and lower smog-forming emissions.
- Ask your city leaders to invest in cleaner, more efficient public transportation options, which can help ease traffic congestion and reduce pollution from cars and trucks.