What Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution is the contamination of air by the discharge of harmful substances. Air pollution can cause health problems including burning eyes and nose, itchy irritated throat, and breathing problems. Some chemicals found in polluted air can cause cancer, birth defects, brain and nerve damage, and long-term injury to the lungs and breathing passages in certain circumstances. Above certain concentrations and durations, certain air pollutants are extremely dangerous and can cause severe injury or death.Air pollution can also damage the environment and property. Trees, lakes, and animals have been harmed by air pollution. Air pollution has thinned the protective ozone layer above the Earth. Air pollution can damage buildings, monuments, statues, and other structures.
Air pollution also can result in haze, which reduces visibility in national parks and elsewhere, and can sometimes interfere with aviation.
THE MAJOR AIR POLLUTENTS ARE:-
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas. After being inhaled, CO molecules can enter the bloodstream, where they inhibit the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Low concentrations can cause dizziness, headaches, and fatigue; high concentrations can be fatal.
CO is produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, oil, and wood. It is also produced from incomplete combustion of natural and synthetic products, such as cigarette smoke. It can build up in high concentrations in enclosed areas such as garages, poorly ventilated tunnels, and even along roadsides in heavy traffic.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the principal greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity (e.g., burning of coal, oil, and natural gas). CO2 can cause burns, frostbite, and blindness if an area is exposed to it in solid or liquid form. If inhaled, it can be toxic in high concentrations, causing an increase in the breathing rate, unconsciousness, and death.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are chemicals used in great quantities in industry, for refrigeration and air conditioning, and in consumer products. CFCs, when released into the air, rise into the stratosphere (a layer of atmosphere high above the Earth). In the stratosphere, CFCs take part in chemical reactions that result in reduction of the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects the Earth’s surface from the sun. Reducing the release of CFC emissions and eliminating the production and use of ozone-destroying chemicals is very important to the Earth’s stratosphere.
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are chemicals that cause serious health and environmental effects. Health effects include cancer, birth defects, nervous system problems, and death due to massive accidental releases, such as the disaster that occurred at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India.
Hazardous air pollutants are released by sources such as chemical plants, dry cleaners, printing plants, and motor vehicles including cars, trucks, buses, planes.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that produces a range of adverse health effects particularly in young children. Lead can cause nervous system damage and digestive problems, and some lead-containing chemicals cause cancer. Lead can also harm wildlife.
Lead has been phased out of gasoline, which has considerably reduced the contamination of air by lead. However, lead can still be inhaled or ingested from other sources. The sources for lead include paint (for houses and cars), smelters, manufacture of lead batteries, fishing lures, certain parts of bullets, some ceramic ware, miniblinds, water pipes, and a few hair dye products.
Ozone (O3 is a gas that is a variety of oxygen. Oxygen consists of two oxygen atoms; ozone consists of three. Ozone in the upper atmosphere, where it occurs naturally in what is known as the ozone layer, shields the Earth from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays. However, at ground level where it is a pollutant with highly toxic effects, ozone damages human health, the environment, crops, and a wide range of natural and artificial materials. Ground-level ozone can irritate the respiratory tract, cause chest pain, persistent cough, an inability to take a deep breath, and an increased susceptibility to lung infection. Ozone can damage trees and plants and reduce visibility.
Ground-level ozone comes from the breakdown (oxidation) of volatile organic compounds found in solvents. It is also a product of reactions between chemicals that are produced by burning coal, gasoline, other fuels, and chemicals found in paints and hair sprays. Oxidation occurs readily during hot weather. Vehicles and industries are major sources of ground-level ozone.
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) is a major contributor to smog and acid rain. Nitrogen oxides react with volatile organic compounds to form smog. In high doses, smog can harm humans by causing breathing difficulty for asthmatics, coughs in children, and general illness of the respiratory system. Acid rain can harm vegetation and run into lakes and rivers which changes the chemistry of the water, and makes it potentially uninhabitable for all but acid-tolerant bacteria.
Nitrogen oxides are produced from burning fuels, including gasoline and coal. (NOx) acid aerosols can reduce visibility.
Particulate Matter is any type of solid in the air in the form of smoke, dust, and vapors, which can remain suspended for extended periods. Aside from reducing visibility and soiling clothing, microscopic particles in the air can be breathed into lung tissue becoming lodged and causing increased respiratory disease and lung damage. Particulates are also the main source of haze, which reduces visibility.
Particulates are produced by many sources, including burning of diesel fuels by trucks and buses, fossil fuels, mixing and application of fertilizers and pesticides, road construction, industrial processes such as steel making, mining, agricultural burning, and operation of fireplaces and woodstoves.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is an odorless gas at low concentrations, but can have a very strong smell at high concentrations. SO2 is a gas produced by burning coal, most notably in power plants. Some industrial processes, such as production of paper and smelting of metals, produce sulfur dioxide.
Like nitrogen oxides, SO2 is a major contributor to smog and acid rain. SO2 is closely related to sulfuric acid, a strong acid. It can harm vegetation and metals and can cause lung problems, including breathing problems and permanent damage to lungs.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals. All organic compounds contain carbon, and organic chemicals are the basic chemicals found in all living things and in all products derived from living things. Many organic compounds we use do not occur in nature, but were synthesized by chemists in laboratories. Volatile chemicals produce vapors easily. At room temperature vapors readily escape from volatile liquid chemicals.
VOCs include gasoline, industrial chemicals such as benzene, solvents such as toluene and xylene, and perchloroethylene (principal dry cleaning solvent). VOCs are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas and from solvents, paints, glues, and other products used at home or work. Vehicle emissions are an important source of VOCs. Many VOCs are hazardous air pollutants; for example, benzene causes cancer.
THE WAYS THAT EVERY SINGLE PERSON SHOULD TRY TO DO TO CONTRIBUTE A LITTLE TO REDUCE AIR POLLUTION
There are many ways to reduce air pollution. People can contribute significantly to cleaning the air if they take (or do not take â€” as the case may be) certain simple actions to reduce air pollution.
Since vehicles contribute greatly to air pollution by emitting CO, NOx, ozone, VOCs, HAPs, CFCs, and particulate matter, each driver who makes personal changes in driving habits contributes to the reduction of air pollution.
Limit driving, use public transportation, walk, use carpools, bike, or so forth. These are the best ways an individual can help reduce air pollution!
If you must drive, then try to follow these guidelines:
- Avoid high speeds.
- Buy a vehicle with high miles per gallon.
- Do not overfill or top off your gasoline tank.
- Do not refuel on high ozone days â€” try to refuel after dark.
- Drive a newer vehicle; the new models generally pollute less.
- Drive alternative vehicles or alternatively fueled vehicles, such as electric vehicles.
- Drive smoothly and avoid lengthy idling.
- If the vehicle is a pre-1995 model, have a professional convert the air conditioning from the dangerous CFC R-12 to the safer R-134a to reduce your contribution to the ozone hole.
- Keep your car well maintained, especially the emissions control system.
- Keep tires properly inflated.
- Maintain your vehicle’s air conditioning system â€” do not allow it to leak.
- Make fewer trips in your vehicle â€” plan routes to avoid traffic.
- Reduce fuel use as often as possible â€” a vehicle’s shape and design features can affect its fuel use.
Here are some other actions every individuals should try to take to reduce air pollution:
- Defer lawn and gardening chores that use gasoline-powered equipment on high ground-level ozone days.
- Eat organically grown food, or at least less pesticide-dependant foods.
- Limit dry cleaning.
- Postpone using oil-based paint and solvents on high ground-level ozone days.
- Reduce consumption of electricity â€” conserving reduces emissions of SO2, NOx, VOCs and particulate matter into the air.
- Start charcoal with an electric or chimney-type fire starter instead of lighter fluid.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle â€” less consumption of products will reduce all types of air pollution.
- Use airconditioning as less as possible.
- Plant and try to maintain as maney trees as possible in your locality.
- Do not encourage fireworks.