PDF | Air pollution occurs when gases, dust particles, fumes (or smoke) or odour are introduced into the atmosphere in a way that makes it. health-harmful PM air pollution – particularly from diesel vehicles, diesel . wm-greece.info 6. The impact of air pollution on children. 6. Foreword. It causes miscarriages, early delivery, and low birth weight. It contributes to diseases that.
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Air Pollution: • what it means for your health. • the public information service. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in partnership with the. This paper estimates the global damage costs of air pollution over a year time to , focusing exclusively on air pollution of anthropogenic origin. The cost of air pollution consequences on the economy In the second section, the consequences of air pollution on health are wm-greece.info
One of the most prominent air pollutants, this reddish-brown toxic gas has a characteristic sharp, biting odor. Carbon monoxide CO — CO is a colorless, odorless, toxic yet non-irritating gas. Vehicular exhaust contributes to the majority of carbon monoxide let into our atmosphere. It creates a smog type formation in the air that has been linked to many lung diseases and disruptions to the natural environment and animals.
In , more than half of the carbon monoxide emitted into our atmosphere was from vehicle traffic and burning one gallon of gas will often emit over 20 pounds of carbon monoxide into the air. Methane is an extremely efficient greenhouse gas which contributes to enhanced global warming. Other hydrocarbon VOCs are also significant greenhouse gases because of their role in creating ozone and prolonging the life of methane in the atmosphere.
This effect varies depending on local air quality. The aromatic NMVOCs benzene, toluene and xylene are suspected carcinogens and may lead to leukemia with prolonged exposure. In contrast, aerosol refers to combined particles and gas. Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes also generate significant amounts of aerosols.
Averaged worldwide, anthropogenic aerosols—those made by human activities—currently account for approximately 10 percent of our atmosphere. Increased levels of fine particles in the air are linked to health hazards such as heart disease,  altered lung function and lung cancer.
Particulates are related to respiratory infections and can be particularly harmful to those already suffering from conditions like asthma. Chlorofluorocarbons CFCs — harmful to the ozone layer ; emitted from products are currently banned from use. These are gases which are released from air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosol sprays, etc.
On release into the air, CFCs rise to the stratosphere. Here they come in contact with other gases and damage the ozone layer. This allows harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth's surface. This can lead to skin cancer, eye disease and can even cause damage to plants.
Ammonia — emitted mainly by agricultural waste. Ammonia is a compound with the formula NH3. It is normally encountered as a gas with a characteristic pungent odor. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to foodstuffs and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals.
Although in wide use, ammonia is both caustic and hazardous. In the atmosphere, ammonia reacts with oxides of nitrogen and sulphur to form secondary particles. Secondary pollutants include: Particulates created from gaseous primary pollutants and compounds in photochemical smog. Smog is a kind of air pollution.
Classic smog results from large amounts of coal burning in an area caused by a mixture of smoke and sulphur dioxide. Modern smog does not usually come from coal but from vehicular and industrial emissions that are acted on in the atmosphere by ultraviolet light from the sun to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog.
Ozone O3 is a key constituent of the troposphere. It is also an important constituent of certain regions of the stratosphere commonly known as the Ozone layer. Photochemical and chemical reactions involving it drive many of the chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere by day and by night.
At abnormally high concentrations brought about by human activities largely the combustion of fossil fuel , it is a pollutant and a constituent of smog.
Minor air pollutants include: A large number of minor hazardous air pollutants. Persistent organic pollutants POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potentially significant impacts on human health and the environment.
Sources 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 Controlled burning of a field outside of Statesboro , Georgia in preparation for spring planting. Smoking of fish over an open fire in Ghana, These are mostly related to the burning of multiple types of fuel.
Stationary sources include smoke stacks of fossil fuel power stations see for example environmental impact of the coal industry , 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.
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. These can be substantial; emissions from these sources was estimated to account for almost half of pollution from volatile organic compounds in the Los Angeles basin in the s. 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 Fertilized farmland may be a major source of nitrogen oxides. Dust from natural sources, usually large areas of land with little 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. These VOCs react with primary anthropogenic pollutants—specifically, NOx, SO2, and anthropogenic organic carbon compounds — to produce a seasonal haze of secondary pollutants. The VOC production from these species result in ozone levels up to eight times higher than the low-impact tree species.
These factors are usually expressed as the weight of pollutant divided by a unit weight, volume, distance, or duration of the activity emitting the pollutant e. Such factors facilitate estimation of emissions from various sources of air pollution. In most cases, these factors are simply averages of all available data of acceptable quality, and are generally assumed to be representative of long-term averages.
There are 12 compounds in the list of persistent organic pollutants. Dioxins and furans are two of them and intentionally created by combustion of organics, like open burning of plastics. These compounds are also endocrine disruptors and can mutate the human genes. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has published a compilation of air pollutant emission factors for a wide range of industrial sources. Air pollution exposure can be expressed for an individual, for certain groups e.
For example, one may want to calculate the exposure to a hazardous air pollutant for a geographic area, which includes the various microenvironments and age groups. This can be calculated  as an inhalation exposure. This would account for daily exposure in various settings e.
The exposure needs to include different age and other demographic groups, especially infants, children, pregnant women and other sensitive subpopulations. The exposure to an air pollutant must integrate the concentrations of the air pollutant with respect to the time spent in each setting and the respective inhalation rates for each subgroup for each specific time that the subgroup is in the setting and engaged in particular activities playing, cooking, reading, working, spending time in traffic, etc.
For example, a small child's inhalation rate will be less than that of an adult. A child engaged in vigorous exercise will have a higher respiration rate than the same child in a sedentary activity. The daily exposure, then, needs to reflect the time spent in each micro-environmental setting and the type of activities in these settings. A lack of ventilation indoors concentrates air pollution where people often spend the majority of their time.
Radon Rn gas, a carcinogen , is exuded from the Earth in certain locations and trapped inside houses. Building materials including carpeting and plywood emit formaldehyde H2CO gas. Just like car engines, power plants should theoretically produce nothing worse than carbon dioxide and water; in practice, fuels are dirty and they don't burn cleanly, so power plants produce a range of air pollutants, notably sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates. They also release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a key cause of global warming and climate change when it rises and accumulates in the atmosphere.
We discuss this a bit more down below. Industrial plants and factories Plants that produce the goods we all rely on often release small but significant quantities of pollution into the air.
Industrial plants that produce metals such as aluminum and steel , refine petroleum, produce cement, synthesize plastic , or make other chemicals are among those that can produce harmful air pollution. Most plants that pollute release small amounts of pollution continually over a long period of time, though the effects can be cumulative gradually building up.
Sometimes industrial plants release huge of amounts of air pollution accidentally in a very short space of time. One notable case happened in Bhopal, India in December , when a large chemical plant run by the Union Carbide company released a poisonous gas methyl isocyanate that hung over the local area, killing around people and injuring thousands more.
Wikipedia's article on the Bhopal Disaster gives a comprehensive account of what happened. Other causes of air pollution Although traffic, power plants, and industrial and chemical plants produce the majority of Earth's manmade air pollution, many other factors contribute to the problem.
In some parts of the world, people still rely on burning woodfuel for their cooking and heating, and that produces indoor air pollution that can seriously harm their health solar cookers are one solution to that problem.
In some areas, garbage is incinerated instead of being recycled or landfilled and that can also produce significant air pollution unless the incinerators are properly designed to operate at a high enough temperature even then, there is a toxic residue left behind that must be disposed of somehow. What effects does air pollution have? Air pollution can harm the health of people and animals, damage crops or stop them growing properly, and make our world unpleasant and unattractive in a variety of other ways.
Human health We know air pollution is a bad thing without even thinking about it. Have you ever coughed when a truck drove past belching out its sooty exhaust? Instinctively, you cough to clear your lungs and protect your body and you might even cover your face with your handkerchief or sleeve to filter the air until it feels safe to breathe deeply again. You don't have to be told that pollution like this might harm your health to want to steer clear of it: your body takes action automatically.
The only trouble is, we can't always see or smell air pollution, tell when it's affecting us, or know how it might harm us days, months, or even years in the future. Photo: Air pollution can cause a variety of lung diseases and other respiratory problems. This chest X ray shows a lung disease called emphysema in the patient's left lung.
A variety of things can cause it, including smoking and exposure to air pollution. Sometimes the connection between air pollution and human health is obvious, as in the Bhopal Disaster. Another notable incident happened in London, England in when thick, deadly pollution known as the Great Smog , caused by people burning coal in home fires and coal-fired power plants, killed an estimated people.
Other times, it's much more difficult to make the link. Some estimates suggest perhaps 10—20 percent of cancers are caused by air pollution of one kind or another, but cancers can take a long time to develop and many other things can cause them too. Proving a direct link with a particular kind of air pollution say, a garbage incinerator in your community or a neighbor who persistently burns plastic on garden bonfires is very difficult. Many of these deaths happen in developing countries over half a million in India alone , but wealthier industrial nations suffer too: in the United States, for example, around 41, people a year are estimated to die early because of air pollution.
Imagine how much media coverage there would be if several million people that's roughly the population of Houston, Texas or the West Midlands conurbation in England were killed in a terrorist incident or an earthquake. Because air pollution kills quietly and relentlessly, and its finger is hard to detect on the trigger, people barely seem to notice—or care. Deaths aren't the only human consequence of air pollution. For every person who dies, hundreds or thousands more suffer breathing problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
Workers exposed to high levels of dust sometimes suffer years of misery before dying from illnesses such as silicosis. Agricultural effects Farming is as much of an art as a science; crops can thrive—or fail—for all sorts of reasons. One of the things that characterized the 20th century was the huge growth in industrial agriculture —using fertilizers, pesticides, and so on to increase crop yields and feed the world's ever-growing population.
These aren't the only chemicals that crops are exposed to, however. We know that air pollution in common with water pollution can seriously affect the growth of plants. At one end of the spectrum, it's easy to find chemical residues everything from toxic heavy metals such as lead to cocktails of brake fluids and other chemicals in plants that grow alongside highways.
At the opposite extreme, the huge increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide now causing global warming and climate change is expected to have a major impact on the world's agriculture reducing crop yields in some places but potentially increasing yields elsewhere.
Other effects Photo: The stonework on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece has been blackened by particulates from traffic pollution. Photo by courtesy of U. Geological Survey. Wander the streets of a big city and you'll notice quite quickly how dirty the buildings look, even in areas where there are no factories or power plants.
Exhaust fumes from traffic are generally to blame. Apart from blackening buildings with soot, they also contribute to acid rain see below that can wear away stonework in a matter of years or decades. How air pollution works on different scales Air pollution can happen on every scale, from the local to the global. Sometimes the effects are immediate and happen very near to the thing that caused them; but they can also happen days, months, or even years later—and in other cities, countries, or continents.
Local air pollution Have you ever sat on a train with someone who suddenly decided to start cleaning or varnishing their nails? Acetone a solvent in nail varnish remover is a VOC volatile organic compound , so it evaporates and spreads very quickly, rapidly getting up the nose of anyone sitting nearby. Open a can of gloss paint in your home and start painting a door or window and your house will very quickly fill with a noxious chemical stench—VOCs again!
Grill some toast too long and you'll set the bread on fire, filling your kitchen with clouds of soot particulates and possibly setting off a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector. These are three everyday examples of how air pollution can work on a very local scale: the causes and the effects are close together in both space and time. Localized air pollution like this is the easiest kind to tackle.
Indoor air pollution Photo: Air freshener—or air polluter? If you live in a city, you might think your home is the cleanest place you can be—but you're probably wrong.
Outside, though the air may seem polluted, it's constantly moving and in theory at least pollutants are continually being diluted and dispersed. Inside, your home is packed with all kinds of chemicals that generate pollution every time you use them. And, unless you open the windows regularly, those pollutants aren't going anywhere fast: Detergents and household cleaners, aerosol sprays , shoe polish, hair wax, paints , and glues are just a few of the everyday chemicals that can release air pollution into your home.
If you have a gas or oil-fired boiler or a coal- or wood- fired stove and it's not properly ventilated, it will generate dangerous and toxic but colorless and odorless carbon monoxide gas. Surprisingly, even the water that pipes into our homes can be a source of air pollution. Every time you heat water on a stove, in a kettle, in a shower , or even when you're steam ironing clothes , you can evaporate VOC chemicals trapped inside and release them into the air.
Maybe your building has air conditioning? Chances are, the air it blows through has already circulated through other rooms in the same building or even other people's offices or apartments.
Perhaps your building is located somewhere near a source of natural radioactivity so radon gas is slowly accumulating inside? None of these things are meant to scare you—and nor should they.
Just remember that there's pollution inside your home as well as outside and keep the building well ventilated. If you're worried about wasting energy by opening windows on cold days, there are systems that can let air into a building without letting the heat escape, known as heat-recovery ventilation.
Neighborhood air pollution How clean your air is depends on where you live: air is generally far cleaner in rural than in urban areas, for example, where factories, chemical plants, and power plants are more likely to be located and traffic levels are much higher.
Exactly how clean your neighborhood is can also depend critically on the weather, especially if you live somewhere prone to temperature inversions and smog. Neighborhood air pollution problems are often best tackled through local community campaigns.
Regional air pollution Tall smokestacks designed to disperse pollution don't always have that effect. If the wind generally blows in the same direction, the pollution can be systematically deposited on another city, region, or country downwind. Sometimes air pollution is carried back down to Earth as contaminated rain or snow, which dissolves in watercourses or oceans causing what's known as atmospheric deposition.
In other words, the air pollution becomes water pollution. Certain persistent air toxics may contribute not only to atmospheric pollution but to water pollution. These toxics can bioaccumulate in the food web [and] may endanger the environment, affecting the health of humans and wildlife. It's often said that pollution knows no boundaries—and that's particularly true of air pollution, which can easily blow from one country or continent where it's produced and cause a problem for someone else.
Air pollution that travels like this, from country to country, is called transboundary pollution; acid rain is also an example of this and so is radioactive fallout the contaminated dust that falls to Earth after a nuclear explosion.
When the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the Ukraine in , wind dispersed the air pollution it produced relatively quickly—but only by blowing a cloud of toxic radioactive gas over much of Europe and causing long-lasting problems in a number of other countries 70 percent of the fallout landed on neighboring Belarus. Acid rain When rain falls through polluted air, it can pick up some of the pollution and turn more acidic—producing what's known as acid rain.
Simply speaking, the air pollution converts the rain into a weak acid. Photo: Acid rain can turn lakes so acidic that fish no longer survive. Picture courtesy of U. Why does that matter? Pure water is neither acidic nor alkaline but completely neutral we say it has an acidity level or pH of 7.
Ordinary rainwater is a little bit more acidic than this with about the same acidity as bananas roughly pH 5. When acid rain accumulates in lakes or rivers, it gradually turns the entire water more acidic. That's a real problem because fish thrive only in water that is neutral or slightly acidic typically with a pH of 6. Once the acidity drops below about pH 6. Acid rain has caused major problems in lakes throughout North America and Europe. It also causes the death of forests, reduces the fertility of soil, and damages buildings by eating away stonework the marble on the US Capitol in Washington, DC has been eroded by acid-rain, for example.
One of the biggest difficulties in tackling acid rain is that it can happen over very long distances. In one notable case, sulfur dioxide air pollution produced by power plants in the UK was blamed for causing acid rain that fell on Scandinavian countries such as Norway, producing widespread damage to forests and the deaths of thousands of fish in acidified lakes. The British government refused to acknowledge the problem and that was partly why the UK became known as "the dirty man of Europe" in the s and s.
Global air pollution It's hard to imagine doing anything so dramatic and serious that it would damage our entire, enormous planet—but, remarkable though it may seem, we all do things like this everyday, contributing to problems such as global warming and the damage to the ozone layer two separate issues that are often confused. Global warming Every time you ride in a car, turn on the lights, switch on your TV , take a shower, microwave a meal, or use energy that's come from burning a fossil fuel such as oil, coal, or natural gas, you're almost certainly adding to the problem of global warming and climate change: unless it's been produced in some environmentally friendly way, the energy you're using has most likely released carbon dioxide gas into the air.
While it's not an obvious pollutant, carbon dioxide has gradually built up in the atmosphere, along with other chemicals known as greenhouse gases. Together, these gases act a bit like a blanket surrounding our planet that is slowly making the mean global temperature rise, causing the climate the long-term pattern of our weather to change, and producing a variety of different effects on the natural world, including rising sea levels.
Read more in our main article about global warming and climate change. Ozone holes Photo: Global air pollution: The purple area is the huge hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica caused by CFC chemicals in aerosol sprays and refrigerants. Global warming is a really dramatic effect of air pollution produced by humans, but that doesn't mean it's an insoluble problem.
People have already managed to solve another huge air pollution problem that affected the whole world: the damage to a part of the atmosphere called the ozone layer. At ground level, ozone is an air pollutant—but the ozone that exists in the stratosphere high up in the atmosphere , is exactly the opposite: it's a perfectly natural chemical that protects us like sunscreen , blocking out some of the Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. During the 20th century, people started using large quantities of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons CFCs , because they worked very well as cooling chemicals in refrigerators and propellant gases in aerosol cans propellants are the gases that help to fire out air freshener, hair spray, or whatever else the can contains.
In , scientists Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland suggested that chlorofluorocarbons attacked and destroyed the ozone layer, producing holes that would allow dangerous ultraviolet light to stream through. In the s, huge "ozone holes" started to appear over Antarctica, prompting many countries to unite and sign an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol, which rapidly phased out the use of CFCs. As a result, the ozone layer—though still damaged—is expected to recover by the end of the 21st century.
How can we solve the problem of air pollution? As we discovered in the last section, air pollution means different problems at different scales—in other words, it's not one single problem but many different ones.
Solving a problem like passive smoking how one person's cigarette smoke can harm other people's health is very different to tackling a problem like global warming, though both involve air pollution and they do have some things in common both problems, for example, require us to think about how our behavior can affect other people in the short and long term and to act more considerately. Generally, air pollution is tackled by a mixture of technological solutions, laws and regulations, and changes in people's behavior.
Technological solutions It's very easy to criticize power plants, factories, and vehicles that belch polluting gases into the atmosphere, but virtually all of us rely on these things—ultimately, we are the people polluting. Solving air pollution is also a challenge because many people have a big investment in the status quo carrying on with the world much as it is today.
For example, it's easier for car makers to keep on making gasoline engines than to develop electric cars or ones powered by fuel cells that produce less pollution.
The world has thousands of coal-fired power plants and hundreds of nuclear power stations and, again, it's easier to keep those going than to create an entirely new power system based on solar panels , wind turbines , and other forms of renewable energy though that is happening slowly. Growing awareness of problems such as air pollution and global warming is slowly forcing a shift to cleaner technologies, but the world remains firmly locked in its old, polluting ways.
Let's be optimistic, though. Just as technology has caused the problem of air pollution, so it can provide solutions. Cars with conventional gasoline engines are now routinely fitted with catalytic converters that remove some though not all of the pollutants from the exhaust gases.
Power plants are fitted with electrostatic smoke precipitators that use static electricity to pull dirt and soot from the gases that drift up smokestacks; in time, it's likely that many older power plants will also be retro-fitted with carbon capture systems that trap carbon dioxide to help reduce global warming. On a much smaller scale, environmentally friendly people who want to ventilate their homes without opening windows and wasting energy can install heat-recovery ventilation systems, which use the heat energy locked in outgoing waste air to warm fresh incoming air.
Technologies like this can help us live smarter—to go about our lives in much the same way with far less impact on the planet. Photo: Pollution solution: an electrostatic smoke precipitator helps to prevent air pollution from this smokestack at the McNeil biomass power plant in Burlington, VT. Laws and regulations By itself, technology is as likely to harm the environment as to help it. That's why laws and regulations have been such an important part of tackling the problem of pollution.
Many once-polluted cities now have relatively clean air and water, largely thanks to anti-pollution laws introduced during the midth century. In England, following the smog tragedy that killed thousands in the capital city of London, the government introduced its Clean Air Act of , which restricted how and where coal could be burned and where furnaces could be sited, and forced people to build smokestacks higher to disperse pollution.
The Pollution Prevention Act went even further, shifting the emphasis from cleaning up pollution to preventing it ever happening in the first place. National laws are of little help in tackling transboundary pollution when air pollution from one country affects neighboring countries or continents , but that doesn't mean the law is useless in such cases. The creation of the European Union now comprising around 30 different countries has led to many Europe-wide environmental acts, called directives.
These force the member countries to introduce their own, broadly similar, national environmental laws that ultimately cover the entire European region. For example, the European Bathing Water Directive tried to enforce minimum standards of water quality for beaches and coastal areas across Europe to reduce pollution from sewage disposal, while the European Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control IPPC attempted to limit air and water pollution from industry.