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Atmospheric pollution

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Air pollution in urban areas is generated by transport, industry and energy production. But it is not only a visual or olfactory problem, but also one of the main health risks in the world . Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution is responsible for 7 million people dying prematurely each year.

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What is air pollution?

Air pollution means the presence of impurities or the increase of certain substances in the atmosphere that modify the composition of the air . These pollutants can not only be harmful to human health but can also negatively affect the environment, natural resources, living organisms and ecosystems .

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  • Causes of air pollution
  • Effects of air pollution
  • Prevention
  • Sources of air pollution
  • Types of air pollution
  • Examples

Causes of air pollution

  • Fuels and transport: the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas , releases carbon monoxide and sulfur oxide. Precisely, means of transport such as vehicles, trucks and airplanes emit large amounts of carbon monoxide, which is harmful and negatively alters the environment and its ecosystems.
  • Industrial facilities: this pollution is mainly due to the fuels used by many factories to run their machines. Likewise, industrial waste not only affects air pollution, but also soil pollution. The pollutants emanating from industrial facilities are mainly sulfur dioxide, dusts, metals, volatile organic compounds.
  • Deforestation: This indirectly affects the environment since trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis and produce oxygen. This helps regulate the natural greenhouse effect. As there are fewer forests, there will be a greater amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition, many times, forests are deforested with fire and this action also increases the amount of carbon dioxide. 
  • Garbage incineration: All types of combustion generate emissions and the burning of waste, whether carried out by individuals or by specialized facilities, constitutes an agent of atmospheric pollution. The pollutants released in this case can contain metals, hydrochloric acid, and dioxins.
  • Agriculture : The agricultural sector is responsible for part of the atmospheric pollution, due to the use of machines but also due to the products used for agricultural activities, phytosanitary products and ammonia.
  • Domestic activities: When using plant protection products, paints, household products or when cooking, agents that pollute the air are emitted, such as volatile organic compounds. 

Effects of air pollution

Air quality can have repercussions on our health or the environment with immediate or long-term effects. These effects will vary according to the chemical composition of the polluting agents, the size of the particles, the degree of exposure, among other variables.

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Health effects

  • Respiratory conditions, since the respiratory tract is the main entry point for air and, therefore, for pollutants.
  • Digestive conditions since pollutants in the air can contaminate our food.
  • Skin conditions .

Effects on the environment

  • In growing areas , ozone in large quantities causes the appearance of spots or necrosis on the surface of the leaves and causes low yields depending on the type of crop.
  • In constructions , pollutants deteriorate the materials of the façades, especially those that are built in stone, cement and glass, due to dirt and corrosive actions.
  • The ecosystems may be negatively affected by acidification and eutrophication air . Indeed, some pollutants, washed away by the rains, subsequently pollute the soils and water, which disturbs the chemical balance of the plants. There are even other types of pollutants that affect the distribution of species and seriously affect biodiversity .
  • The smog is one of the consequences of air pollution. This comes from a mixture of pollutants consisting mainly of ozone and final particles, resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels.
  • The rain acid produced by sulfur oxide that rises into the atmosphere. This can weaken the flora of our planet by acidifying the soils. These affect the development of diseases and can even cause some species to become sterile. The fauna is also seriously impacted by this phenomenon.

Prevention

There are certain measures that can be taken, not only at the government level but also at the personal level, to prevent or reduce air pollution.

  • As for transport , when buying a vehicle, you can choose a car model adapted to personal needs that consumes little . Then, it is important to pay attention to the maintenance of the vehicle by frequently checking the oil filter, the gasoline filter, the air filter, among other components of the vehicle. According to statistics, a car with poor maintenance can pollute 50 times more than a car in good condition . On the other hand, car use can be minimized if possible.
  • Avoid the use of solvent-based products , such as turpentine, gasoline, pesticides, among others. If its use is imperative, it is essential to handle them with great care and close the containers that contain it hermetically.
  • Prefer the use of recycled products since these allow saving the amount of waste destined for incineration, a cause of atmospheric pollution.
  • Avoid smoking .

Sources of air pollution

  • Natural origin atmospheric emissions: Forest fires or volcanoes can be the cause of polluting gas emissions.
  • Anthropic emissions : These are emissions caused by human activity, such as industrial facilities, transportation, garbage incineration or agricultural activities.

Types of air pollution

  • Local air pollution: This comes from nearby sources such as industrial facilities or vehicles. The most frequent pollutants on this scale are: particulates, azote oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (HAP) and metals.
  • Regional air pollution: This originates from more complex physical and chemical phenomena from primary pollutants such as those mentioned above or secondary pollutants such as ozone (O 3 ). The term regional is used because it covers a larger area.
  • Global air pollution: In this type of pollution, there are substances involved in the phenomena of climate change (greenhouse gases and in particular CO 2,)

Examples

Smog in Pakistan

In this country, the environmental situation is worrying. Indeed, Pakistan ranks third in the world for the number of pollution victims , with 125,000 deaths per year. Pollution particularly affects the air. It should be noted that it is a country with thousands of factories that expel their toxic gases into the atmosphere. In the autumn of 2016, a large cloud of smog was produced in the country and the following year, the phenomenon was repeated, causing respiratory diseases in the population such as asthma, allergic conjunctivitis and respiratory failure.

The case of Saudi Arabia

According to certain studies, this country has one of the highest levels of air pollution in the world . Carbon emissions are very high. Unfortunately, in this country there is not the best disposition for the use of renewable energies.

The airplanes

Although the energy efficiency of airplanes has improved over the years, it is important to emphasize that airplanes contribute more to air pollution than other modes of transportation. These consume more fuel per kilometer and per person than other means . On the other hand, airplanes expel harmful gases directly into the atmosphere which makes their action even more damaging.

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