Air pollution is the addition of substances that are harmful to the atmosphere. Several gases make up clean air. Addition of dangerous substances or harmful gases into the clean air causes pollution. Such substances damage human health, the environment and the quality of life. Air pollution occurs in schools, offices, homes and on the countryside.
Causes of air pollution
Air pollution is caused by either primary pollutants or the secondary pollutants. Primary air pollutants are those which are the direct cause of air pollution, for example the sulphur-dioxide from the factories. Secondary pollutants are a mixture of several primary air pollutants, for example, causes of smog. These causes of air pollution include:
Activities associated with agriculture like using fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides in the release hazardous chemicals to the environment. Mining operations release dust and chemicals into the atmosphere. This mostly causes poor health conditions for the workers and of the residents nearby. Household cleaning products and paints emit toxic chemicals in the atmosphere to cause air pollution.
Most of the air pollution in cities is associated with factories. They are located all over the earth. They manufacture products by use of many different materials. In the development new products, there is formation of wastes, heat and chemicals which needs to be removed from the factory. In this case, large amounts of carbon monoxide, organic compounds, and hydrocarbons among other chemicals are released. Mostly, release is done through the smoke stacks, air vents and chimneys from the factories into the atmosphere (Burningham & Thrush, 2004).
Transportation has become a key part in our lives especially after the industrial age. Large amounts of fossil fuels are burned in shipping vessels, airplanes, trains, heavy duty trucks and cars. Emissions from these engines contain both the primary and secondary pollutants (Burningham & Thrush, 2004). With so many vehicles in our cities, this cause is difficult to control. People rely mainly on these vehicles for transportation. Fumes from the vehicles’ exhaust contain hazardous gases such as oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide particulate and hydrocarbons. They cause great damage to people who breathe the gases. These elements also react with gases in the environment to create more toxic gases.
Smoking cigarette releases pollutants into the air. These pollutants are generated in the process of combusting tobacco and paper. These pollutants are in gaseous form, or in form of small particles known as particulate matter. A good number of smoke particles emitted by the cigarette are large in size, such that they can be seen by the human eye. Majority of smoke particles are less than 2.5 micrometres () and can enter deep into the lungs where they cause serious problems. Non-smokers become passive smokers when air is polluted with cigarette smoke (Leuenberger et al., 1994).
Air pollution affects the whole ecological system. Its effects on the earth’s atmosphere have reached critical stages where it has gone to the extents of damaging the ozone layer, which in turn has caused serious disturbances to the environment. The damaged Ozone layer now allows in the harmful radiations from the sun in larger quantities. The polluted air is also becoming a better insulator which prevents the escape of heat from the earth’s surface to the space, a condition known as “the green-house effect”. This causes global warming and therefore climate change.
To lessen air pollution, governments have created policies such as enforcing the rules that people smoke in specific areas and the fuel used in vehicles has reduced chemicals such as lead.
Burningham, K., & Thrush, D. (2004). Pollution concerns in context: a comparison of local perceptions of the risks associated with living close to a road and a chemical factory. Journal Of Risk Research, 7(2), 213–232.
Leuenberger, P., Schwartz, J., Ackermann-Liebrich, U., Blaser, K., Bolognini, G., & Bongard, J. et al. (1994). Passive smoking exposure in adults and chronic respiratory symptoms (SAPALDIA Study). Swiss Study on Air Pollution and Lung Diseases in Adults, SAPALDIA Team. American Journal Of Respiratory And Critical Care Medicine, 150(5), 1222–1228.
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