What is Air Pollution?
Pollution is now a common place term, that our ears are attuned to. We hear about the various forms of pollution and read about it through the mass media. Air pollution is one such form that refers to the contamination of the air, irrespective of indoors or outside. A physical, biological or chemical alteration to the air in the atmosphere can be termed as pollution. It occurs when any harmful gases, dust, smoke enters into the atmosphere and makes it difficult for plants, animals and humans to survive as the air becomes dirty.
Air pollution can further be classified into two sections- Visible air pollution and invisible air pollution. Another way of looking at Air pollution could be any substance that holds the potential to hinder the atmosphere or the well being of the living beings surviving in it. The sustainment of all things living is due to a combination of gases that collectively form the atmosphere; the imbalance caused by the increase or decrease of the percentage of these gases can be harmful for survival.
Read here more about 40 facts of air pollution.
The Ozone layer considered crucial for the existence of the ecosystems on the planet is depleting due to increased pollution. Global warming, a direct result of the increased imbalance of gases in the atmosphere has come to be known as the biggest threat and challenge that the contemporary world has to overcome in a bid for survival.
Types of Pollutants
In order to understand the causes of Air pollution, several divisions can be made. Primarily air pollutants can be caused by primary sources or secondary sources. The pollutants that are a direct result of the process can be called primary pollutants. A classic example of a primary pollutant would be the sulfur-dioxide emitted from factories
Secondary pollutants are the ones that are caused by the inter mingling and reactions of primary pollutants. Smog created by the interactions of several primary pollutants is known to be as secondary pollutant.
Causes of Air pollution
1. Burning of Fossil Fuels: Sulfur dioxide emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and other factory combustibles is one the major cause of air pollution. Pollution emitting from vehicles including trucks, jeeps, cars, trains, airplanes cause immense amount of pollution. We rely on them to fulfill our daily basic needs of transportation. But, there overuse is killing our environment as dangerous gases are polluting the environment. Carbon Monooxide caused by improper or incomplete combustion and generally emitted from vehicles is another major pollutant along with Nitrogen Oxides, that is produced from both natural and man made processes.
2. Agricultural activities: Ammonia is a very common by product from agriculture related activities and is one of the most hazardous gases in the atmosphere. Use of insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural activities has grown quite a lot. They emit harmful chemicals into the air and can also cause water pollution.
3. Exhaust from factories and industries: Manufacturing industries release large amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and chemicals into the air thereby depleting the quality of air. Manufacturing industries can be found at every corner of the earth and there is no area that has not been affected by it. Petroleum refineries also release hydrocarbons and various other chemicals that pollute the air and also cause land pollution.
4. Mining operations: Mining is a process wherein minerals below the earth are extracted using large equipments. During the process dust and chemicals are released in the air causing massive air pollution. This is one of the reason which is responsible for the deteriorating health conditions of workers and nearby residents.
5. Indoor air pollution: Household cleaning products, painting supplies emit toxic chemicals in the air and cause air pollution. Have you ever noticed that once you paint walls of your house, it creates some sort of smell which makes it literally impossible for you to breathe.
Suspended particulate matter popular by its acronym SPM, is another cause of pollution. Referring to the particles afloat in the air, SPM is usually caused by dust, combustion etc.
Effects of Air pollution
1. Respiratory and heart problems: The effects of Air pollution are alarming. They are known to create several respiratory and heart conditions along with Cancer, among other threats to the body. Several millions are known to have died due to direct or indirect effects of Air pollution. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants are said to commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma.
2. Global warming: Another direct effect is the immediate alterations that the world is witnessing due to Global warming. With increased temperatures world wide, increase in sea levels and melting of ice from colder regions and icebergs, displacement and loss of habitat have already signaled an impending disaster if actions for preservation and normalization aren’t undertaken soon.
3. Acid Rain: Harmful gases like nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the atmosphere during the burning of fossil fuels. When it rains, the water droplets combines with these air pollutants, becomes acidic and then falls on the ground in the form of acid rain. Acid rain can cause great damage to human, animals and crops.
4. Eutrophication: Eutrophication is a condition where high amount of nitrogen present in some pollutants gets developed on sea’s surface and turns itself into algae and and adversely affect fish, plants and animal species. The green colored algae that is present on lakes and ponds is due to presence of this chemical only.
5. Effect on Wildlife: Just like humans, animals also face some devastating affects of air pollution. Toxic chemicals present in the air can force wildlife species to move to new place and change their habitat. The toxic pollutants deposit over the surface of the water and can also affect sea animals.
6. Depletion of Ozone layer: Ozone exists in earth’s stratosphere and is responsible for protecting humans from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Earth’s ozone layer is depleting due to the presence of chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. As ozone layer will go thin, it will emit harmful rays back on earth and can cause skin and eye related problems. UV rays also have the capability to affect crops.
When you try to study the sources of Air pollution, you enlist a series of activities and interactions that create these pollutants. There are two types of sources that we will take a look at: Natural sources and Man-made sources.
Natural sources of pollution include dust carried by the wind from locations with very little or no green cover, gases released from the body processes of living beings (Carbon dioxide from humans during respiration, Methane from cattle during digestion, Oxygen from plants during Photosynthesis). Smoke from the combustion of various inflammable objects, volcanic eruptions etc along with the emission of polluted gases also make it to the list of Natural sources of Pollution.
While looking at the man-made contributions towards air pollution, smoke again features as a prominent component. The smoke emitted from various forms of combustion like in bio mass, factories, vehicles, furnaces etc. Waste used to create landfills generate methane, that is harmful in several ways. The reactions of certain gases and chemicals also form harmful fumes that can be dangerous to the well being of living creatures.
Solutions for Air Pollution
1. Use public mode of transportation: Encourage people to use more and more public modes of transportation to reduce pollution. Also, try to make use of car pooling. If you and your colleagues come from the same locality and have same timings you can explore this option to save energy and money.
2. Conserve energy: Switch off fans and lights when you are going out. Large amount of fossil fuels are burnt to produce electricity. You can save the environment from degradation by reducing the amount of fossil fuels to be burned.
3. Understand the concept of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Do not throw away items that are of no use to you. In-fact reuse them for some other purpose. For e.g. you can use old jars to store cereals or pulses.
4. Emphasis on clean energy resources:Clean energy technologies like solar, wind and geothermal are on high these days. Governments of various countries have been providing grants to consumers who are interested in installing solar panels for their home. This will go a long way to curb air pollution.
5. Use energy efficient devices: CFL lights consume less electricity as against their counterparts. They live longer, consume less electricity, lower electricity bills and also help you to reduce pollution by consuming less energy.
Several attempts are being made world wide on a personal, industrial and governmental levels to curb the intensity at which Air Pollution is rising and regain a balance as far as the proportions of the foundation gases are concerned. This is a direct attempt at slacking Global warming. We are seeing a series of innovations and experiments aimed at alternate and unconventional options to reduce pollutants. Air Pollution is one of the larger mirrors of man’s follies, and a challenge we need to overcome to see a tomorrow.
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Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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much of the global freshwater supply is getting polluted more and more. Water pollutants can come in a variety of forms, including organic, inorganic, and radioactive¹. Such pollution is harmful for aquatic ecosystems and can pollute groundwater, including the water that we drink.
Did you know?
- Globally, 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean water and 2.4 billion people do not have proper sanitation².
- 70% of all industrial waste is dumped into water bodies in developing countries³.
- Each day, 2 million tons (1.8 billion kg) of sewage is disposed of into water bodies globally³.
- Many water bodies around the world lack sufficient basic protections, leaving them vulnerable to industrial and agricultural pollution⁴.
The following table shows many of the causes of water pollution and their effects:
These amazing animals should be protected, not hunted!
|Cause of Water Pollution||Effects|
|Sewage and Wastewater⁵|
*Untreated sewage water is problematic in developing countries with insufficient sanitation.
*In developed countries, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals are flushed down the toilet and sink.
*Raw sewage in water causes environmental contamination and human illnesses like diarrhea.
*Chemicals and pharmaceuticals are harmful to the environment, wildlife, and humans.
*Many industrial plants worldwide use fresh water to dispose of their waste, polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.
|*Industrial chemicals can travel for many miles and result in biomagnification at progressively higher levels within the food chain. This effect especially impacts top-level predators and humans, causing illness and death.|
*Litter is disposed of in the ocean and on beaches.
*Some litter items such as plastic six-pack rings do not readily degrade and may injure or kill animals.
*Litter may contain toxic chemicals that pollute the marine environment.
*Litter can persist for many years and accumulate in large patches and wash up on coastal areas.
*Produced during industrial, medical, and scientific processes, and through the mining and refining of nuclear fuels like uranium and thorium.
*Nuclear processing plants give off wastes that can pollute the marine environment.
*Harmful to marine life and human health.
*Large oil spill events account for only 12% of total ocean oil pollution. The remaining oil pollution is through routine shipping, land run-off, and intentional oil dumping.
*Devastating to local marine life like birds, fish, and marine mammals.
*Does not dissolve in water but gathers together as a thick sludge.
*Can cause fish to suffocate.
*Marine birds’ feathers can get coated with oil, preventing their ability to fly.
*Marine mammals can also get coated with oil.
*Oil can block sunlight and prevent aquatic plants from undergoing photosynthesis.
*Acid Rain is created when water molecules in the atmosphere combine with particles of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels to form a mildly acidic pollutant that can be present in rain.
*Stresses and harms fish and other aquatic life at low levels. Can kill aquatic life at higher concentrations
*Occurs when ocean waters and other aquatic habitats are enriched with excess nutrients, such as phosphates and nitrogenous compounds caused by agricultural runoff.
*Excess nutrients feed algae and can cause algal blooms in the ocean and in lakes and other freshwater bodies.
*The excessive algae use up all of the dissolved oxygen in the water, leaving little left for other organisms like fish. This process can lead to the creation of “dead zones,” where fish cannot survive.
*Algal blooms may block sunlight from aquatic plants.
*Algae may produce toxins that are poisonous to aquatic life and humans, and can potentially lead to death.
|Run-off from many different sources (non-point source pollution)⁶|
*Rainfall and snowmelt can wash natural and human-made pollutants from human development into rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal waters.
*Harmful to aquatic life and ecosystems, and human health.
*Agricultural pollutants include: excessive nutrients, ammonia and nitrates, pathogens, antibiotics and hormones, and heavy metals and salts.
*Manure, animal bedding, wasted feed, soil, dust, hair and feathers can be mixed together and can end up in waterways.
*Water pollutants can harm or poison both aquatic life and humans.
*Excessive organic matter in water bodies can lead to eutrophication issues.
*Private wells can become polluted from toxins from factory farm operations.
|Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”) Fluid⁸,⁹|
*Fluid is used for obtaining natural gas from shale in the earth.
*Found to contain many toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, and boric acid, among many others.
*Ground water resources and well water can potentially become polluted from fracking processes and when wells are incorrectly constructed.
*Fracking activities pollute local fresh water and then removes it from local water cycles by keeping it in storage tanks and in oil and gas waste wells.
*Some fracking chemicals are known to be carcinogenic, and others and can cause harm to the human body such as by negatively affecting the skin, eyes, respiratory and gastrointestinal system, brain and nervous system.
*Carbon dioxide gas is produced through the burning of fossil fuels.
*These gases are absorbed by the ocean.
*As increased carbon dioxide is released around the globe, the increased levels that are being absorbed by the ocean are making the ocean waters more acidic.
*These acidic waters are inhospitable to many types of marine life, particularly organisms with a calcium-based shell or skeleton, such as coral reefs.
Solutions for water pollution
Because fresh and clean water is necessary for the health of everyone and for the environment, it is crucial that we create and maintain solutions to prevent and mitigate water pollution.
There are a number of solutions available that could go a long way in helping to reduce water pollution around the world. The following are just a few of the ways that we can make progress on this important issue.
- Create and enforce water quality regulations and create public policies around the world that protect water resources, especially concerning pollution from industrial and agricultural sources.Concentrate educational efforts to these sectors globally to increase awareness of the impacts of water pollution on the environment and human health. Encourage collaboration among stakeholders in these industries to innovate and create sustainable ways of doing business that do not negatively impact the environment.
- Increase public education and awareness around the world concerning the causes and impacts of water pollution.
- Dramatically reduce the burning of fossil fuels around the world to reduce the acidification of the world’s oceans, and the production of other associated pollution such as oil spills and groundwater pollution from fracking liquid. Embrace and invest in sustainable energy technologies that are non-polluting and will meet our energy needs.
- Institute regulations and best practices for watershed management, wastewater management, vessel sewage discharge, and stormwater source pollution. Where appropriate, such as in smaller communities, low-tech wastewater treatment through the use of wetlands should be considered, and will provide valuable wildlife habitat.
- All new developments should be “green” to help prevent stormwater runoff in urban areas and capture rainwater through the use of trees, bioswales, and natural areas, and the use of structures such as permeable pavements, green roofs and rain gardens¹¹,¹²,¹³,¹⁴,¹⁵. Natural areas should be conserved to help capture stormwater, especially near lakes, rivers, and streams.
- Agricultural policies should encourage the use of ecological and organic farming methods that use few to no toxic chemicals and protect water bodies from pollution. Policies should include the proper management of livestock and organic land policies through practices such as conservation tillage and buffer strips near waterways.
- Governments should collaborate with charitable organizations and international aid and relief organizations to bring proper sanitation and fresh water access to those who need them in developing nations.
For information about how you can help to prevent water pollution, check out our post on How to Stop Water Pollution.