By Salma Al-Amoudi
The list of environmental problems in the current day is ever-expanding. What started off as deforestation among other things has spiralled into problems that affect resources, habitats, weather, and populations. Environmentalism, on the other hand, is a broad philosophy and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the state of the environment.
So what are the most challenging obstacles we face towards a healthier environment? In this article, we’ll tackle none other than the infamous air pollution.
Air pollution: (n.) the introduction of chemicals or biological materials that cause harm to living organisms or the natural environment into the atmosphere. Air pollution is usually heavily found in metropolitan areas, especially in developing countries, which have virtually no environmental regulations. Many cities of developed countries, though, also have high levels of pollution.
Air pollution comes about from sources that produce pollutants. Sources can be classified as:
1. Stationary Sources: smoke stacks, manufacturing facilities, waste incinerators, etc.
2. Mobile Sources: motor vehicles, marine vessels, and aircrafts.
3. Chemicals: burning of chemicals.
4. Fumes: from sprays and other solvents.
5. Waste Deposition: in landfills
6. Military: like nuclear weapons, toxic gases, etc.
8. Volcanic activity
Pollutants are the substances that cause air pollution and can be natural or manmade. Some of the main pollutants are:
1. Sulfur oxides – especially sulfur dioxide. Combustion of coal and petroleum generates sulfur dioxide. It causes acid rain.
2. Nitrogen oxides – especially nitrogen dioxide. It is one of the most prominent pollutants. It comes from high temperature combustion, and it is the brown haze found above cities. It is toxic.
3. Carbon monoxide – produced by incomplete combustion of natural gas, coal, or wood. Exhaust from automobiles is a major source. It is colorless, odorless, and very poisonous.
4. Carbon dioxide – produced by combustion, cement production, and respiration. It is colorless and odorless; it is a green house gas associated with global warming and ocean acidification.
5. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – products that produce them are currently banned. They are harmful to the ozone layer.
6. Odors – from garbage, sewage, and industrial processes.
7. Radioactive pollutants – produced by nuclear explosions, war explosives, and natural processes, such as radioactive decay.
8. Ground level ozone – produced by photochemical and chemical reactions. It makes up the Ozone layer; but at abnormally high concentrations, it is a pollutant and a constituent of smog.
According to the Environmental Science Engineering Program at the Harvard School of Public Health, 4 percent of the deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to air pollution. The World Health Organization stated that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributed to air pollution, 1.5 million of which are a cause of indoor air pollution , making air pollution a greater cause of death worldwide than death to due automobile accidents.
Air pollution is linked to cardiopulmonary disease , pneumonia, asthma, and respiratory allergies.
Believe it or not, poor indoor air quality is considered as a type of air pollution! It comes about because of a lack of ventilation, which concentrates air pollution. Building materials, paint, and lead cause such unhealthy concentrations. Intentional air pollution is caused by the use of air fresheners, incense, pesticides, etc. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often caused by faulty vents and chimneys or by the burning of charcoal indoors.
Another type of air pollution is the smoky fog we see in modern cities: smog. It usually comes from automobile exhaust and industrial fumes. Most people affected by it are senior citizens, children, and people with heart and/or lung conditions.
There are efforts to reduce pollution from mobile sources: regulation in machinery use, increased fuel efficiency, and a conversion to cleaner fuels, to name a few. Control devices are gadgets used to either destroy contaminants or remove them from an exhaust stream so that they aren’t emitted into the atmosphere.