Air pollution, according to the World Health Organization, is the changing of natural traits of the atmosphere, caused due to biological and chemical pollutants. Air pollution is reputed to be a major health risk, particularly since it causes heart problems, respiratory conditions and cancer.
Most people are unaware of the fact that their daily routines at home and work actually contribute to the poor condition of the air. Perhaps there are ways of making the air less polluted, but for this, it’s first necessary to know what causes this pollution. Here are 10 big sources of air pollution:
- Combustion engine exhaust: For all the conveniences cars, planes and ships afford, they are also major pollutants of air. The emissions from vehicles comprise nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and gaseous oxide, which cause the ozone layer to deplete. This, in turn, causes changes in weather, and temperatures to rise. Due to this, the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise, causing a lot of harm to the rhythm of nature and global warming. This environmental damage isn’t all that it does, engine exhaust also plays havoc with our health, causing reduced brain functioning, impaired vision, lung cancer and death.
- Fossil fuels and coal: Factories, offices and homes, among other institutions, use fossil fuels for energy. These cause air pollution and industrial smog, damaging structures and causing iron to oxidize fast. They are also injurious to plants, thereby reducing oxygen supply in the environment.
- Dumping grounds: Landfills generate methane, a large greenhouse gas that’s highly flammable and very dangerous if the landfill grows without supervision. As the population grows, the amount of waste also grows, calling for a need for dumping grounds in cities. These areas are large producers of methane.
By separating carbon and similar pollutants from Nature naturally, the ecosystem’s balance has always been maintained. However, the sheer quantum of pollutants makes it difficult to maintain this balance. Besides, man keeps adding pollutants into the air, causing acid rain, global warming, smog and other health-related problems.
- Mining operations: Truck traffic and mining are two large causes of air pollution. Through these activities, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and sulphur oxide are released in the air, causing smog and other respiratory diseases. Besides, gold mines release mercury particulates into the atmosphere. An excessive amount of mercury inhalation can cause muscle weakness, respiratory problems, disturbances in sensation and cancer, apart from death.
- Radioactive emissions: On the positive side, radioactive sources give a high yield of energy, while they also release harmful quantities of heavy metals and sulphur dioxide into the air. Air pollution caused due to radioactive emissions causes damage to Nature, such as undergrowth tree damage, defoliation and deformation.
Among human beings, it causes cancers and respiratory ailments, as in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
- Fertilizer dust: Fertilizer dust, used by farmers to increase crop production, leads to the production of nitrogen oxide and ammonia, both contributors to acid rain, methane and global warming. Such pollution also yields methane, a greenhouse gas. Due to methane’s harmful presence, the heat that should radiate back into the air enters the earth and insulates it.
- Volcano eruptions: Natural processes like volcanoes also cause a lot of harmful substances to be released into the air, causing air pollution. When volcanoes erupt, they release into the atmosphere sulphur dioxide, which has an impact on global cooling.
- Forest fires: Forest fires are dangerous to the environment and mankind because they release certain pollutants including smoke particles into the air or particulate matter that can easily enter the lungs and damage them and the heart and trigger health conditions such as asthma.
Environmentally, the ash from wood fires contain carbon dioxide, peat and contaminants such as heavy metals and mercury that make the air toxic.
- Smoking: Second-hand smokers are at much in danger of being subject to inhaling carcinogens as their first-hand counterparts. Tobacco smoke is known to contain 40 carcinogens, making it toxic to breathe in.
- Home heating and cooking: Homes are usually kept warm using fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil. Burning these fuel sources means the release of sulphur dioxide in the air. Even if homes are warmed by electricity, the energy plants that produced it could also be the result of fossil fuels.
Whether energy for cooking comes from energy plants or directly from burning wood or coal, the resultant air is dangerous to health as they release particulate matter which can cause lung cancer, among other serious medical conditions.
Though technological advancements have brought in several innovations in agriculture, energy and transportation, yet they also cause air pollution in a big way. However, now that you know the top causes and major sources of air pollution, perhaps you can do your bit for a cleaner environment.