As the world is moving forward with advancements and progress in technology, the air quality is deteriorating day by day. The factories, industries, and petrol-driven cars that we, humans invented for development and comfort, have now become the sources of air pollution and started to suffocate our lungs with impure air. Many reasons for air pollution deprive us of the right to breathe fresh air and live in a healthy environment. In this article, we will emphasize What causes air pollution and how it is affecting our lives.
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Air pollution refers to the deterioration of air quality by the suspension of solid, liquid, and gaseous harmful particles into the air. The solid and liquid particles released into the air are scientifically called aerosols. According to a study conducted by WHO, approximately seven million deaths around the globe are happening because of air pollution. The main causes of air pollution are the release of sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, etc.
Air can get polluted in two ways:
Primary pollutants: These are the ones that directly make the air polluted. For example, when factories release sulfur dioxide, it becomes a primary pollutant.
Secondary pollutants: These are formed when primary pollutants mix and react with each other. A good example is smog, which happens when smoke and fog mingle, creating a secondary pollutant.
Air pollution is one of the most serious and challenging environmental issues that the whole world is facing. Despite several attempts, agreements, and conferences, air pollution seems to be worsening in many countries. To understand why such a situation is being currently faced by the countries, we need to first learn what causes air pollution. It will give us a clear idea to map out what areas need to be controlled to bring down the air pollution. The list below shows the 7 causes of air pollution, which are as follows:
One of the major reasons for air pollution is the burning of fossils like coal, petroleum to generate electricity or use them for transportation. The burning of fossils leads to the release of carbon monoxide into the air. This reduces the heart’s pumping capacity to produce oxygen and leads to respiratory problems in humans.
The harmful gases released by the eruption of volcanoes or wildfires also lead to air pollution. These two are the natural causes of air pollution. The gases erupt by the wildfires raise the PM 2.5 level in the air which then collides with the toxic chemical components already present in the air. As a result, a heavy sheet of smog is created which leads to severe breathing problems.
It’s a well-known fact that transportation is one of the major sources of air pollution, particularly in cities. The vehicle movement leads to emissions of several toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, PM 10, and so on. All these gases raise the temperature of the air which ultimately leads to the depletion of the ozone layer.
This is one of the causes of air pollution that is rarely acknowledged by many. The decay of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in the environment by the emission of gases from chemical and textile industries leads to the release of methane gas.
Industrial emission is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for air pollution. Industries that are running primarily on wood and coal emit harmful gases like carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, PM 2.5 and 10, and more. The release of such harmful gases in the air deteriorates our health and leads to either eye irritation, respiratory issues, or even chronic diseases.
Burning of waste and garbage at a large scale in the open is one of the main causes of air pollution in several cities around the world. This human activity leads to emissions of such hazardous gases that even exposure to it can lead to serious health threats like impairment of the reproductive system, liver problems, etc.
Whenever we search for answers for what causes air pollution, we often consider the external factors only. The fact that our indoor activities can also lead to air pollution inside our homes never crosses our minds. But it’s one reality. The use of wood stoves or smoking cigarettes inside or using heaters to increase humidity without proper ventilation leads to air pollution and can pose serious health issues.
Air pollution harms the environment in various ways:
1. Health Issues
Breathing polluted air can cause respiratory problems and heart diseases in humans. Lung cancer cases have risen, especially in the last few decades. Children living in polluted areas are more likely to suffer from pneumonia and asthma. Unfortunately, many people lose their lives each year due to the direct or indirect impacts of air pollution.
2. Global Warming
Greenhouse gas emissions upset the balance of gases in the air, leading to a rise in Earth's temperature known as global warming. This warming contributes to the melting of glaciers and a subsequent increase in sea levels, causing flooding in various regions.
3. Acid Rain
Burning fossil fuels releases harmful gases like nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. When these pollutants combine with water droplets, they form acidic rain that damages human, animal, and plant life.
4. Ozone Layer Depletion
The release of substances like chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere is a major contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer. This thinning of the ozone layer allows harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun to reach the Earth, leading to skin diseases and eye problems in individuals.
5. Impact on Animals
Air pollutants suspended in water bodies adversely affect aquatic life. Pollution also forces animals to leave their natural habitats, making them stray and contributing to the extinction of many animal species.
Mostly, air pollutants cannot be seen by the naked eye or smell. But to imply that they won’t be available in high amounts because of this is outright wrong. Some major gases lead to the greenhouse effect and ultimately contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. The common greenhouse gases that are examples of air pollution as well are carbon dioxide and methane.
The examples of air pollution are as follows:
Natural Causes of Air Pollution
Anthropogenic Sources of Pollution
Mining and chemical activities
To tackle air pollution, here are some straightforward measures you can take:
1. Limit Vehicle Use:
Opt for public transport when traveling short distances.
This not only helps prevent pollution but also saves energy.
2. Conserve Energy:
Turn off electrical appliances when not in use to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Use energy-efficient devices like CFLs to further control pollution.
3. Embrace Clean Energy:
Utilise solar, wind, and geothermal energies to decrease air pollution.
Many countries, including India, are adopting these resources for a cleaner environment.
4. Other Measures to Control Air Pollution:
Minimise the use of fire and fire-related products.
Control or treat pollutants at the source to minimise industrial emissions.
Substitute raw materials with less polluting alternatives.
Replace petrol and diesel with CNG-fueled vehicles to reduce vehicular emissions.
Ensure that existing air quality practices are enforced properly.
Test and regulate vehicle emissions to keep the roads cleaner.
Modify and maintain industrial equipment to minimise pollutant emissions.
Use process control equipment when controlling pollutants at the source is challenging.
Dilute air pollutants to control their concentration.
Plant trees in areas with high pollution levels as they effectively reduce pollutants in the air.
From this article we have learnt about the various reasons why air pollution is caused. In order to curb air pollution, we need to take actions against the causes which are mentioned above. For example, we can limit the use of private vehicles and opt for public transport in order to curb air pollution.
1. How does air get polluted through agricultural activities?
Agricultural activities have a drastic impact on the quality of air. The pesticides and fertilizers that are used to proliferate the growth of the crops are the major contributors to contaminating the air. In recent days, these pesticides and fertilizers are mixed with some foreign, artificial species to quicken the crops’ growth. Once they are sprinkled over the crops, their smell and constituents remain in the environment. Some runoff and dissolve into the lakes or rivers flowing nearby while some penetrate the roots that contaminate the groundwater. The consumption of this contaminated water ultimately leads to serious health issues.
2. Why is air pollution considered a problem?
Air pollution is considered a problem because it not only affects the environment but also damages crops, forests, animals, and the human body. The causes of air pollution contribute to the problem of acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is important for the earth because it protects the earth from the UV rays of the sun. But when it gets depleted, the UV rays can enter the Earth and affect humans. In this way, the air problem creates problems.
3. What are the effects of air pollution?
Air pollution can have a variety of harmful effects on human health and the environment. These effects can include:
Respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer
Damage to ecosystems
4. What are the different types of air pollution?
There are many different types of air pollutants, but some of the most common include:
Particulate matter (PM): This is a mixture of tiny solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. PM can come from a variety of sources, including cars, trucks, factories, construction sites, and wildfires. PM2.5, which refers to particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, is especially harmful because it can lodge deep in the lungs.
Ground-level ozone: This is a gas that is formed when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides from cars, trucks, and other sources. Ozone can irritate the lungs and worsen respiratory problems.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2): This gas is a major component of smog and can also irritate the lungs. NO2 is primarily produced by motor vehicles.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2): This gas is released from the burning of fossil fuels and can cause respiratory problems and acid rain.
Carbon monoxide (CO): This gas is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels. CO can interfere with the body's ability to use oxygen and can lead to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
5. How can I measure the air quality in my area?
There are a few different ways to measure the air quality in your area:
You can purchase your own air quality monitor to measure the levels of pollutants in your home or neighborhood.
Many government websites provide real-time air quality data for specific locations. For example, in the United States, you can check the Air Quality Index (AQI) on the Environmental Protection Agency's website.
There are a number of smartphone apps that can provide real-time air quality data for your location.
6. What is being done to address air pollution?
There are a number of things that are being done to address air pollution, including:
Regulating emissions from cars, trucks, and factories: Governments are setting stricter limits on the amount of pollutants that can be released from these sources.
Promoting the use of clean energy sources: Governments and businesses are investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to reduce pollution from fossil fuels.
Improving public transportation: Improving public transportation can help to reduce the number of cars on the road, which can improve air quality.
Planting trees: Trees can help to filter air pollution, so planting trees is a good way to improve air quality.
It is important to note that air pollution is a complex problem with no easy solutions. However, by taking steps to reduce emissions and improve air quality, we can help to protect the health of ourselves and our planet.