Air Pollution and Air Quality Guidelines

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Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. It also damages buildings. Pollutants in the air take many forms. They can be gases, solid particles, or liquid droplets.

Sources of Air Pollution

Pollution enters the Earth's atmosphere in many different ways. Most air pollution is created by people, taking the form of emissions from factories, cars, planes, or aerosol cans. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also considered air pollution. These man-made sources of pollution are calledanthropogenic sources.

Some types of air pollution, such as smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes, occur naturally. These are called natural sources.

Air pollution is most common in large cities where emissions from many different sources are concentrated. Sometimes, mountains or tall buildings prevent air pollution from spreading out. This air pollution often appears as a cloud making the air murky. It is called smog. The word "smog" comes from combining the words "smoke" and "fog." 

Large cities in poor and developing nations tend to have more air pollution than cities in developed nations. According to theWorld Health Organization (WHO), some of the worlds most polluted cities are Karachi, Pakistan; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Lima, Peru; and Cairo, Egypt. However, many developed nations also have air pollution problems. Los Angeles, California, is nicknamed Smog City. 

Indoor Air Pollution

Air pollution is usually thought of as smoke from large factories or exhaust from vehicles. But there are many types of indoor air pollution as well. 

Heating a house by burning substances such as kerosene, wood, and coal can contaminate the air inside the house. Ash and smoke make breathing difficult, and they can stick to walls, food, and clothing.

Naturally-occurring radon gas, a cancer-causing material, can also build up in homes. Radon is released through the surface of the Earth. Inexpensive systems installed by professionals can reduce radon levels.

Some construction materials, including insulation, are also dangerous to people's health. In addition, ventilation, or air movement, in homes and rooms can lead to the spread oftoxic mold. A single colony of mold may exist in a damp, cool place in a house, such as between walls. The mold'sspores enter the air and spread throughout the house. People can become sick from breathing in the spores.

Effects On Humans

People experience a wide range of health effects from being exposed to air pollution. Effects can be broken down into short-term effects and long-term effects. 

Short-term effects, which are temporary, include illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis. They also include discomfort such as irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin. Air pollution can also cause headaches, dizziness, andnausea. Bad smells made by factories, garbage, or sewer systems are considered air pollution, too. These odors are less serious but still unpleasant.

Long-term effects of air pollution can last for years or for an entire lifetime. They can even lead to a person's death. Long-term health effects from air pollution include heart disease,lung cancer, and respiratory diseases such as emphysema. Air pollution can also cause long-term damage to people'snerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. Some scientists suspect air pollutants cause birth defects. Nearly 2.5 million people die worldwide each year from the effects of outdoor or indoor air pollution. 

People react differently to different types of air pollution. Young children and older adults, whose immune systems tend to be weaker, are often more sensitive to pollution. Conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution. The length of exposure and amount and type of pollutants are also factors.  Effects On The Environment

Like people, animals, and plants, entire ecosystems can...
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