Air pollution is threatening our daily lives especially in urban areas. The Socha (2007) website brings out that the two main human contributors to air pollution is transportation and fuel combustion in stationary sources like homes, office buildings, and factories. According to Socha (2007), “Automobiles produce high levels of carbon monoxides (CO) and are a major source of hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Whereas fuel combustion in stationary sources is the dominant source of sulfur dioxide (SO2)” (Sources of Pollutants, para. 1)
According to a study done by Pervin, Gerdtham, and Lyttkens (2008), people face many health problems because of exposure to air pollutants. The greatest health issues that can occur are respiratory illnesses, difficulty and reduction of both heart and lung functions, and even a serious reduction in life expectancy and premature death. Air pollution has devastating effects on the more vulnerable members of our society (i.e. the aged, children, and anyone with existing health problems). “Additionally, many recent health studies increasingly support the hypothesis that poor indoor environment, tobacco smoke, and combustion emissions not only cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but may also cause premature death” (Pervin, Gerdtham, & Lyttkens, 2008, para. 1).
There are two main sources of air pollution, natural and human. Most natural air pollution is something that is not influenced by human interaction like volcanic activity, which we will discuss later in this paper. Other natural pollutants are influenced by human activity. One example of this is the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). This gas is essential for the natural chemical breakdown of soil; however, the highest emissions are when fertilizers containing nitrogen are applied to farmland (Slanina, 2008).
Air pollutants are divided into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary air pollutants are emitted, unchanged, directly into the air and secondary air pollutants are formed by chemical reactions from primary air pollutants. The major classes of air pollutants are particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon oxides, hydrocarbons, ozone (O3), and air toxics.
An example of natural air pollution would be a volcano. Volcanoes are full of natural gases that are toxic and pollute the air. According to U.S. Geological Survey (2010), “The most abundant gas typically released into the atmosphere from volcanic systems is water vapor (H2O), followed by carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Volcanoes also release smaller amounts of other gases, including hydrogen sulfide (H2S), hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen chloride (HCL), hydrogen fluoride (HF), and helium (He)” (Volcanic Gases and Their Effects, para. 5). Many of these emissions are potentially hazardous to humans, animals, and plants. Sulfur dioxide can contribute to acid rain; sulfur aerosols from eruptions can lead to lower surface temperatures and can deplete the ozone layer. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air so it is likely to collect in the soil in surrounding areas (U.S. Geological Survey, 2010). Some serious consequences result from natural pollutants, however, volcano eruptions are spread out around the planet, and most are infrequent. The planet was made to handle pollutants from natural sources. If nature were the only pollutant to the air and atmosphere, we wouldn’t find ourselves having the issues that we have now.
This paper will focus on the dangers of air pollution in urban areas. This includes air pollution from automobiles and pollution from factories and other commercial manufacturing plants. Urban air pollution caused by traffic is so bad that it is estimated to be the cause of death to over 400,000 people a year. From an Awake! Magazine writer in Spain (2007) “air contamination in Milan, Italy, is so bad that spending...