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Air Pollution: Understanding the Problem and Ways to Help Solve It

airpollution

Air pollution is one of the most serious problems in the world. It refers to the contamination of the atmosphere by harmful chemicals or biological materials. According to the World's Worst Polluted Places by Blacksmith Institute in 2008, two of the worst pollution problems in the world are urban air quality and indoor air pollution. To solve the problem of air pollution, it's necessary to understand the issues and look for ways to counter it.

Air Pollution Statistics

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collects air pollution statistics. It's important to study these statistics because they show how polluted the air has become in various places around the country. Generally, the statistics reflect the levels of six pollutants, namely, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, and particulate matter. There are maximum allowable limits for each pollutant.

  • Air Quality Index: Provides information on the index for daily reporting of air quality.
  • Air Trends: The EPA offers statistics on air quality trends.
  • Canada: Offers information on air quality indicators in Canada.

Health Effects

Air pollution can cause long-term and short-term health effects. It's found that the elderly and young children are more affected by air pollution. Short-term health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, allergic reactions, and upper respiratory infections. Some long-term health effects are lung cancer, brain damage, liver damage, kidney damage, heart disease, and respiratory disease.

  • Health: Read about how air pollution can affect your health.
  • Air Pollution: A great resource on the health effects of air pollution.
  • On Children: Explains how air pollution has such an impact of children's health.
  • Health Effects: Excellent overview of the health effects of air pollution.
  • Dirty Air: Highlights some of the common health problems caused by air pollution.

Environmental Effects

Air pollution causes damage to crops, animals, forests, and bodies of water. It also contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from the sun's UV rays. Another negative effect of air pollution is the formation of acid rain, which harms trees, soils, rivers, and wildlife. Some of the other environmental effects of air pollution are haze, eutrophication, and global climate change.

  • Climate Change: Discusses how air pollution has an impact on climate change.
  • Ozone: Read about ozone and ozone layer depletion in relation to air pollution.
  • Acid Rain: Offers great information on the subject of acid rain.

Human Causes of Air Pollution

Human activities have been highlighted as the major causes of air pollution, especially in the cities. To support a larger population, there's a need for energy production, transportation, and industries, resulting in the emission of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. A list of the human causes of air pollution includes vehicles, domestic smoke and heating, aircraft pollution, outdoor fires, and incineration of waste. To reduce the problems of air pollution, people should be more aware of their actions in these areas.

  • Human Activity: An overview of how human activity affects air pollution.
  • Air Toxics: A look at mercury and other air toxic emissions associated with production of electricity.
  • Transportation: The report focuses on how transportation can affect air quality.
  • Cars: Discusses the impact of cars on air pollution.
  • Pollution Sources: Provides information on atmospheric structure and the sources of pollution.
  • Major Causes: Describes the major causes of air pollution, including human activity.

Natural Causes of Air Pollution

Other than human actions, air pollution is also caused by natural events. Biological decay and volcanoes release natural sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides, affecting air quality in negative ways. Most of the ozone around the ground level is formed when chemical reactions occur in the sunlight but there's also about 10 to 15 percent transported from the stratosphere. Other natural causes of air pollution are natural sources of particulate matters like volcanoes and dust storms, volatile organic compounds, pollen, forest fires, oceans, and forest fires.

  • Volcanic Gases: A look at volcanic gases and the effects on the Earth.
  • Mt. Sakurajima: A study on the air pollution brought about by the eruption of this volcano.
  • Forest Fires: Explains how forest fires can affect air quality.
  • Ground Level Ozone: The primer explains how ground level ozone can cause air pollution. 

Indoor Air Pollution

The air quality around and within buildings and structures is known as indoor air quality. Indoor air quality has a direct effect on the comfort and health of occupants, whether it's the home, office or other buildings. Some of the common pollutants of indoor air include radon, molds, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, asbestos fibers, carbon dioxide, ozone, and the burning of biomass. Proper ventilation, filtration, and the control of pollutant sources are some of the primary ways to improve indoor air quality.

  • Indoor Air: Discusses all about indoor air pollution and what you can do to reduce it.
  • Publications: A list of links to various publications on indoor air quality.
  • Information: Offers good information on the subject of indoor air quality.

Ways to Help Keep the Air Cleaner

There are some things you can do to help keep the air cleaner. Generally, it's important to conserve energy because sources of energy like electricity, diesel, gasoline, and wood would contribute to air pollution. Rather than driving a car or riding a motorcycle, you can ride a bicycle or walk to perform errands. Try to reduce trips and use public transportation. Gas-powered garden equipment should be avoided as well as the burning of trash, leaves, and other materials. It's also a good idea to perform regular car maintenance and engine tune ups, making a point to replace the car's air filter and oil on a regular basis. If everybody does the small things to reduce air pollution, the environment would benefit collectively.

  • It All Adds Up: The site is dedicated to encouraging people to do small things to clean the air collectively.
  • Keeping the Air Clean: Excellent resource center to find tips and other information on how to keep the air cleaner.
  • Cleaner Air: Follow these steps to keep the air cleaner.

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