Air pollution is a problem that affects us all and not only because it can harm our health but because ultimately, it affects the environment a lot. For this reason, and so that we can remedy it, we will now talk about the causes and consequences of air pollution.
What is Air Pollution
Air pollution can be defined as the presence of toxic chemicals or compounds (including those of biological origin) in the air , at levels that pose a health risk.
In an even broader sense, air pollution means the presence of chemicals or compounds in the air that are not normally present and that reduce air quality or cause detrimental changes in quality of life (such as damaging the ozone layer). or causing global warming).
The reason why this contamination occurs and why its increase has been growing in recent years is something that is derived from different factors that arose because of the causes that we now summarize.
Causes of Air Pollution
Air pollution is probably one of the most serious environmental problems facing our current civilization. Most of the time, it is caused by human activities such as mining, construction, transportation, or industrial work, but it is also caused by agriculture, which in theory should be what allows us to feed ourselves and at the same time give it a use. to the soil on which it is cultivated, but which after years and years of using pesticides has ended up causing this air pollution to occur.
To all that we have just mentioned, we should also add natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires that can also pollute the air, but their presence is rare and usually have a local effect, unlike human activities that are ubiquitous causes of air pollution and contribute to global air pollution every day.
Burning of Fossil Fuels
The burning of fossil fuels generates gas emissions that affect air pollution. The gases that are generated are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and many other gases that do our air no good.
The fossil fuels that are burned are coal, oil and natural gas. And in addition to the gases they give off, they also cause acid rain, oil spills on the move and other problems that increase according to the process to be followed in each case.
The use of these fuels supposed a great evolution in the history of humanity. However, they cause many problems and the pollution they generate is high. That is why it is necessary that we look for more natural and healthy alternatives.
A priori, it may seem difficult to relate agricultural activities to air pollution. However, they do have a close relationship that is surprising.
On the one hand it should be noted that fertilizers are used in agricultural work, and these cause the release of gases that pollute the air. On the other hand, in many areas deforestation occurs as a result of these activities, and that also damages the air.
Factories and Industries
Many factories and industrial buildings use chemicals in their production. These products produce pollution in their work areas , especially affecting the air.
Furthermore, the constant use of chimneys and burning of fossil fuels duplicates this direct relationship with air pollution.
Mining extractions are closely related to the environmental impact. In addition to air pollution, which we will now talk about, it should be noted that this type of activity involves deforestation of the areas in which it will operate. Of course, this causes you to start with a worse air quality than it should have.
On the other hand, the explosions that are carried out for the extraction of minerals cause large amounts of gases to be released into the atmosphere, causing great contamination.
Domestic Air Pollution
In the day to day of any family there are certain activities that cause much greater contamination than we think. Activities such as frying food, smoking tobacco, or using aerosols cause high air pollution, inside and outside the home.
Effects of Air Pollution
Air pollution has serious effects on human health. Depending on the level of exposure and the type of pollutant inhaled, these effects can range from simple symptoms such as cough and respiratory tract irritation to acute conditions such as asthma and chronic lung diseases.
The problems and skin irritations can develop due to prolonged exposure to various contaminants of the air , and a variety of forms of cancer can develop after inhaling of air pollutants. We must also not neglect potential diseases caused by air pollution.
Air pollutants that have serious negative effects on human health can be classified as toxic and non-toxic.
Agriculture is also an important part since although it contributes to air pollution, it is also affected by it.
One of the things that characterized the 20th century was the enormous growth of industrial agriculture – using fertilizer and pesticides, to increase crop yields and feed the world’s growing population. However, these are not the only chemicals that crops are exposed to.
We know that air pollution (in common with water pollution) can seriously affect plant growth. At one end of the spectrum, it is easy to find chemical residues (from toxic heavy metals like lead to cocktails of brake fluids and other chemicals) in plants that grow alongside freeways.
At the opposite extreme, the enormous increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide that now causes global warming and climate change has a major impact on global agriculture (reducing crop yields in some places but potentially increasing yields in other places).
Stroll through the streets of a big city and you will quickly see how dirty buildings are, even in areas where there are no factories or power plants. Exhaust fumes from traffic are generally to blame. In addition to blackening buildings with soot, they also contribute to acid rain that can wear down stone in a matter of years or decades.
How Air Pollution Affects Living Things
If we consider how air pollution affects living beings, it is necessary to highlight the relationship of pollutants with the possibility of developing cancer cells.
On the other hand, all the gases emitted that affect the atmosphere also affect the breathing of living beings. In the case of humans, it is worrying how they can worsen the situation of a person with asthma problems. It also seriously affects the reproductive systems of all kinds of living beings.
There have been some studies that focus on the relationship of air pollution with birth problems, whether serious or not, and with deaths from cardiovascular or respiratory disease.
If we think of non-human living beings, we must know that it affects plants due to mercury contamination, and water-related discharges, which poison aquatic animals. All of these effects are magnified when you are further up the food chain.
Consequences of Air Pollution
We have seen the number of sources that can pollute the air even without us being really aware. We have also discussed how it directly affects living things. It is time to analyze the consequences of air pollution.
There are many consequences, but we will see the main and most serious. Those that we must stop and avoid as soon as possible before it is irreparable.
It is caused when the moisture particles in the air mix with nitrogen oxide or sulfur dioxide. This type of oxide is caused by air pollution, especially by factories and industries.
The combination with humidity causes new chemicals to be created that fall to the ground mixed with normal rain. This directly affects living things, the soil, crops … In short, everything that the rain falls on.
The greenhouse effect is caused when some of the gases that we launch through the human hand on planet Earth retain the energy that arises from the ground. These gases cause the planet to overheat with this released energy, and the temperature of the Earth rises.
It also retains the energy that comes to us from the Sun, preventing rays from coming out directly and staying in our atmosphere, or at least part of them.
Irreversible Damage to the Skin
We are very concerned about the damage that the Sun can cause to our skin. However, most people do not know that air pollution also causes irreversible damage to the skin.
It causes problems like:
- It turns off the skin tone and the luminosity is lost.
- More wrinkles come out from premature aging.
- Stains are generated.
- Some areas become inflamed.
- Pore obstruction.
The pollutants we release into the air can cause the smog effect. The environment is tinted with darker colors, simulating fog or smoke. This is because of the particles that get trapped and cannot be easily dissipated. This effect can cause problems such as asthma or bronchitis, and even pneumonia.
In cities where the smog effect is very strong, citizens circulate on the street with masks.
Deterioration of the Fields
Air pollution directly affects fields and crops. We have already seen that it affects all kinds of living things , so agriculture is not exempt from problems of this type.
Extinction of Animal Species
Precisely because it affects all kinds of living beings, we must not neglect how it affects animals. In areas where many compounds are released into the air, animals are more endangered. Species that already require specific care may not tolerate this contamination well and end up dying from respiratory problems.
Poor Air Quality in Closed Spaces
We often believe that air pollution problems affect only the outdoors, but in reality it is also a problem in closed spaces. On the one hand, by the activities that we ourselves provoke, such as smoking, frying or what we have already seen before.
On the other hand, because the ventilation of houses or the use of air conditioners introduces outside air into closed spaces, causing the air quality to worsen, with many hours in a row that we breathe it.
Methods for Cleaning the Air
Therefore, it is important to know that there are ways or methods through which we will be able to clean the air and that, in fact, all of us can apply. Some of the easiest to perform and most effective are:
Use Public Transportation
One of the best methods to clean the air is to use your vehicle much less. It is best to consider using public transportation or walking instead; in this way, you will help to reduce pollution and not provoke more.
If you can’t avoid taking the car on a daily basis make sure you’re driving smart instead of wasting gas. You must drive within the speed limit , and make sure that your car is in perfect driving condition, so it will also be important to pass the corresponding checks.
Keep Tires Properly Inflated
The car consumes more fuel when the tires are not properly inflated and aligned. Keeping them properly inflated will lessen their impact on the environment.
Buy Energy Efficient Vehicles
Buy vehicles and other items that are useful for the environment. There are as many options today that are efficient as hybrids, so you won’t have to worry about them as you won’t be filling them with extra gas and also not polluting the atmosphere.
Plant a Garden
Planting a garden will give the air the nutrients you need to be cleaner. There are so many plants out there that they eat trash in the atmosphere. Do a little research and you will find which ones may go well for you to contribute.
USE PAINTS WITH LOW VOC OR WATER CONTENT
Use paints that are based on water and not oil. Products with less oil will obviously contribute to less air pollution.
TURN OFF THE LIGHTS WHEN YOU’RE NOT USING THEM
Don’t keep lights or other electrical devices on. The more energy you use, the more you will waste and therefore you will be polluting the air.
BUY ‘GREEN’ ELECTRICITY
You must use the electricity generated from renewable energies, that is, hydroelectric, wind or solar energy.
MAKE USE OF SOLAR ENERGY
Consider using solar energy instead of regular energy. The solar energy can save a ton of energy for you and on top of that, could also end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.
MOST COMMON TYPES OF AIR POLLUTANTS
A large number of pollutants can pollute the air in a wide variety of ways. Almost any toxic chemical could pollute the atmosphere and the air we breathe in its own way. The aerosol particles (clouds of liquid particles in a gas and solids) that are in the air also may contain contaminants.
Chemical compounds that reduce air quality are usually known as air pollutants. These compounds can be found in air in two main forms:
- in gaseous form (as gases),
- in solid form (as particles suspended in the air).
EXAMPLES OF AIR POLLUTANTS
In most cases, air pollutants cannot be seen or smelled. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist in high enough amounts to be a health hazard.
Furthermore, a number of gases are linked to the so-called ” greenhouse effect”, which means that these gases retain more heat and therefore contribute to global warming of the planet . The most common example of a greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide , which is emitted by many industrial processes. Another example is methane, which is also an explosive gas.