Air pollution is a change in the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of air that causes adverse effects on humans and other organisms. The ultimate result is a significant alteration in the natural environment and/or ecosystem. Substances that are responsible for causing air pollution are called air pollutants. These air pollutants can be either natural (e.g. wildfires) or synthetic (man-made), and are present in the form of gas, liquid, or solid in the atmosphere.
The air pollutants are classified into two categories, viz. primary and secondary. The former refers to air pollutants that are directly emitted from the source, for example - carbon monoxide gas from automobile exhaust. On the other hand, the secondary air pollutants are the result of interaction of primary pollutants, for example - the ground level ozone, which is formed when sunlight hits fuel exhaust in the atmosphere. It is to be noted that some forms of air pollutants are both primary and secondary.
Causes and Effects of Air Pollution
Air pollutants, either present inside the house (indoor pollutants) or outside (outdoor pollutants), are hazardous to humans. The major pollutants are sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matters. Among the different causes of air pollution, burning of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and gasoline is found to be the main contributing factor. Fossil fuels are used in all major industries, including the automobiles, jet planes, manufacturing industries, power plants, petroleum refineries, etc.
In the United States, automobile exhaust and power plants are responsible for more than 90 percent of the air pollutants. Carbon dioxide gas, which is required by the plants for photosynthesis, is identified as the major cause of global warming. Thus, increased percentage of this greenhouse gas affects our health and the global climate. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, when dissolved in water, can cause acid rain, which in turn leads to water pollution and affects the aquatic life.
The effects of air pollution on the human health are many. To mention a few, it triggers respiratory ailments and irritation of eyes and throat. The common symptoms observed after exposure to a high level air pollution are chest tightness, burning eyes, and cough. Those with certain medical conditions like heart disease and asthma are more susceptible to the hazards of air pollution than others. As expected, the effects are more serious in children; prolonged exposure to air pollution can lead to earache, bronchitis, and asthma.
Different Ways To Prevent Air Pollution
The fact is that human activities contribute the most to any type of pollution. Hence, it is our responsibility to find solutions. And considering the harmful effects of air pollution, it is high time that everyone contributes a bit to prevent release of pollutants. There are certain ways that one can follow for reducing emission of air pollutants in the atmosphere. For clear understanding, refer to the following tips for preventing air pollution.
Car Pool: Forming and implementing a car pool will reduce the number of cars, thereby, preventing air pollution by cutting down the use of fossil fuels. This way, it will help in the sustainable use of fossil fuel and its conservation for the future generations.
Vehicle Care: Timely servicing of the car helps to keep it in a good condition, and also minimizes fuel exhaust. Driving the car at an average speed and turning off in traffic are the thumb rules to save fuel. Make sure to use unleaded petrol and opt for regular pollution checking of your car.
Public Transport: Whenever possible, try to travel by public transports. This helps in two ways; prevents air pollution and increases public income. If you are going to a nearby place, go by walking or use a bicycle, instead of using your vehicle. The objective is to minimize the use of fuels as far as possible.
Alternative Energy Source: Another effective way to prevent air pollution is to use alternative energy sources such as solar energy, hydroelectric energy, and wind energy. Nowadays, sophisticated technologies such as wind turbine, solar water heaters are introduced to generate electricity and other energy forms for household uses.
Saving Energy: Saving energy will, of course, help to prevent air pollution. Switch off the lights, fans, air conditioners, televisions, and other appliances, when not in use. You can also share a room with others when the air conditioner or fan is on, instead of switching them on in every room.
Minimize Air Pollutants: Always try to minimize smoke emission, as it contributes a lot to air pollution. One way is to compost dried leaves and kitchen waste, instead of burning them. Composting will also give you organic fertilizer for your garden. Other tips include replacing old wood stoves or gas furnaces, avoiding solvents, and most importantly, do not smoke in the home.
Recyclable Materials: Recycling is a simple approach to reduce pollution in two ways; save energy which is required for disposing and minimize the pollutants released during manufacturing. The list of recyclable materials include plastic bottles, aluminum cans and utensils, paper, craft papers, cardboard, corrugated boxes, and glass bottles.
Smart Purchasing: Remember to carry paper bags and minimize using plastic bags. While buying the products, always choose air-friendly and recyclable products that will minimize the emission of pollutants. Also, shop for only energy-efficient appliances that use less packaging. Lastly, buy rechargeable batteries for frequently used devices.
Social awareness about air pollution is the most essential step to be taken for the prevention of air pollution. Awareness programs and/or advertisements should be encouraged, so that people understand the potential health hazards of pollution. Improvement of transport facilities and proper use of land for the sake of social benefits are equally important for controlling air pollution.