Air pollution is the release into the atmosphere of various gases, finely divided solids, or finely dispersed liquid aerosols at rates that exceed the natural capacity of the environment to dissipate and dilute or absorb them.
These substances may reach concentrations in the air that cause undesirable health, economic, or aesthetic effects.
Sources of Air Pollution
Air pollution can be human-made or occur naturally in the environment. Human-made pollutants are caused by fossil fuel combustion, industrial and manufacturing, waste-burning, dust from traffic, smoke, and exhaust from vehicles, ships and airplanes, for example, fires from brush/forest clearing are also a major source of pollution in the form of smoke and black carbon.
There are also a variety of natural causes, such as: volcano eruptions that emit large amounts of sulfur and other atmospheric gaseous elements, and dust storms that contribute considerably to airborne particulate matter.
Weather patterns can transfer pollutants, both through human-made and natural, over long distances and across regions.
1. Vehicle exhaust fumes
The number one source of air pollution in city environments is vehicle exhaust fumes, which happen to release high amounts of carbon monoxide. It‘s no surprise then that carbon monoxide also happens to be the largest air pollutant in the United States.
Millions of vehicles are operated on a daily basis in the US alone, each one leaving its own carbon footprint on the environment. This is why hybrid and fully electric vehicles are making a splash in the automobile marketplace.
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In some other countries of the world especially in sub-Saharan Africa, vehicle‘s exhaust fumes, which happen to release high amounts of carbon monoxide, and contribute in no small measure to air pollution.
2. Fossilfuel-based power plants
In addition to vehicle exhaust pollution, fossil fuels also present a large scale problem when they‘re burned for energy in power plants. Chemicals like sulfur dioxide are released during the burning process, which travel straight into the atmosphere.
These types of pollutants react with water molecules to yield something known as acid rain. This is one of the reasons that alternative energy sources, such as nuclear, solar, and wind are being explored in greater detail.
They tend to release much less pollutants into the environment to produce equivalent amounts of energy.
3. Exhaust from ind ustrial plants and factories
Similar to exhaust being released from vehicles, heavier machinery located inside big factories and industrial plants also emit pollutants into the air.
Industrial plants can be found pretty much everywhere in the world, so the spreading of air pollution is basically global.
4. Construction and agricultural activities
On a daily basis, dirt and dust is kicked up into the atmosphere from excavating and demolition type construction activities. Switching focus to agricultural activities, ammonia is a frequent byproduct that happens to be one of the most dangerous gases in any given environment.
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There are also various types of nasty chemicals that get placed into the atmosphere from pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, which are being used at increasingly higher rates especially in areas where agricultural activities are the mainstay and source of livelihood of population in the hinterlands.
When people think pollution, they almost always blame other people. Let‘s not forget that the Earth is one of the biggest polluters itself, though. Volcanoes, forest fires, and dust storms are nature-born events that dump massive amounts of air pollution into the environment.
5. Household/ Domestic activities
Forget about outdoor pollution. What about the pollution that takes place inside our own homes? Common household chemicals notably bleach, without proper ventilation is a primary source of indoor air pollution. Smoking tobacco through the use of cigarettes and cigars also releases toxic pollutants into the air.
It‘s often easier to think of outdoor pollution as the primary danger on a wide scale level, but don‘t dismiss the little everyday activities that also impact our health.
In summary, air pollution can be human-made or occur naturally in the environment. The number one source of air pollution in city environments is vehicle exhaust fumes, which happen to release high amounts of carbon monoxide. In addition to vehicle exhaust pollution, fossil fuels also present a wider scale problem when they‘re burned for energy in power plants.