The Measures to Control Air Pollution

Air pollution is global challenge, hence, countries around the world are inventing various tackling measures to mitigate numerous forms of air pollution. China, for example, is making strides in cleaning up smog-choked skies from years of rapid industrial expansion, partly by closing or canceling coal-fired power plants.

In the U.S., California has been a leader in setting emissions standards aimed at improving air quality, especially in places like famously hazy Los Angeles. And a variety of efforts aim to bring cleaner cooking options to places where hazardous cook stoves are prevalent.

In any home, people can safeguard against indoor air pollution by increasing ventilation, testing for radon gas, using air purifiers, running kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans, and avoiding smoking. When working on home projects, look for paint and other products low in volatile organic compounds.

To curb global warming, a variety of measures need to be taken, such as adding more renewable energy and replacing gasoline-fueled cars with zero-emissions vehicles such as electric ones.

On a larger scale, governments at all levels are making commitments to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Paris Agreement, ratified on November 4, 2016, is one effort to combat climate change on a global scale. And the Kigali Amendment seeks to further the progress made by the Montreal Protocol, banning heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in addition to CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons).

Control of Air Pollution

Air pollution control refers to the methods or processes employed to reduce or eliminate the emission into the atmosphere of substances that can harm the environment or human health.

It was not until the middle of the 20th century, however, that meaningful and lasting attempts were made to regulate or limit emissions of air pollutants from stationary and mobile sources and to control air quality on both regional and local scales.

The atmosphere is susceptible to pollution from natural sources as well as from human activities. Some natural phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires, may have not only local and regional effects but also long- lasting global ones.

Nevertheless, only pollution caused by human activities, such as industry and transportation, is subject to mitigation and control. The best way to protect air quality is to reduce the emission of pollutants by changing to cleaner fuels and processes.

Pollutants not eliminated in this way must be collected or trapped by appropriate air-cleaning devices as they are generated and before they can escape into the atmosphere.

Control of Particulates

Airborne particles can be removed from a polluted airstream by a variety of physical processes. Common types of equipment for collecting fine particulates include cyclones, scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators, and bag house filters.

Once collected, particulates adhere to each other, forming agglomerates that can readily be removed from the equipment and disposed of, usually in a landfill. In general, cyclone collectors are often used to control industrial dust emissions and as pre-cleaners for other kinds of collection devices.

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Wet scrubbers are usually applied in the control of flammable or explosive dusts or mists from such sources as industrial and chemical processing facilities and hazardous-waste incinerators; they can handle hot airstreams and sticky particles.

Electrostatic precipitators and fabric-filter bag houses are often used at power plants. Important particulate characteristics that influence the selection of collection devices include corrosivity, reactivity, shape, density, and especially size and size distribution (the range of different particle sizes in the airstream).

Cyclones

A cyclone (Figure 1) removes particulates by causing the dirty airstream to flow in a spiral path inside a cylindrical chamber. Dirty air enters the chamber from a tangential direction at the outer wall of the device, forming a vortex as it swirls within the chamber.

The larger particulates, because of their greater inertia, move outward and are forced against the chamber wall. Slowed by friction with the wall surface, they then slide down the wall into a conical dust hopper at the bottom of the cyclone.

The cleaned air swirls upward in a narrower spiral through an inner cylinder and emerges from an outlet at the top. Accumulated particulate dust is periodically removed from the hopper for disposal.

Cyclones are best at removing relatively coarse particulates. They can routinely achieve efficiencies of 90 percent for particles larger than about 20 micrometres (μm; 20 millionths of a metre).

The Measures to Control Air Pollution

Figure 1: Cyclone Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2000.

Scrubbers

Devices called wet scrubbers trap suspended particles by direct contact with a spray of water or other liquid. In effect, a scrubber washes the particulates out of the dirty airstream as they collide with and are entrained by the countless tiny droplets in the spray.

Several configurations of wet scrubbers are in use. In a spray-tower scrubber, an upward-flowing airstream is washed by water sprayed downward from a series of nozzles. The water is re-circulated after it is sufficiently cleaned to prevent clogging of the nozzles.

Spray-tower scrubbers can remove 90 percent of particulates larger than about 8 μm. Venturi scrubbers are the most efficient of the wet collectors, achieving efficiencies of more than 98 percent for particles larger than 0.5 μm in diameter.

Scrubber efficiency depends on the relative velocity between the droplets and the particulates. Venturi scrubbers achieve high relative velocities by injecting water into the throat of a venturi channel a constriction in the flow path through which particulate-laden air is passing at high speed.

Electrostatic precipitators

Electrostatic precipitation is a commonly used method for removing fine particulates from airstreams. In an electrostatic precipitator (Figure 2), particles suspended in the airstream are given an electric charge as they enter the unit and are then removed by the influence of an electric field.

The precipitation unit comprises baffles for distributing airflow, discharge and collection electrodes, a dust clean-out system, and collection hoppers.

A high voltage of direct current (DC), as much as 100,000 volts, is applied to the discharge electrodes to charge the particles, which then are attracted to oppositely charged collection electrodes, on which they become trapped.

Figure 2: Electrostatic precipitator Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2000.

Particles that stick to the collection plates are removed periodically when the plates are shaken, or ―rapped.‖ Rapping is a mechanical technique for separating the trapped particles from the plates, which typically become covered with a 6-mm (0.2-inch) layer of dust.

Bag-house filters

One of the most efficient devices for removing suspended particulates is an assembly of fabric- filter bags, commonly called a bag-house. A typical bag-house comprises an array of long, narrow bags—each about 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter that are suspended upside down in a large enclosure. Dust-laden air is blown upward through the bottom of the enclosure by fans.

Particulates are trapped inside the filter bags, while the clean air passes through the fabric and exits at the top of the bag-house. A fabric-filter dust collector can remove very nearly 100 percent of particles as small as 1 μm and a significant fraction of particles as small as 0.01 μm.

Control of Gases

Gaseous criteria pollutants, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other gaseous air toxics, are controlled by means of three basic techniques: absorption, adsorption, and incineration (or combustion).

These techniques can be employed singly or in combination. They are effective against the major greenhouse gases as well. In addition, a fourth technique, known as carbon sequestration can also be applied

Absorption

In the context of air pollution control, absorption involves the transfer of a gaseous pollutant from the air into a contacting liquid, such as water. The liquid must be able either to serve as a solvent for the pollutant or to capture it by means of a chemical reaction.

Wet scrubbers similar to those described above for controlling suspended particulates may be used for gas absorption. Gas absorption can also be carried out in packed scrubbers, or towers, in which the liquid is present on a wetted surface rather than as droplets suspended in the air.

A common type of packed scrubber is the countercurrent tower. After entering the bottom of the tower, the polluted airstream flows upward through a wetted column of light, chemically inactive packing material.

The liquid absorbent flows downward and is uniformly spread throughout the column packing, thereby increasing the total area of contact between gas and liquid. Thermoplastic materials are most widely used as packing for countercurrent scrubber towers. These devices usually have gas-removal efficiencies of 90–95 percent.

Sulfur dioxide in flue gas from fossil-fuel power plants can be controlled by means of an absorption process called flue gas desulfurization (FGD). FGD systems may involve wet scrubbing or dry scrubbing.

In wet FGD systems, flue gases are brought in contact with an absorbent, which can be either a liquid or a slurry of solid material.

The sulfur dioxide dissolves in or reacts with the absorbent and becomes trapped in it. In dry FGD systems, the absorbent is dry pulverized lime or limestone; once absorption occurs, the solid particles are removed by means of baghouse filters

Adsorption

Gas adsorption, as contrasted with absorption, is a surface phenomenon. The gas molecules are sorbed attracted to and held on the surface of a solid.

Gas adsorption methods are used for odour control at various types of chemical-manufacturing and food-processing facilities, in the recovery of a number of volatile solvents (e.g., benzene), and in the control of VOCs at industrial facilities.

Activated carbon (heated charcoal) is one of the most common adsorbent materials. It is very porous and has an extremely high ratio of surface area to volume.

Activated carbon is particularly useful as an adsorbent for cleaning airstreams that contain VOCs and for solvent recovery and odour control. A properly designed carbon adsorption unit can remove gas with an efficiency exceeding 95 percent.

Adsorption systems are configured either as stationary bed units or as moving bed units. In stationary bed absorbers, the polluted airstream enters from the top, passes through a layer, or bed, of activated carbon, and exits at the bottom. In moving bed adsorbers, the activated carbon moves slowly down through channels by gravity as the air to be cleaned passes through in a cross-flow current.

Incineration

The process called incineration or combustion chemically; rapid oxidation can be used to convert VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and other gaseous hydrocarbon pollutants to carbon dioxide and water. Incineration of VOCs and hydrocarbon fumes usually is accomplished in a special incinerator called an afterburner.

To achieve complete combustion, the afterburner must provide the proper amount of turbulence and burning time, and it must maintain a sufficiently high temperature. Sufficient turbulence, or mixing, is a key factor in combustion because it reduces the required burning time and temperature.

A process called direct flame incineration can be used when the waste gas is itself a combustible mixture and does not need the addition of air or fuel.

An afterburner typically is made of a steel shell lined with refractory material such as firebrick. The refractory lining protects the shell and serves as a thermal insulator. Given enough time and high enough temperatures, gaseous organic pollutants can be almost completely oxidized, with incineration efficiency approaching 100 percent.

Certain substances, such as platinum, can act in a manner that assists the combustion reaction. These substances, called catalysts, allow complete oxidation of the combustible gases at relatively low temperatures.

Afterburners are used to control odours, destroy toxic compounds, or reduce the amount of photochemically reactive substances released into the air. They are employed at a variety of industrial facilities where VOC vapours are emitted from combustion processes or solvent evaporation (e.g., petroleum refineries, paint-drying facilities, and paper mills).

Carbon sequestration

The best way to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the air is to use energy more efficiently and to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels by using alternative energy sources (e.g., nuclear, wind, tidal, and solar power). In addition, carbon sequestration can be used to serve the purpose.

Carbon sequestration involves the long-term storage of carbon dioxide underground, as well as on the surface of Earth in forests and oceans. Carbon sequestration in forests and oceans relies on natural processes such as forest growth.

However, the clearing of forests for agricultural and other purposes (and also the pollution of oceans) diminishes natural carbon sequestration. Storing carbon dioxide underground a technology under development that is also called geo- sequestration or carbon capture and storage would involve pumping the gas directly into underground geologic ―reservoir layers.

This would require the separation of carbon dioxide from power plant flue gases (or some other source) a costly process.

Air Quality Index

Air Quality Index (AQI) is a standardized summary measure of ambient air quality used to express the level of health risk related to particulate and gaseous air pollution (Kowalska et al., 2009). The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality.

It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.

US Environmental Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:

Good” AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” AQI is 101 to 150. Although general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and l

Table 1: Air Quality Index

AQI ValueAQI Category
0-50Good
51-100Moderate
101-150Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
151-200Unhealthy
201-300Very unhealthy
301-500Hazardous

In conclusion, air pollution control refers to the methods or processes employed to reduce or eliminate the emission into the atmosphere of substances that can harm the environment or human health. Only pollution caused by human activities, such as industry and transportation, is subject to mitigation and control.

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The best way to protect air quality is to reduce the emission of pollutants by changing to cleaner fuels and processes. Pollutants not eliminated in this way must be collected or trapped by appropriate air-cleaning devices as they are generated and before they can escape into the atmosphere.

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Benadine Nonye

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