Air pollution refers to the introduction of harmful particulates, biological molecules or materials into the earth’s atmosphere. This leads to infections/diseases among humans, animals and plants in the environment as well as other damages on non-living things around them. This paper analyses the causes and effects of air pollution and gives some methods of reducing the menace. It also ends with an opinion of the author regarding air pollution.
Causes of Air Pollution
Air pollution is brought about by any human activities that involve combustion (burning things), use of industrial or household chemicals as well as those activities that produce vast amounts of dust. Chemicals bring about air pollution due to the chemical reactions that produce toxic gases into the air. These gases are harmful when inhaled, both for humans and animals. In addition to this, plants also die/wilt when exposed to some of these gases(Stern).
In the past, the rate of air pollution was not as high as it currently is. In fact, there were very few laws related to air pollution. However, with increased industrialization in the modern world, there has been an increased need to have more laws due to the greater environmental awareness among the people. Today, if one is found guilty of causing air pollution, they have to be held accountable for their actions, whether it is an individual or a company(Stern).
In the modern world, there are three major causes of air pollution. These include traffic, industrial plants/factories and power plants(Scorer). Focusing on traffic, it is undisputable that there are very many cars on the road today. In fact, research has it that, in the rich countries, for example, the United States, there is one car for every two people. Apparently, all cars are powered by diesel and gasoline engines. These engines release energy from the combustion of petroleum. Consider that petroleum consists of hydrocarbons which when burnt produce carbon dioxide and water. This means that all other factors held constant, the higher the amount of hydrocarbons (petroleum) being burnt, the higher the volume of carbon dioxide produced. However, carbon dioxide is only produced when the oxygen is in abundant supply. If there is limited oxygen, then there is the emission of carbon monoxide gas which is very toxic. Moreover, the engine produces other particulates like soot and nitrogen oxides. There is also the production of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which indirectly lead to the emergence of the ozone layer (Stern). All these substances mixed produce smog, a brownish/bluish pollution fog in the atmosphere. This is a leading cause of air pollution. Considering that almost everyone wants to own a personal car, then it means that the rate of air pollution due to traffic is not expected to reduce in the future. In fact, as long as petroleum is the substance producing engine power, then air pollution due to traffic is bound to be an issue in the modern world(Scorer).
Another major cause of air pollution is the presence of power plants(Stern). These power plants function like car engines. Ideally, they are not also supposed to produce anything worse than carbon dioxide and water. However, in the real sense, these plants emit a wide range of substances that contribute to air pollution. Some of these substances include nitrogen oxides, Sulphur dioxides and other particulates. In addition to this, the power plants produce vast quantities of carbon dioxide which contributes to the increase in climate change and global warming. This happens when the carbon dioxide rises and accumulates in the atmosphere thereby forming a kind of ‘blanket’ which increases the temperatures in the earth’s atmosphere. For this reasons, it can be seen that power plants, just like car engines, greatly contribute to the increase in air pollution and global warming which has become a critical issue in climate change(Scorer).
The third major cause of air pollution is the presence of industrial factories and plants. Some industrial plants are involved in the production of metals such as steel and aluminum. Others produce plastics and cement while others are involved in the refining of petroleum. Most of these plants and factories produce substances that are very harmful and cause air pollution(Scorer). Considering that these plants and factories are in operation on a daily basis, then it is evident that the harmful chemicals are released into the atmosphere gradually. This means that there is a possible accumulation of these harmful gases and other chemicals in the atmosphere which contributes to air pollution. These accumulated gases and substances contribute to global warming and climate change which, as stated earlier, is a major result of air pollution. It would be important to note that when these harmful gases are released to the atmosphere in very large quantities, it can be very disastrous. For example, in 1984, when large quantities of methyl isocyanate (very poisonous gas) were released into the atmosphere in Bhopal, India, the effects were suicidal. This Bhopal Disaster led to the deaths of more than 3000 people while many more thousands were left critically injured(Switch International).
There are other minor causes of air pollution. For example, using wood for heating and cooking and incineration of garbage. This can be replaced by using solar cookers or recycling garbage where possible respectively. In addition to this, in places where garbage has to be incinerated, it is important to have the incinerator well designed to operate at very high temperatures to ensure complete combustion and consequently, reduced air pollution(Scorer).
Effects of Air Pollution
Air pollution has numerous effects, both to animals and plants. First, air pollution leads to acidic rain and global warming as well as the damaging of the ozone layer. This leads to more instances of cancers and other skin infections among human beings. Moreover, as fore-mentioned, air pollution may lead to death. For example, the Bhopal Disaster in India which led to the death of over 3000 people(Switch International). In fact, according to WHO, air pollution leads to the death of approximately two million people prematurely every year. In other less severe cases, the affected people have breathing and other respiratory problems. For example, some develop bronchitis while others become asthmatic. Research also proves that people who work in environments which are very dusty eventually die of illnesses like silicosis. Other less severe effects include discoloration of buildings with the formation of soot and dust. In addition to this, acidic rains make buildings and other stone-works wear away very fast(Scorer).
Global Warming and Ozone Layer
Global warming is as a result of building up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases in the atmosphere. These gases form a ‘blanket’ around the planet which results in higher temperatures in the earth’s atmosphere. Consequently, the long-term weather pattern changes which leads to various effects on nature. For example, there are rising sea levels (Scorer). All these contribute to climate change. On the other hand, the ozone layer is a shield against the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. With increased air pollution, the ozone layer has depleted greatly. This means that more ultraviolet rays get to reach the earth and consequently the people, animals and plants. This has harmful effects. For example, it increases the risk of skin cancer among human beings. Efforts to restore the ozone layer should be encouraged to minimize these effects(Stern).
Conclusion: Opinion about Air Pollution
There is a great need to reduce air pollution. The relevant authorities should come up with various ways to eradicate this problem. One method would be to come up with seminars to educate people on how to control air pollution. These seminars should be done worldwide to ensure there is maximum awareness of the issue of air pollution. All countries in the world should sponsor these seminars since the effects of the air pollution affect the world at large do my essay. This is just one of the ways. There should also be the introduction of various state laws (to curb air pollution) to help eliminate or, at least, reduce air pollution. When people are aware of the fine and punishments that are imposed due to air pollution, they will have no choice but to adhere to the set rules. Focusing on air pollution due to traffic, there are some laws and regulations that would be helpful. For example, concerning vehicles, there should be a strategy to manufacture new vehicles or vehicles in good condition. The reason behind this is because very old vehicles increase air pollution since they have poor combustion of fuel hence release more harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Newer and more modern vehicles are fitted with better combustion equipment hence they reduce the amount of harmful chemicals and gases released into the atmosphere as opposed to older vehicles. Moreover, humans should be made aware of methods in which they can help eradicate this menace of air pollution. For example, they should learn safer ways to dispose of garbage, and better cooking/heating methods. There are also some fabrics and metals that produce harmful gases when put into heat. In a nut shell, it is very important to assess all ways that could lead to air pollution. After that, there should be strict measures to make sure that the problem is eradicated in all ways possible.
Scorer, R S. Air pollution. Oxford, New York: Pergamon Press, 2014.
Stern, Arthur C. Air pollution. / Volume I, Air pollution and its effects. Burlington: Elsevier Science : Academic Press, 2013.
Switch International. Bhopal disaster. Victoria, Australia: Switch International, 2011.