Air Pollution: 6 Causes and 5 Effects

You may have heard people talk a lot about air pollution. The issue is threatening the very existence of humans as well as other living beings in our planet. It causes cancer, creates smog and acid rain, damages the ozone layer, promotes respiratory diseases, and contributes to global warming. And there is more. A better understanding of causes and effects of air pollution may help bring out coping methods of the problem.

Causes of Air Pollution

So many things contribute to air pollution, but some of the most common causes include the following.

1. Burning Fossil Fuels

The combustion of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and other factory combustibles releases sulfur dioxide into the environment. Pollution emitting from vehicles, including jeeps, trucks, trains, cars, and airplanes makes the matter worse. More and more people rely on these means, which is killing the environment.

2. Certain Agricultural Activities

One of most common byproducts of agriculture related activities is ammonia which is extremely damaging for the environment. Similarly, the use of pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers in agricultural industry has played a big role in making air pollution worse.

3. Exhaust from Manufacturing Industries

Manufacturing industries release large amounts of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, toxic chemicals, and organic compounds that affect the quality of air. Manufacturing industries are now everywhere in the world, which is the reason why every country is struggling with the harmful effects of air pollution. 

4. Mining Operations

Mining involves extracting minerals below the earth with the help of large equipments. Dust and a variety of chemicals are released during the mining operations. Not only do mining operations contribute to air pollution, they also deteriorate the health of workers and those who live close to those mining sites.

5. Indoor Air Pollution

The overuse of painting supplies, household cleaning products, and other chemicals releases toxic chemicals in the air and makes the condition of air pollution worse. Imagine what painting supplies are capable of doing when a few coats of paint on your walls can make breathing difficult for you.

6. Natural Causes of Air Pollution

Are there other causes and effects of air pollution? Yes. We, humans, are responsible for most of the pollution of the air, but there are some natural causes of air pollution. For instance:

  • Forest fires contribute to air pollution as they produce masses of smoke.
  • Occasional eruptions of volcanoes can release huge amount of lava and ash onto the surface of the earth that produce dust and smoke to make air pollution worse.
  • Rocks decay over time and start to release harmful gases such as radon, which can pollute the environment and cause adverse health effects.

Effects of Air Pollution

You already know the causes of air pollution; now it is time to learn a bit about the effects of air pollution.

1. Health Effects

Air pollution leads to particle pollution, urban smog, and toxic pollutants that pose serious health concerns. Constant exposure to certain pollutant may result in irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat. You may experience coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulties, and chest tightness. Your existing lung conditions may become worse and you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack. Long-term exposure may cause cancer and damage your neurological, immune, respiratory, and reproductive systems.  

Who Is Most at Risk?

Certain people are more likely to react to particulates and ground-level ozone, such as older adults, children, people with heart disease, people with asthma, and people who are active outdoors.

2. Environmental Effects

You already know the causes and effects of air pollution on your health, but air pollution can leave a variety of environmental effects as well. For instance:

  • It increases chances of acid rain which contains harmful amounts of sulfuric and nitric acids. It damages tree, speeds the decay of statutes and buildings, and affects soils in a negative way.
  • Air emissions of nitrogen oxides from cars, power plant, trucks, and cars can lead to a condition called eutrophication that stimulates blooms of algae in a water body and results in loss of plant and fish kills.
  • The release of tiny pollution particles in the air can cause haze which obscures the color, texture, clarity, and form of what you see. 

3. Effects on Wildlife

Toxic pollutants can also affect wildlife in a variety of ways. Animals may also have to deal with health problems due to air pollution. Many studies have found that exposure to toxic air can contribute to reproductive failure, birth defects, and other diseases in animals. Many toxic air pollutants break down at a slow pace in the environment and can cause serious damage to aquatic ecosystems.

4. Ozone Depletion

This is another reason why air pollution can be extremely dangerous. Ozone protects you from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Air pollution is damaging that protective ozone layer and exposing you to all sorts of harmful radiation, which is increasing risks of cataracts, skin cancer, and impaired immune systems.

5. Global Climate Change

With air pollution, the release of methane and carbon dioxide is increased. This imbalance has led to a phenomenon known as global warming which is believed to have a huge impact on agriculture, human health, forests, water resources, and coastal areas.

What You Can Do to Reduce Air Pollution

You already have information about the most common causes and effects of air pollution, and you may have gathered what you have been doing wrong to damage the environment. It is important to play your part to make the environment less polluted, and here are some steps to consider:

  • Make use of public modes of transportation to limit the release of smoke and harmful chemicals.
  • Take steps to conserve energy and do not leave lights and fans on all the time. This limits the use of fossil fuels to produce electricity.
  • Try to reuse and recycle whatever you can. Instead of throwing old jars away, you can simply use them to store pulses or cereals.
  • Use clean energy technologies, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
  • Get energy efficient devices such as CFL lights, as they consume less electricity and live longer.
  • Avoid garden bonfires, as they emit a chemical called benzopyrene which causes cancer and damages the environment as well.
  • Do not burn household waste, especially if there is plastic in it, as it releases highly toxic chemicals into the environment.
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