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Air can be said to be polluted when solid particles and harmful emissions and gases get mixed with air. The primary sources of air pollution include emissions from factories and vehicles, chemicals, mold spores, pollen, and dust particles. Some of the air sources of pollution are poisonous in that breathing in these particles from the pollutants can bring health problems. Individuals with lung complications and heart diseases, older people and children are more susceptible to dangers of air pollution. For the seriousness of the matter, countries in conjunction with international organizations have endeavored to control air pollution.
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Introduction: Air pollution
Air pollution is one of the most critical ecological problems that profoundly threatens the continued survival and welfare of human beings in the universe. I believe that air pollution stands out as the single most environmental issue that has the ability to wipe out the whole human race as well as other species on earth. Chemicals are the primary pollutants of the air that we breathe and used by plants. Once the air is polluted, a wide range of aspects of the environment such as soils, visual appearances, flora, fauna, water quality, man-made and human health. The impacts of air pollution on the environment are numerous for instance, vegetation leaf tissues are damaged, and become susceptible to a wide range of infections, and eventually, plants die (Stern, 2014).
On the other hand, when animals get exposed to large amounts of polluted air, their respiratory systems become impaired destroying their breathing system, eyes as well get damaged. Animals, therefore, become sick and prone to germs, illness, and stress-related ecological complications. In general, air pollution brings about increased vulnerability to a wide variety of diseases that could destroy and could have the ability to damage the plants and animals consequently suppressing the growth rates or disrupting the normal functioning of reproductive organs and processes. This paper attempts to show that air pollution is a global problem by discussing its causes and effects. Finally, an attempt to explain what needs to done and by who will be made while simultaneously showing the effectiveness of the organizations involved in controlling air pollution.
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Causes of Air Pollution
Air pollution is either caused by human and natural factors. However, human beings are the attributed to the leading causes of air pollution. Some of the main human activities that bring about pollution include emissions and gases from factories, industries, and manufacturing activities (Stern, 2014). The long chimneys high in the air from factories are forever emitting smoke and fumes on most hours of the day. Incinerators in manufacturing companies and power plants produce high levels of poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, chemicals, organic compounds, and into the atmosphere. These emissions happen virtually in any place where individuals reside. Some of the major contributors to emissions include the petroleum refineries which also produce huge amounts of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Exhaust from factories and manufacturing industries form a significant part of pollution. These factories as earlier noted produce poisonous gases and especially carbon monoxide into the atmosphere ultimately depleting the clean air. Factories are found in almost every part of the world where human exist which means that nearly every part of the world is affected to some extent (Stern, 2014).
Agricultural activities result in the use of chemicals that highly pollute the air. Farmers use pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers which contain pollutants such as ammonia which are harmful to human beings. Whereas water pollution from animal feeding activities as well as soil nutrients remains the main focus due to rainfall patterns in the recent past across the Midwest, the other issue linked to the agriculture was the effects of farming activities to the quality of air. Even though transportation and energy industries are majorly accountable for some huge percentage air pollutants, agricultural activities accounted for over 12 percent of emissions (Wespinner, 2014). Four major activities happen in the farms which are linked to greenhouse emissions. These activities include manure management, soil management activities fermentation, and fossil fuel consumption. The two major pollutants from agricultural activities include nitrous oxide and methane. The latter comes from both manure management and enteric fermentation processes. The nitrous oxide, on the other hand, results from soil management processes such as fertilization. Additionally, air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, airborne particulate matter, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are all associated with agricultural activities (Stern, 2014).
According to Aldern (2015), a huge amount of air pollution can be attributed to from farming activities and not just manufacturing industries and energy plants. Ammonia from fertilizers used in farming and animal waste are the main problems. Ammonia later combines with Sulphur elements occurring in coal-fired energy factories and nitrates from vehicle emissions create soot, particles that are huge enough to pollute the air.
The other primary cause of air pollution is burning of fossils fuels. Combustion of fuels such as coal, petroleum products, and other factory products leads to contamination of the air. Vehicles produce emissions that are largely to blame for air pollution. Virtually half of Americans live in areas that cannot meet federal air quality required standards. Heavy trucks and passenger cars are the primary causes of car exhaust pollution which includes ozone, smog-creating emissions, and particulate matter. Passenger cars are the main contributors to vehicle emissions producing large quantities of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Air pollution from vehicles and lorries is divided into either primary or secondary pollutant. Primary pollution comes directly into the air while the secondary form of pollution happens when chemical reactions happen between pollutants existing in the atmosphere. The major pollutants from motor vehicles include particles of soot and heavy metals that make smog look dark, hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and other hazardous air pollutants (toxics). As earlier noted, these chemicals are linked to these emissions from vehicles and farming activities are the causative agents of a myriad of complications. Some of the major problems directly related to these emissions include congenital disabilities, cancer, respiratory system problems, and other serious illnesses (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2014).
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Effects of Air Pollution
Several major air pollutants affect people, plants, and materials. Ozone (O3), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen oxides (NO), Particulate Matter and Carbon monoxide (CO) are just some of the air pollutants on earth. Ozone effects people by aggravating asthma injures respiratory cells, a lessened elasticity of lung linings, coughing, chest pains, strong eye irritation. Ozone causes flecking, stippling, spotting and bleaching of plant leaves and stems, lower yields and damage to crops including lettuce, grapes, and corn. Ozone effects on materials include cracking of rubber, reduction of resilience and poor paint look causes fading of fabric colors. Sulphur Dioxide increases chronic respiratory disease in humans it contains short breath and contraction of air passage for asthmatic individuals (Seinfeld, & Pandis, 2016). The impacts that Sulphur dioxide have on vegetation are decolorizing of leaves, decay, and damage of tissue and if oxidized to Sulphur acid it can cause damage associated with acid precipitation. Once oxidized to Sulphuric acid, Sulphur dioxide can have a possibility of damaging buildings and monuments, it corrodes metal, makes paper products become brittle, changes leather to reddish-brown dust, bleaches the color of cloths and destroys most types of color (Stern, 2014).
Nitrogen oxide is largely a gas that does not irritate but may intensify diseases of the respiratory system in humans, some signs and systems include the sore esophagus, coughing, adenoidal contraction, and fever. It can cause an intensified risk of both chest cold as well as pneumonia and bronchitis in young people. There are not many perceptible effects on various plants but for some instances, it may cause suppressed growth for a few plants and may be beneficial for some plants at low concentrations. If oxidized to a nitric acid it can cause damage with acid precipitation. Nitrogen oxides cause fading of textile dyes, and again if oxidized to nitric acid it could cause damage to buildings and monuments. Particles causing pollution leads to an aggravated chronic and severe respiratory system infections, contingent on the composition of chemicals from the particulates it can affect tissues of the human esophagus, nasal linings, tissues of the lungs as well as parts of the eyes (Stern, 2014). Depending on the chemical composition of particulate matter particles, may damage trees and crop plants. It contributes to and can cause accelerate corrosion of metal, could contaminate electrical contacts and particulate matter can ruin the appearance and durability of paint and textile dyes. Last but not least is Carbon Monoxide, this gas weakness the circulatory system’s ability to move oxygen around the human body. Once carbon monoxide enters the human body it causes headaches, tiredness, queasiness, it weakens performance on duties that need absolute attentiveness, minimizes resilience levels and it can be fatal by triggering suffocation.
Air pollution and the earth’s climate are partners in crime. Air pollution can have very serious effects on human health and ecosystems; it can also severely impact the Earth’s climate and the temperature of the atmosphere. When the Earth’s atmosphere becomes tampered with it can produce various problems with climate change. When energy from the sun reaches the Earth, the planet absorbs some of this energy and radiates the left-over energy back to space as heat. The Earth’s surface temperature depends on this balance between incoming and outgoing energy and heat. Atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) can trap this energy and heat; it will prevent the heat and energy from escaping (Seinfeld, & Pandis, 2016). When clouds associated with this air mass, it can develop smog over urban areas from the trapped greenhouse gas and the severity of air pollution increases even more. Temperature changes occur when clouds (which are warmed) block solar radiation which means the temperature rises and the heat rises near the atmosphere. The air near the surface of the ground cools reaching its dew point and forms fog, trapping pollutants and increasing their concentration. Cold air near the ground causes people to heat their homes in resulting in an increase in fossil fuel combustion which produces, even more, air pollution and the cycle starts again.
With all the environmental problems that face the world today. Air Pollution is the number one problem in my opinion. It threatens the continued survival and well-being of the earth and every living species that inhabit it. If humans on earth continue to ruin the air that we need to use for survival with a number of chemical pollutants from fossil fuel combustion, we will not have an earth left to live on in the future. We must take small steps to reverse air pollution, and everyone must take part in it to work. Changes must be made, and results will not be as recent as one may think. Making a change in how we live by decreasing air pollution must last a lifetime and become a daily routine (Jacobson, 2012).
Air Pollution Control Measures
Government agencies that are planning to work towards air quality must initially focus on the noticeable sources of air pollution and think about the fastest means of curbing poisonous emissions. More complex and inclusive strategies can be formulated and implemented over time. The primary objective of any control strategy should be to accomplish realistic and assessable air emission control measures (Jacobson, 2012).
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Vehicles play a significant role in running any economy, and they make life more convenient. However, the same vehicles are to blame for making our lives miserable on the hand by polluting the air. Countries have been exploring the possibility of manufacturing zero-emission vehicles which may include hydrogen fuel-cell-electric cars, battery-electric cars, and plug-in hybrid-electric cars in a bid to reduce air pollution. In the United States, New York, and seven other major states have put a memorandum of understanding, an initiative that seeks to have over 3.3 million zero-emission cars by the year 2025 (Department of Environmental Conservation, 2014). This initiative highlights the steps needed to increase citizens awareness and consequently arouse the demand for non-emitting cars. The New York motor vehicle inspection and maintenance program for instance run by the state’s department of environmental conservation demand that vehicle owners properly maintain and repair their cars and eliminate any faulty emission systems. In a bid to meet national ambient air quality standards for ozone, New York Vehicle Inspection Program and similar programs from various states and countries play a huge role. Standards and regulations such as Euro emissions standards and Carbon credit programs should be set and enforced to see a pollution free air (Jacobson, 2012).
Other control measures that are needed include farmers using organic chemicals can have no harmful effects on the atmosphere. Practicing proper soil and manure management can go a long way in reduction of air pollution. Involving the farmers is critical by inviting them to give inputs from them and the regulated community among other stakeholders, together with the general public when formulating the control strategies. This early awareness, consultation and reduces later challenges that can assist in streamlining the implementation processes. Other plans should ensure that the forest cover should be safeguarded. Sufficient vegetation and forest cover is vital for upholding the high quality of air. Trees and vegetation in general take in carbon-dioxide (CO2) and give out oxygen (O2). Green belts should be set aside; these areas must be created in highly populated towns. The responsible environmental agencies should ensure that there is a strict restraint for development of large buildings and factories near the set Green belt regions (Kakkar, 2016).
Organizations Involved in Curbing Air Pollution
Governments and non-profit organizations have been in the forefront of fighting air pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) one group through its group, Air Quality Modeling Group, has been successful in formulating air pollution models and enforcing regulations that safeguard human health and environment. The agency has been instrumental in the creation of the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955.
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The Coalition for Clean Air (CCA) based in California is a non-governmental organization committed to minimizing air pollution and enhancing the quality of air across the United States. It focuses on teaching children on pollution as well as monitoring the key sources of pollution. The organization has been effective in public policy advocacy and focused on business solutions to air pollution. CCA has an objective of decreasing air pollution by vehicles where they anticipate to get at least a million non-emitting cars on the road by 2050.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is another group that fights for a healthier and safer environment. Scientists understand better than anyone else the dangers of polluting the air, this is why they came together to ensure that they protect the universe. They have over the past pushed for policy implementation by presenting their recommendations. The Union has been instrumental in informing people of both the consequences of air pollution and ways of eradication air pollution. The Union has been at the forefront of encouraging the reduction of carbon emissions by members of the public and countries in general. The Union has been urging political leaders to foster all-inclusive strategies for climate solutions (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2014).
Air pollution is primarily caused by both human and natural actions. These range from agricultural activities, manufacturing activities to emissions from vehicles. The effects of air pollution are dire to an environment and especially on human beings. Lung and respiratory systems get irritated and ultimately damaged. The vegetation cover, on the other hand, gets destroyed by the polluted air, this kills plants and can have severe ramifications on the environment. Both governmental and non-governmental agencies have been on the forefront in controlling air pollution through implementations of various measures. Ultimately, everyone has a responsibility of ensuring that air remains unpolluted.
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- Aldern, C. (2015). A huge amount of air pollution comes from farming, not just power plants. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from http://grist.org/article/a-huge-amount-of-air-pollution-comes-from-farming-not-just-power-plants/
- Department of Environmental Conservation. (2014). Controlling Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8394.html
- Jacobson, M. Z. (2012). Air pollution and global warming: history, science, and solutions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Kakkar, R. (2016). 10 Ways to Reduce and Control Air Pollution. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from https://www.importantindia.com/11729/10-ways-to-reduce-and-control-air-pollution/
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- Union of Concerned Scientists. (2014). Cars, Trucks, and Air Pollution. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/vehicles-air-pollution-and-human-health/cars-trucks-air-pollution#.WddA0Y-CzIU
- Webspinner, C. (2014). Agricultural Impact on Air Quality. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from https://mmp360.com/blog/air-quality