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Air pollution is an evil that most of us hear about or experience on a daily basis. We breath the many forms of pollution and read about it through the mass media. Air pollution refers to the poisonous contamination of the air, irrespective of indoors or outside.

What is Air Pollution?

A physical, biological or chemical change to the air in the atmosphere can be called pollution. It occurs when any dangerous dust, gases and smoke gets into the atmosphere and makes it troublesome for plants, animals and humans to survive, as the air turns more filthy day by day.

London Air Pollution

Air contamination is often classified into two types - Visible and invisible air pollution. Another way of observing air pollution could be by looking at substances that holds the potential to damage the atmosphere and thus the well being of the living beings living in it. The sustainment of all life is due to a combination of gases that collectively form the atmosphere - A damaging imbalance can be harmful for survival.

The Ozone layer, which is crucial for the existence of the life sustaining ecosystems on Earth, is depleting due to ever increasing pollution. Global warming is also occuring still as a direct result of the increased imbalance of gases in the atmosphere. Global warming alone is, mostly considered, to be the biggest threat and challenge that the modern world has to overcome in a bid for future survival.

Types of Pollutants

To help understand the causes of air pollution several categories need to be created. Air pollutants are caused by primary sources and secondary sources. The pollutants that are a direct result of a process are known as primary pollutants. A good example of a primary pollutant is the sulfur-dioxide emitted from un-controlled factories.

Secondary pollutants are the ones that occur due to the inter mingling and reactions of primary pollutants. Smog created by the interactions of several primary pollutants is actually a secondary pollutant.

Causes of Air pollution

When observing the sources of air pollution, a series of activities and interactions are the cause. There are two main source categories - Natural sources and Man-made sources.

Natural sources of pollution include dust carried by the wind from places with little or no green plantation, gases released from the bodily functions of living beings (For example, carbon dioxide from humans during respiration, methane from cattle during digestion), smoke from the combustion of forests and volcanic eruptions.

China Air Pollution

Concerning the man-made contributions towards air pollution, smoke features as a marked component. The smoke is emitted from various forms of combustion such as bio mass, factories, vehicles and furnaces. Waste poured into landfills generates methane, which is harmful in several ways. The reactions of certain gases and chemicals also create harmful fumes that is dangerous to the well being of almost all life. Here we examine in more detail man-made pollution:

1. Burning of fossil fuels
Sulfur dioxide created from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and other industrial combustibles are one of the major causes of air pollution. Pollution emmisions from vehicles including lorries, trucks, jeeps, cars, trains and aircraft cause an immense amount of pollution. We rely on them to fulfill our basic needs for transportation. But, their overuse is destroying and killing our environment as dangerous gases are poisoning it. Carbon monooxide, caused by improper or incomplete combustion and usually emitted from vehicles, is another big pollutant along with Nitrogen Oxides, which is created from both natural and by man made industrial processes.

2. Agricultural production
Ammonia is a major by-product from agriculture related activities and is one of the most hazardous gases in the atmosphere. Use of insecticides, pesticides and fertilisers in agricultural activities has increased dramatically. They emit harmful chemicals into the air which causes additional water pollution to that already created by the intensive farming processes.

3. Emmisions from factories
Manufacturing industries release massive amounts of carbon monoxide, organic compounds. hydrocarbons and chemicals into the atmosphere thereby depleting the quality of air. Manufacturing industries are located in every region of the earth and there is nowhere that has not been affected by it. Petroleum refineries also release hydrocarbons and various other chemicals that pollute the air and land.

4. Mining
During the mining process dust and chemicals are discharged into the atmosphere causing massive air pollution. This is one of the reason which is responsible for the depreciating health conditions of workers and local  residents.

Natural sources of pollution include dust carried by the wind from places with little or no green plantation, gases released from the bodily functions of living beings (For example, carbon dioxide from humans during respiration, methane from cattle during digestion), smoke from the combustion of forests and volcanic eruptions.

5. Indoor air pollution
Some household cleaning products and home decor producs emit toxic chemicals in the air and cause air pollution. Cooking can also create air pollution. Whilst these are really only a small thing in a big world, it;s just smarter to be aware of this. Usually, by far the biggest contributor to indoor air pollution is from what comes in from outside.

Effects of Air pollution

1. Respiratory and heart problems
The effects of air pollution are dangerous. They are known to cause several respiratory and heart conditions as well as cancer, plus other threats to the body. Many millions of people are known to have died due to direct or indirect effects of air pollution. Children living in areas exposed to air pollutants often suffer from pneumonia and asthma.

2. Global warming
Another direct effect is the immediate changes that the world is seeing due to global warming. Rising temperatures world-wide have caused an increase in sea levels due to the melting of ice in colder regions. Displacement and loss of habitat have already made big problems for some wildlife  and signal an impending disaster if actions for preservation and normalisation aren’t undertaken immediatly.

3. Acid Rain
Harmful gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the atmosphere during the burning of fossil fuels. When it rains, the water droplets combine with these air pollutants, becomes acidic and then falls to the ground in the form of acid rain. Acid rain can cause massive damage to humans, animals, crops and natural flora.

4. Effect on Wildlife
Just like humans, animals also face the devastating affects of air pollution. Toxic chemicals and pollution  in the air can force wildlife species to move to new locations and change their habitat. The toxic pollutants deposited on the surface of water and can also harm sea life.

5. Depletion of Ozone layer
Ozone naturallt exists in earth’s stratosphere and is responsible for protecting humans from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The ozone layer behaves as a filter for the shorter wavelength and extremely hazardous ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun and protects life on Earth from its potentially dangerous effects. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halogenated ozone depleting substances (ODS) are mainly the cause of man-made chemical ozone depletion.

6. Eutrophication
In a healthy lake, river or sea nutrients occur in small amounts. But in vast quantities, they can cause a serious water pollution problem. Eutrophication is the enrichment of water by means of nutrient salts that causes structural changes to the ecosystem such as increased production of algae and aquatic plants, depletion of fish species, general degradation of water quality.

Solutions for Air Pollution

Endeavours are being created world-wide on a personal, governmental and industrial level to reduce the intensity at which air pollution is rising and attempt to regain a natural balance. We are witnessing a series of innovations and experiments aimed at alternate and unconventional options to reduce pollution. This remains a challenge we need to overcome to see a brighter tomorrow.

China Pollution
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