Air Pollution Facts

Knowing Our Environment

Air Pollution Facts You Should Know

Air pollution is one of the more pervasive problems facing many governments around the world. Almost all of the major industries and even those activities at the household level lead to some form of air emission that contributes to air pollution. Certain studies by the Environmental Science Engineering Program at Harvard University in the U.S. claim that up to 4 percent of annual deaths can be attributed to some form of air pollution. For this reason, understanding air pollution facts is crucial to controlling the effects of agents that result in air pollution problems.

The first step to understanding air pollution facts is to know the class of major pollutants that can be found in the atmosphere. These include sulfur emissions, nitrogen-based gaseous components, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases, chlorofluorocarbons, and even particulate matter concentration such as dust and ash.

Sulfur-based gaseous emissions are responsible for the formation of acid rain which causes serious damage to crops, structures, contamination of large bodies of water, and the onset of many skin-related diseases.

Sulfur emissions come from industrial sources that include the burning of fossil fuels like coal and other petroleum-based products. They can also be exacerbated by volcanic eruptions resulting to a general cooling of the upper atmosphere that can reinforce greenhouse gas effects. Sulfur emissions are heavily regulated by many governments because of these air pollution facts but they remain a serious threat for environmental and health reasons.

A major issue that is currently under serious discussion and regulation is the emission of greenhouse gases consisting mainly of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and many other components. Air pollution facts from various sources indicate a steady rise in global surface temperatures that is closely correlated to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. From the last air pollution facts, as much as a 0.5-deg F increase in temperature has been recorded over the last 10-15 years.

While there are no definitive estimates as to how much carbon emissions are contributing to the warming process, the correlation is enough to push countries to sign international treaties and accords to help minimize the effects. Countries are now expected to reduce emissions to 1990 levels before 2020 and policymakers and scientists alike are hoping this is not too late of a time to help curb the effects of air pollution.

Particulate matter, or dust in everyday language, presents major health problems such as lung diseases like bronchitis, emphysema and cancers. Many cities around the world, according to air pollution facts from reputable organizations, show that dust concentrations have doubled in the last 10 years and are now a serious worry. Cities like Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Shanghai all have a morning haze that is due to fog and dust and smoke combining in the lower atmosphere. These are certainly not conducive conditions for outdoor activities and health organizations strongly advise against repetitive exposure to dusty conditions.

Chlorofluorocarbons have seen a steady decrease over the years after the signing of the Montreal Protocol which bans CFCs to remedy the hole in the ozone layer. Still, because they are catalytic in nature – meaning they are regenerated and not consumed during ozone reactions – they will continue to remain in the atmosphere up to 2065-2075 by some estimates. The hole in the ozone layer presents major sources of concern over an increase in skin cancers due to UV exposure. Applying sunscreen is a necessity prior to going out in direct sunlight regardless of where you are in the world.

These air pollution facts are important in shaping mindsets and public policy so air pollution factors can be addressed and reduced more rapidly. The thrust is to sustainably develop quality of life without increasing pollution effects and many world leaders have their hands full with this challenge. It can only be hoped that they do enough work in the quickest possible time before air pollution effects become too severe to be reversible.