Effects of Air Pollution On The Environment

Like people, animals, and plants, entire ecosystems can suffer effects from air pollution. Haze, like smog, is a visible type of air pollution that obscures shapes and colors. Hazy air pollution can even muffle sounds.

Air pollution particles eventually fall back to Earth. Air pollution can directly contaminate the surface of bodies of water and soil. This can kill crops or reduce their yield. It can kill young trees and other plants.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide particles in the air, can create acid rain when they mix with water and oxygen in the atmosphere. These air pollutants come mostly from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles. When acid rain falls to Earth, it damages plants by changing soil composition; degrades water quality in rivers, lakes and streams; damages crops; and can cause buildings and monuments to decay.

Like humans, animals can suffer health effects from exposure to air pollution. Birth defects, diseases, and lower reproductive rates have all been attributed to air pollution.


Global Warming

Global warming is an environmental phenomenon caused by natural and anthropogenic air pollution. It refers to rising air and ocean temperatures around the world. This temperature rise is at least partially caused by an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat energy in the Earths atmosphere. (Usually, more of Earths heat escapes into space.)

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has had the biggest effect on global warming. Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, and natural gas). Humans have come to rely on fossil fuels to power cars and planes, heat homes, and run factories. Doing these things pollutes the air with carbon dioxide.

Other greenhouse gases emitted by natural and artificial sources also include methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Methane is a major emission from coal plants and agricultural processes. Nitrous oxide is a common emission from industrial factories, agriculture, and the burning of fossil fuels in cars. Fluorinated gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons, are emitted by industry. Fluorinated gases are often used instead of gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs have been outlawed in many places because they deplete the ozone layer.

Worldwide, many countries have taken steps to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. The Kyoto Protocol, first adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, is an agreement between 183 countries that they will work to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The United States has not signed that treaty.


Pollutants Causing Effect on Health

  • Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concern include particulate matter (PM), Ozone (O3), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur dioxide (SO2).
  • These pollutants are capable of penetrating deep into lung passageways and entering the bloodstream causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory impacts.