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Air is the ocean we breathe. Air supplies us with oxygen which is essential for our bodies to live.

Air is 99.9% nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Human activities can release substances into the air, some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals. There are several main types of pollution and wellknown effects of pollution which are commonly discussed. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and "holes" in the ozone layer. Each of these problems has serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole environment. One type of air pollution is the release of particles into the air from burning fuel for energy. Diesel smoke is a good example of this particulate matter . The particles are very small pieces of matter measuring about 2.5 microns or about .0001 inches. This type of pollution is sometimes referred to as "black carbon" pollution. The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes, and industries is a major source of pollution in the air. Some authorities believe that even the burning of wood and charcoal in fireplaces and barbeques can release significant quanitites of soot into the air. Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smogand acid rain. Pollution also needs to be considered inside our homes, offices, and schools. Some of these pollutants can be created by indoor activities such as smoking and cooking. In the United States, we spend about 80-90% of our time inside buildings, and so our exposure to harmful indoor pollutants can be serious. It is therefore important to consider both indoor and outdoor air pollution.
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Other planets have sunlight, but the Earth is the only planet we know that has air and water. Without air and water, the Earth would be unable to sustain life. A diverse community of plant and animal life has thrived on this planet for millions of years, sustained by the sun and supported by the soil, water and air.

Definition Of Air Pollution

Air pollution occurs when the air contains gases, dust, fumes or odour in harmful amounts. That is, amounts which could be harmful to the health or comfort of humans and animals or which could cause damage to plants and materials. The substances that cause air pollution are called pollutants. Pollutants that are pumped into our atmosphere and directly pollute the air are called primary pollutants. Primary pollutant examples include carbon monoxide from car exhausts and sulfur dioxide from the combustion of coal. Further pollution can arise if primary pollutants in the atmosphere undergo chemical reactions. The resulting compounds are called secondary pollutants. Photochemical smog is an example of this.

Historical Explanation
In the days before the proliferation of large cities and industry, nature's own systems kept the air fairly clean. Wind mixed and dispersed the gases, rain washed the dust and other easily dissolved substances to the ground and plants absorbed carbon dioxide and replaced it with oxygen. With increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, humans started to release more wastes into the atmosphere than nature could cope with. Since then, more pollution has been added to the air by industrial, commercial and domestic sources. As these sources are usually found in major cities, the gases that are produced are usually concentrated in the air around them. The adverse effects of air pollution were graphically illustrated in London in 1952 when, in just a few days, an estimated 4000 people died from effects of fine particle pollution. It is when these concentrated gases exceed safe limits that we have a pollution problem. Nature can no longer manage air pollution without our help.

More About Pollutants

Air pollutants mainly occur as a result of gaseous discharges from industry and motor vehicles. There are also natural sources such as wind-blown dust and smoke from fires. Some forms of air pollution create global problems, such as upper atmosphere ozone depletion and global warming. These problems are very complex, and require international cooperative efforts to find solutions.

Smog is a type of large-scale outdoor pollution. It is caused by chemical reactions between pollutants derived from different sources, primarily automobile exhaust and industrial emissions. Cities are often centers of these types of activities, and many suffer from the effects of smog, especially during the warm months of the year. Additional information about smog and its effects are available from Environment Canada and the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) in southern California. For each city, the exact causes of pollution may be different. Depending on the geographical location, temperature, wind and weather factors, pollution is dispersed differently. However, sometimes this does not happen and the pollution can build up to dangerous levels. A temperature inversion occurs when air close to the earth is cooler than the air above it. Under these conditions the pollution cannot rise and be dispersed. Cities surrounded by mountains also experience trapping of pollution.

Inversion can happen in any season. Winter inversions are likely to cause particulate and cabon monoxide pollution. Summer inversions are more likely to create smog. Another consequence of outdoor air pollution is acid rain. When a pollutant, such as sulfuric acid combines with droplets of water in the air, the water (or snow) can become acidified . The effects of acid rain on the environment can be very serious. It damages plants by destroying their leaves, it poisons the soil, and it changes the chemistry of lakes and streams. Damage due to acid rain kills trees and harms animals, fish, and other wildlife. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Environment Canada are among the organizations that are actively studying the acid rain problem. The Greenhouse Effect, also referred to as global warming, is generally believed to come from the build up of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is produced when fuels are burned. Plants convert carbon dioxide back to oxygen, but the release of carbon dioxide from human activities is higher than the world's plants can process. The situation is made worse since many of the earth's forests are being removed, and plant life is being damaged by acid rain. Thus, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is continuing to increase. This buildup acts like a blanket and traps heat close to the surface of our earth. Changes of even a few degrees will affect us all through changes in the climate and even the possibility that the polar ice caps may melt. (One of the consequences of polar ice cap melting would be a rise in global sea level, resulting in widespread coastal flooding.) Additional resources and information about the Greenhouse Effect and global warming are available from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Science Education Academy of the Bay Area (SEABA) and the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ).

Ozone depletion is another result of pollution. Chemicals released by our activities affect the stratosphere , one of the atmospheric layers surrounding earth. The ozone layer in the stratosphere protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) from aerosol cans, cooling systems and refrigerator equipment removes some of the ozone, causing "holes"; to open up in this layer and allowing the radiation to reach the earth. Ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin cancer and has damaging effects on plants and wildlife. Additional resources and information about the ozone depletion problem are available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Ozone ACTION.

Black carbon pollution is the release of tiny particles into the air from burning fuel for energy. Air pollution caused by such particulates has been a major problem since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the development of the internal combustion engine . Scientific publications dealing with the analysis of soot and smoke date back as early as 1896. Mankind has become so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels(petroleum products, coal, and natural gas) that the sum total of all combustion-related emissions now constitutes a serious and widespread problem, not only to human health, but also to the entire global environment. Additional resources dealing with the problems associated with particulate pollution are available from Burning Issues. (This group has additional information at a second site.) In recent years, there has been great concern about black carbon pollution of the air in parts of Eastern Europe. Education is one important step toward correcting the problem.

Many people spend large portion of time indoors - as much as 80-90% of their lives. We work, study, eat, drink and sleep in enclosed environments where air circulation may be restricted. For these reasons, some experts feel that more people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution than outdoor pollution. There are many sources of indoor air pollution. Tobacco smoke, cooking and heating appliances, and vapors from building materials, paints, furniture, etc. cause pollution inside buildings. Radon is a natural radioactive gas released from the earth, and it can be found concentrated in basements in some parts of the United States. Additional information about the radon problem is available from the USGS and the Minnesota Radon Project. Pollution exposure at home and work is often greater than outdoors. The California Air Resources Board estimates that indoor air pollutant levels are 25-62% greater than outside levels and can pose serious health problems. Both indoor and outdoor pollution need to be controlled and/or prevented. How can we prevent the damaging effects of air pollution?

Air pollution refers to the presence of chemical, biological, and particulate matter, and pollutants in the atmosphere around the living spaces. When inhaled, it affects the human biological system, and takes a toll on the quality of life, with the onslaught of a number of respiratory tract disorders. It is a condition triggered by the presence of air-borne pollutants in the air we breathe. These pollutants could either be the result of chemical emissions or the particulate material from biological waste. The condition has reached alarming proportions in the modern world, with large-scale industrialization and vehicle-emissions being the primary culprits. The pollutants that are air-borne cause a lot of harm to humans and animals, other than permanent damage to the natural environment. I. Facts about Air Pollution Air borne pollutants can either be solid particles, or even liquids and gases; natural or man-made. Primary air pollutants are those that are directly emitted via some processes, like the ash from volcanoes or the carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from vehicles and factories, respectively. Secondary air pollutants are the result of the reactions or interactions of the primary pollutants. Example: photochemical smog. Sulfur oxides from volcanic eruptions and industrial processes oxidize in the presence of nitrogen dioxide to form acid rain. Carbon monoxide, the emission from combustion of fuels like wood and coal, is a very poisonous gas. Particulate matter can be both, natural as well as man-made. This pollutant originates within dust storms, volcanoes, forest fires or wildfires and sea sprays. Human activities contribute to nearly 10% of the aerosols in the atmosphere. Ammonia is a gas emitted via agricultural processes. It is both hazardous as well as caustic. Sources of air pollution are many, and commonly include anthropogenic sources or those that result from human activity and natural sources like dust, methane, radioactive decay, and volcanic ash particulates. Lack of proper ventilation causes the radon emission from the earth to be trapped indoors, within houses and offices. This gas is carcinogen, and has been linked to the development of numerous forms of cancer. Radon gas is also emitted from building materials and extensive carpeting. Lethal lead paint easily degenerates into dust, and is eventually inhaled. The use of air fresheners, pesticides and chemical sprays, also put people in the immediate environment at the risk of developing respiratory tract disorders, poisoning and fatalities. Toxic asbestos fibers, dust and fumes cause Mesothelioma, a cancer that eats into the mesothelium, a delicate tissue that engulfs and protects important organs such as the heart and the lungs. While pets shed dander into the atmosphere, humans produce dust from dead skin flakes and the decomposition of hair. II. Effects of Air Pollution on Humans The effects of air pollution on humans are in many cases life-threatening, and can be fatal. WHO statistics report that over 2 million people succumb to the fatalities attributed to air pollution on a yearly basis. Consistent exposure to pollutants leads to the development of a large number of diseases. Here's a look at some of them. Cardiopulmonary Disease A little known, yet potentially deadly disease, cardiopulmonary disease may affect both the lungs and the heart. It could cause inflammation of the air passage, and in turn lead to other serious complications. Pneumonia This is a very common disease caused, that seems to be on the rise, especially in the underdeveloped world because of the extreme high levels of pollution in these areas. It is caused due to the inflammation of the lung tissue. Left untreated, it can be quite deadly. Premature Mortality The air which we breathe is the very essence of our life, and the most important factor in our existence too. All bodily functions are carried out because of the constant supply of fresh air that reaches our various organs through the blood stream. If the air we breathe is polluted, it can cause both short-term and long-term damage. With time, due to lack of proper fresh air circulation to our organs, they cease to function properly, and ultimately could lead to premature mortality.

Heart Attack The heart is the control center of the human body. The lungs constantly supply oxygen to the heart, which in turn pumps it through the blood to the entire the body. This perfect synergy of the heart and the other organs of the body ensure a healthy life for us. Over time, if we breathe in polluted air, it gets into our blood stream and causes many serious problems. These pollutants tend to accumulate in the coronary arteries and obstruct the flow of rich blood to the heart. This in turn affects the functioning of the heart, and can cause heart attacks. Asthma One of the most common effects of being subjected to air pollution over long periods is difficulty in breathing, and in more serious cases, asthma. It is caused due to the swelling of the airway or the bronchioles, as they are called, because of the many pollutants in the air. Asthma causes major problems in an individual's daily life, and in extreme cases can lead to death, if not tended to promptly. Difficulty in Breathing A very large percentage of people all around the world today have difficulty in breathing, either in a small or a big way. This is all due to the ever-increasing levels of air pollution. Wheezing and Coughing Wheezing and prolonged cough attacks are both symptoms of asthma, and are caused by the pollution in the air, which over time, affects the passage of fresh air into the respiratory tract. Acute Vascular Dysfunction Exposure to air pollution for prolonged periods can cause serious damage to the lungs. One such very severe lung condition is acute vascular dysfunction. Without proper treatment, this condition can prove to be fatal. Thrombosis / Thrombus Formation The body stays healthy due to the continuous supply of oxygen-rich blood to all its parts. When the blood flow to any part of the body is obstructed, that part tends to turn blue due to the clotting of the blood. If proper blood flow is not restored, that part begins to degenerate. This condition is called thrombosis. Cystic Fibrosis Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease found commonly amongst children. It is a very serious condition, wherein the parents who have been exposed to very high levels of air pollution pass on this disease to their children through their genes. This disease affects the lungs and the pancreas, and can be lifethreatening. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) This is a combination of a couple of diseases, namely, Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema, both of which severely damage the lungs and can cause death. The cases of patients with COPD is at an alarming high because of the excessive air pollution all around. Chronic Bronchitis: This is a disease in which the passage of air to the lungs is obstructed due to the inflammation of the medium air passage or bronchi. This is a chronic condition and greatly lowers the quality of the patient's daily life. Emphysema: This is one of the most serious conditions of lung diseases. It causes the degeneration of the tissues that hold the lungs and help its expansion and contraction as we breathe. It is a progressive disease and leads to the total collapsing of the lungs. III. Controlling Air Pollution There are a number of ways in which these polluting emissions can be controlled. Particulate control is possible with the use of mechanical collectors, electrostatic precipitators, baghouses and scrubbers like the Baffle, Cyclonic, Ejector venturi and Mechanical scrubbers. Nitrogen dioxide emission can be controlled with the help of low-consumption burners and scrubbers, selective catalytic and non-catalytic reduction, and even catalytic converters. Sulfur dioxide or acid gas can be effectively controlled with the dedicated use of wet and dry scrubbers

and the latest introduction of flue gas desulfurization. At a very basic level, we could turn to the use of green energy, with the use of fuels that do not harm the environment by harnessing solar, wind and tidal energy. Also we could minimize the use of vehicles and instead take public modes of transport or start a car pool. Some of the most polluted countries of the world are Australia, USA, the UK, China and India. The greenhouse effect is a life-threatening global phenomenon, that is the creation of air pollutants. This phenomenon is the result of the trapped greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere. Accumulation of carbon dioxide gas, methane, nitrogen oxides, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons have brought about a major climate change, increased acidity of ocean waters, and major modifications in marine ecosystems. This is our world and it is up to us to preserve it for our own survival. Pollution is a very serious problem which has come upon us, and it's up to each one of us to take responsibility and bring about a positive change. It's our actions today that are going to decide the fate of the generations to come. Let's save our planet. Let's change ourselves, the world will follow. Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/effects-of-air-pollution.html