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Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that
cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural
environment, into the atmosphere.

The atmosphere is a complex, dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support
life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has long been
recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth's ecosystems.


An air pollutant is known as a substance in the air that can cause harm to humans and the
environment. Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. In
addition, they may be natural or man-made.[1]

Major primary pollutants produced by human activity include:

Sulfur oxides (SOx) - especially sulfur dioxide, a chemical compound with the formula SO2.
SO2 is produced by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum
often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide.

Nitrogen dioxides are emitted from high temperature combustion. Can be seen as the brown
haze dome above or plume downwind of cities. Nitrogen dioxide is the chemical compound
with the formula NO2. It is one of the several nitrogen oxides. This reddish-brown toxic gas
has a characteristic sharp, biting odor. NO2 is one of the most prominent air pollutants.

Carbon monoxide - is a colourless, odourless, non-irritating but very poisonous gas. It is a

product by incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, coal or wood. Vehicular
exhaust is a major source of carbon monoxide.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) - a greenhouse gas emitted from combustion but is also a gas vital to
living organisms. It is a natural gas in the atmosphere.

Volatile organic compounds - VOCs are an important outdoor air pollutant. In this field they
are often divided into the separate categories of methane (CH4) and non-methane
(NMVOCs). Methane is an extremely efficient greenhouse gas which contributes to enhance
global warming. Other hydrocarbon VOCs are also significant greenhouse gases via their role
in creating ozone and in prolonging the life of methane in the atmosphere, although the
effect varies depending on local air quality. Within the NMVOCs, the aromatic compounds
benzene, toluene and xylene are suspected carcinogens and may lead to leukemia through
prolonged exposure. 1,3-butadiene is another dangerous compound which is often
associated with industrial uses.

Particulate matter - Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM) or fine

particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. In contrast, aerosol refers to
particles and the gas together. Sources of particulate matter can be manmade or natural.
Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and
grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. Human activities, such as the burning of
fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes also generate
significant amounts of aerosols. Averaged over the globe, anthropogenic aerosols—those
made by human activities—currently account for about 10 percent of the total amount of
aerosols in our atmosphere. Increased levels of fine particles in the air are linked to health
hazards such as heart disease, altered lung function and lung cancer.

Toxic metals, such as lead, cadmium and copper.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - harmful to the ozone layer emitted from products currently
banned from use.

Ammonia (NH3) - emitted from agricultural processes. Ammonia is a compound with the
formula NH3. It is normally encountered as a gas with a characteristic pungent odor.
Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving
as a precursor to foodstuffs and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a
building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals. Although in wide use, ammonia is
both caustic and hazardous.

Odors — such as from garbage, sewage, and industrial processes

Radioactive pollutants - produced by nuclear explosions, war explosives, and natural

processes such as the radioactive decay of radon


Emissions standards are requirements that set specific limits to the amount of pollutants
that can be released into the environment. Many emissions standards focus on regulating
pollutants released by automobiles (motor cars) and other powered vehicles but they can
also regulate emissions from industry, power plants, small equipment such as lawn mowers
and diesel generators. Frequent policy alternatives to emissions standards are technology
standards (which mandate the use of a specific technology) and emission trading.

Standards generally regulate the emissions of NOx, sulfur oxides, particulate matter (PM) or
soot, carbon monoxide (CO), or volatile hydrocarbons (see carbon dioxide equivalent).

The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes
directly attributable to air pollution, with 1.5 million of these deaths attributable to indoor air
pollution. The worst short term civilian pollution crisis in India was the 1984 Bhopal Disaster.
Leaked industrial vapors from the Union Carbide factory, belonging to Union Carbide, Inc.,
U.S.A., killed more than 2,000 people outright and injured anywhere from 150,000 to
600,000 others, some 6,000 of whom would later die from their injuries.

The health effects caused by air pollutants may range from subtle biochemical and
physiological changes to difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing and aggravation of
existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. These effects can result in increased medication
use, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospital admissions and premature
death. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the
body's respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air
pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure,
the individual's health status and genetics.

Factors that can shape climate are often called climate forcings. These include such
processes as variations in solar radiation, deviations in the Earth's orbit, and changes in
greenhouse gas concentrations. There are a variety of climate change feedbacks that can
either amplify or diminish the initial forcing. Some parts of the climate system, such as the
oceans and ice caps, respond slowly in reaction to climate forcing because of their large
mass. Therefore, the climate system can take centuries or longer to fully respond to new
external forcings.

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air
and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation. Global surface
temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the last century.[1][A] The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that increasing greenhouse
gas concentrations resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and
deforestation caused most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the
20th century.[1]


An electrostatic precipitator (ESP), or electrostatic air cleaner is a particulate collection device that
removes particles from a flowing gas (such as air) using the force of an induced electrostatic charge.
Electrostatic precipitators are highly efficient filtration devices that minimally impede the flow of gases
through the device, and can easily remove fine particulate matter such as dust and smoke from the air
stream. In contrast to wet scrubbers which apply energy directly to the flowing fluid medium, an ESP
applies energy only to the particulate matter being collected and therefore is very efficient in its
consumption of energy (in the form of electricity).
The most basic precipitator contains a row of thin vertical wires, and followed by a stack of large flat metal
plates oriented vertically, with the plates typically spaced about 1 cm to 18 cm apart, depending on the
application. The air or gas stream flows horizontally through the spaces between the wires, and then passes
through the stack of plates.
A negative voltage of several thousand volts is applied between wire and plate. If the applied voltage is
high enough an electric (corona) discharge ionizes the gas around the electrodes. Negative ions flow to the
plates and charge the gas-flow particles.
The ionized particles, following the negative electric field created by the power supply, move to the
grounded plates.
Particles build up on the collection plates and form a layer. The layer does not collapse, thanks to
electrostatic pressure (given from layer resistivity, electric field, and current flowing in the collected layer).
Precipitator performance is very sensitive to two particulate properties: 1) Resistivity; and 2) Particle size
distribution. These properties can be determined economically and accurately in the laboratory. A widely
taught concept to calculate the collection efficiency is the Deutsch model, which assumes infinite remixing
of the particles perpendicular to the gas stream.

Resistivity can be determined as a function of temperature in accordance with IEEE Standard 548. This test
is conducted in an air environment containing a specified moisture concentration. The test is run as a
function of ascending or descending temperature or both. Data are acquired using an average ash layer
electric field of 4 kV/cm. Since relatively low applied voltage is used and no sulfuric acid vapor is present
in the environment, the values obtained indicate the maximum ash resistivity.
Usually the descending temperature test is suggested when no unusual circumstances are involved. Before
the test, the ash is thermally equilibrated in dry air at 850°F for about 14 hours. It is believed that this
procedure anneals the ash and restores the surface to pre-collection condition.

If there is a concern about the effect of combustibles, the residual effect of a conditioning agent other than
sulfuric acid vapor, or the effect of some other agent that inhibits the reaction of the ash with water vapor,
the combination of the ascending and descending test mode is recommended. The thermal treatment that
occurs between the two test modes is capable of eliminating the foregoing effects. This results in ascending
and descending temperature resistivity curves that show a hysteresis related to the presence and removal of
some effect such as a significant level of combustibles.
With particles of high resistivity (cement dust for example) Sulfur trioxide is sometimes injected into a flue
gas stream to lower the resistivity of the particles in order to improve the collection efficiency of the
electrostatic precipitator.
Wet scrubber is a form of pollution control technology. The term describes a variety of devices that remove
pollutants from a furnace flue gas or from other gas streams. In a wet scrubber, the polluted gas stream is
brought into contact with the scrubbing liquid, by spraying it with the liquid, by forcing it through a pool of
liquid, or by some other contact method, so as to remove the pollutants.

The design of wet scrubbers or any air pollution control device depends on the industrial process conditions
and the nature of the air pollutants involved.

Inlet gas characteristics and dust properties (if particles are present) are of primary importance. Scrubbers
can be designed to collect particulate matter and/or gaseous pollutants. Wet scrubbers remove dust particles
by capturing them in liquid droplets. Wet scrubbers remove pollutant gases by dissolving or absorbing
them into the liquid.

Any droplets that are in the scrubber inlet gas must be separated from the outlet gas stream by means of
another device referred to as a mist eliminator or entrainment separator (these terms are interchangeable).
Also, the resultant scrubbing liquid must be treated prior to any ultimate discharge or being reused in the

There are numerous configurations of scrubbers and scrubbing systems, all designed to provide good
contact between the liquid and polluted gas stream.