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Air Pollution: Causes and Effects

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Updated: 30 November, 2023

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Air Pollution Essay: Hook Examples

  • The Silent Killer: Delve into the invisible threat that surrounds us every day, affecting our health, environment, and future generations – air pollution.
  • Gasping for Breath: Paint a vivid picture of individuals struggling to breathe in polluted cities, highlighting the urgency of addressing this pressing issue.
  • Nature’s S.O.S: Explore how wildlife and ecosystems send distress signals through the impact of air pollution, underscoring the interconnectedness of all living beings.
  • The Economic Toll: Uncover the hidden costs of air pollution on healthcare, productivity, and quality of life, revealing the far-reaching consequences of our actions.
  • Clean Air, Clear Future: Imagine a world where we embrace cleaner technologies and sustainable practices, offering a vision of hope and change in the fight against air pollution.

Works Cited

  • Agarwal, A., & Agarwal, S. (2020). Air Pollution: Sources, Effects, and Control. CRC Press.
  • Cohen, A. J., Brauer, M., Burnett, R., Anderson, H. R., Frostad, J., Estep, K., … & Balakrishnan, K. (2017). Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution: an analysis of data from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015. The Lancet, 389(10082), 1907-1918.
  • Guttikunda, S. K., & Gurjar, B. R. (2012). Role of meteorology in seasonality of air pollution in megacity Delhi, India. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184(5), 3199-3211.
  • He, G., Ying, Q., Ma, Y., Cheng, L., Wang, Y., & Liu, Y. (2016). Health risks of air pollution in China: a special focus on particulate matter. Environmental Pollution, 211, 17-30.
  • Heyder, J., Gebhart, J., Rudolf, G., & Schiller, C. (1986). St deposition in the human respiratory tract as determined by cyclone techniques. Environmental Health Perspectives, 66, 149-159.
  • Khan, M. N., Islam, M. M., Siddiqui, M. N., & Islam, M. S. (2019). Sources and Impact of Air Pollution on Human Health. In Sustainable Environment and Transportation (pp. 307-334). Springer.
  • Kumar, P., Kumar, A., & Goyal, P. (2020). Air Pollution: Measurement, Modelling and Mitigation. CRC Press.
  • Lelieveld, J., Evans, J. S., Fnais, M., Giannadaki, D., & Pozzer, A. (2015). The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale. Nature, 525(7569), 367-371.

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essay about air pollution cause and effect

Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know

How smog, soot, greenhouse gases, and other top air pollutants are affecting the planet—and your health.

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What Is Air Pollution?

What causes air pollution, effects of air pollution, air pollution in the united states, air pollution and environmental justice, controlling air pollution, how to help reduce air pollution, how to protect your health.

Air pollution  refers to the release of pollutants into the air—pollutants that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. According to the  World Health Organization (WHO) , each year, indoor and outdoor air pollution is responsible for nearly seven million deaths around the globe. Ninety-nine percent of human beings currently breathe air that exceeds the WHO’s guideline limits for pollutants, with those living in low- and middle-income countries suffering the most. In the United States, the  Clean Air Act , established in 1970, authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to safeguard public health by regulating the emissions of these harmful air pollutants.

“Most air pollution comes from energy use and production,” says  John Walke , director of the Clean Air team at NRDC. Driving a car on gasoline, heating a home with oil, running a power plant on  fracked gas : In each case, a fossil fuel is burned and harmful chemicals and gases are released into the air.

“We’ve made progress over the last 50 years in improving air quality in the United States, thanks to the Clean Air Act. But climate change will make it harder in the future to meet pollution standards, which are designed to  protect health ,” says Walke.

Air pollution is now the world’s fourth-largest risk factor for early death. According to the 2020  State of Global Air  report —which summarizes the latest scientific understanding of air pollution around the world—4.5 million deaths were linked to outdoor air pollution exposures in 2019, and another 2.2 million deaths were caused by indoor air pollution. The world’s most populous countries, China and India, continue to bear the highest burdens of disease.

“Despite improvements in reducing global average mortality rates from air pollution, this report also serves as a sobering reminder that the climate crisis threatens to worsen air pollution problems significantly,” explains  Vijay Limaye , senior scientist in NRDC’s Science Office. Smog, for instance, is intensified by increased heat, forming when the weather is warmer and there’s more ultraviolet radiation. In addition, climate change increases the production of allergenic air pollutants, including mold (thanks to damp conditions caused by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to a longer pollen season). “Climate change–fueled droughts and dry conditions are also setting the stage for dangerous wildfires,” adds Limaye. “ Wildfire smoke can linger for days and pollute the air with particulate matter hundreds of miles downwind.”

The effects of air pollution on the human body vary, depending on the type of pollutant, the length and level of exposure, and other factors, including a person’s individual health risks and the cumulative impacts of multiple pollutants or stressors.

Smog and soot

These are the two most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog (sometimes referred to as ground-level ozone) occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot—a type of  particulate matter —is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens that are carried in the air. The sources of smog and soot are similar. “Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines, generally anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline, or natural gas,” Walke says.

Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs, especially those of children, senior citizens, and people who work or exercise outdoors. It’s even worse for people who have asthma or allergies; these extra pollutants can intensify their symptoms and trigger asthma attacks. The tiniest airborne particles in soot are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks, and even hasten death. In  2020, a report from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that COVID-19 mortality rates were higher in areas with more particulate matter pollution than in areas with even slightly less, showing a correlation between the virus’s deadliness and long-term exposure to air pollution. 

These findings also illuminate an important  environmental justice issue . Because highways and polluting facilities have historically been sited in or next to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, the negative effects of this pollution have been  disproportionately experienced by the people who live in these communities.

Hazardous air pollutants

A number of air pollutants pose severe health risks and can sometimes be fatal, even in small amounts. Almost 200 of them are regulated by law; some of the most common are mercury,  lead , dioxins, and benzene. “These are also most often emitted during gas or coal combustion, incineration, or—in the case of benzene—found in gasoline,” Walke says. Benzene, classified as a carcinogen by the EPA, can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation in the short term and blood disorders in the long term. Dioxins, more typically found in food but also present in small amounts in the air, is another carcinogen that can affect the liver in the short term and harm the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as reproductive functions.  Mercury  attacks the central nervous system. In large amounts, lead can damage children’s brains and kidneys, and even minimal exposure can affect children’s IQ and ability to learn.

Another category of toxic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are by-products of traffic exhaust and wildfire smoke. In large amounts, they have been linked to eye and lung irritation, blood and liver issues, and even cancer.  In one study , the children of mothers exposed to PAHs during pregnancy showed slower brain-processing speeds and more pronounced symptoms of ADHD.

Greenhouse gases

While these climate pollutants don’t have the direct or immediate impacts on the human body associated with other air pollutants, like smog or hazardous chemicals, they are still harmful to our health. By trapping the earth’s heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases lead to warmer temperatures, which in turn lead to the hallmarks of climate change: rising sea levels, more extreme weather, heat-related deaths, and the increased transmission of infectious diseases. In 2021, carbon dioxide accounted for roughly 79 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and methane made up more than 11 percent. “Carbon dioxide comes from combusting fossil fuels, and methane comes from natural and industrial sources, including large amounts that are released during oil and gas drilling,” Walke says. “We emit far larger amounts of carbon dioxide, but methane is significantly more potent, so it’s also very destructive.” 

Another class of greenhouse gases,  hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) , are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat. In October 2016, more than 140 countries signed the Kigali Agreement to reduce the use of these chemicals—which are found in air conditioners and refrigerators—and develop greener alternatives over time. (The United States officially signed onto the  Kigali Agreement in 2022.)

Pollen and mold

Mold and allergens from trees, weeds, and grass are also carried in the air, are exacerbated by climate change, and can be hazardous to health. Though they aren’t regulated, they can be considered a form of air pollution. “When homes, schools, or businesses get water damage, mold can grow and produce allergenic airborne pollutants,” says Kim Knowlton, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University and a former NRDC scientist. “ Mold exposure can precipitate asthma attacks  or an allergic response, and some molds can even produce toxins that would be dangerous for anyone to inhale.”

Pollen allergies are worsening  because of climate change . “Lab and field studies are showing that pollen-producing plants—especially ragweed—grow larger and produce more pollen when you increase the amount of carbon dioxide that they grow in,” Knowlton says. “Climate change also extends the pollen production season, and some studies are beginning to suggest that ragweed pollen itself might be becoming a more potent allergen.” If so, more people will suffer runny noses, fevers, itchy eyes, and other symptoms. “And for people with allergies and asthma, pollen peaks can precipitate asthma attacks, which are far more serious and can be life-threatening.”

essay about air pollution cause and effect

More than one in three U.S. residents—120 million people—live in counties with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the  2023  State of the Air  report by the American Lung Association (ALA). Since the annual report was first published, in 2000, its findings have shown how the Clean Air Act has been able to reduce harmful emissions from transportation, power plants, and manufacturing.

Recent findings, however, reflect how climate change–fueled wildfires and extreme heat are adding to the challenges of protecting public health. The latest report—which focuses on ozone, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution—also finds that people of color are 61 percent more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade in at least one of those categories, and three times more likely to live in a county that fails in all three.

In rankings for each of the three pollution categories covered by the ALA report, California cities occupy the top three slots (i.e., were highest in pollution), despite progress that the Golden State has made in reducing air pollution emissions in the past half century. At the other end of the spectrum, these cities consistently rank among the country’s best for air quality: Burlington, Vermont; Honolulu; and Wilmington, North Carolina. 

No one wants to live next door to an incinerator, oil refinery, port, toxic waste dump, or other polluting site. Yet millions of people around the world do, and this puts them at a much higher risk for respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological damage, cancer, and death. In the United States, people of color are 1.5 times more likely than whites to live in areas with poor air quality, according to the ALA.

Historically, racist zoning policies and discriminatory lending practices known as  redlining  have combined to keep polluting industries and car-choked highways away from white neighborhoods and have turned communities of color—especially low-income and working-class communities of color—into sacrifice zones, where residents are forced to breathe dirty air and suffer the many health problems associated with it. In addition to the increased health risks that come from living in such places, the polluted air can economically harm residents in the form of missed workdays and higher medical costs.

Environmental racism isn't limited to cities and industrial areas. Outdoor laborers, including the estimated three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States, are among the most vulnerable to air pollution—and they’re also among the least equipped, politically, to pressure employers and lawmakers to affirm their right to breathe clean air.

Recently,  cumulative impact mapping , which uses data on environmental conditions and demographics, has been able to show how some communities are overburdened with layers of issues, like high levels of poverty, unemployment, and pollution. Tools like the  Environmental Justice Screening Method  and the EPA’s  EJScreen  provide evidence of what many environmental justice communities have been explaining for decades: that we need land use and public health reforms to ensure that vulnerable areas are not overburdened and that the people who need resources the most are receiving them.

In the United States, the  Clean Air Act  has been a crucial tool for reducing air pollution since its passage in 1970, although fossil fuel interests aided by industry-friendly lawmakers have frequently attempted to  weaken its many protections. Ensuring that this bedrock environmental law remains intact and properly enforced will always be key to maintaining and improving our air quality.

But the best, most effective way to control air pollution is to speed up our transition to cleaner fuels and industrial processes. By switching over to renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar power), maximizing fuel efficiency in our vehicles, and replacing more and more of our gasoline-powered cars and trucks with electric versions, we'll be limiting air pollution at its source while also curbing the global warming that heightens so many of its worst health impacts.

And what about the economic costs of controlling air pollution? According to a report on the Clean Air Act commissioned by NRDC, the annual  benefits of cleaner air  are up to 32 times greater than the cost of clean air regulations. Those benefits include up to 370,000 avoided premature deaths, 189,000 fewer hospital admissions for cardiac and respiratory illnesses, and net economic benefits of up to $3.8 trillion for the U.S. economy every year.

“The less gasoline we burn, the better we’re doing to reduce air pollution and the harmful effects of climate change,” Walke explains. “Make good choices about transportation. When you can, ride a bike, walk, or take public transportation. For driving, choose a car that gets better miles per gallon of gas or  buy an electric car .” You can also investigate your power provider options—you may be able to request that your electricity be supplied by wind or solar. Buying your food locally cuts down on the fossil fuels burned in trucking or flying food in from across the world. And most important: “Support leaders who push for clean air and water and responsible steps on climate change,” Walke says.

  • “When you see in the news or hear on the weather report that pollution levels are high, it may be useful to limit the time when children go outside or you go for a jog,” Walke says. Generally, ozone levels tend to be lower in the morning.
  • If you exercise outside, stay as far as you can from heavily trafficked roads. Then shower and wash your clothes to remove fine particles.
  • The air may look clear, but that doesn’t mean it’s pollution free. Utilize tools like the EPA’s air pollution monitor,  AirNow , to get the latest conditions. If the air quality is bad, stay inside with the windows closed.
  • If you live or work in an area that’s prone to wildfires,  stay away from the harmful smoke  as much as you’re able. Consider keeping a small stock of masks to wear when conditions are poor. The most ideal masks for smoke particles will be labelled “NIOSH” (which stands for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and have either “N95” or “P100” printed on it.
  • If you’re using an air conditioner while outdoor pollution conditions are bad, use the recirculating setting to limit the amount of polluted air that gets inside. 

This story was originally published on November 1, 2016, and has been updated with new information and links.

This NRDC.org story is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the story was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the story cannot be edited (beyond simple things such as grammar); you can’t resell the story in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select stories individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our stories.

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4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution

4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air, which can be harmful and impose significant health risks to the population, including increased chances of coronary and respiratory diseases, as well as preliminary deaths. Made up of chemicals and pollutant particles, air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime . Read on to learn about the major causes and effects of air pollution. 

Sources of Air Pollution

1. burning fossil fuels.

The biggest contributors of air pollution are from industry sources and power plants to generate power, as well as fossil fuel motor vehicles. The continuous burning of fossil fuels releases air pollutants, emissions and chemicals into the air and atmosphere. 

In 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that about 68 million tons of air pollution were emitted into the atmosphere in the US, contributing to the “formation of ozone and particles, the deposition of acids, and visibility impairment.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed limits. Developing and low-income countries experienced the greatest impacts from outdoor air pollution, particularly in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. 

Climate change has an interrelated relationship with the environment and air pollution. As more air pollutants and greenhouse gases are released, this alters the energy balance between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface , which leads to global warming. The global temperature increase in turns raises the production of allergenic air pollutants such as mold and extends pollen seasons. 

2. Ozone and Smog

Ozone is a gas that when it forms air pollution and reaches too close to the ground, it significantly reduces visibility. We call this smog. This form of air pollution occurs when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides released from car exhausts and coal power plants. The ozone typically forms a protective layer in the atmosphere to protect the population from ultraviolet radiation (UV), but as it transforms into smog, it is harmful to human health and poses higher risks of respiratory illnesses like asthma and lung cancer. 

3. Weather Conditions

Air pollution and poor air quality can be attributed to changing weather conditions. For example, dust storms in China would carry clouds of industrial pollutants and particulate pollution across the Gobi desert into neighbouring countries such as Korea and Japan during spring season. Likewise during periods of high air pressure, air becomes stagnant and pollutants are more concentrated over certain areas. 

4. Heatwaves and Wildfires

Heatwaves not only lead to an increase of temperature, but are some of the causes and effects of air pollution. Hotter, stagnant air during a heat wave increases the concentration of particle pollutants. Extreme heat wave events also have higher risks of large-scale wildfires, which in turn, releases more carbon emissions, smog and pollutants into the air. 

You might also like: 15 Most Polluted Cities in the World

Effects of Air Pollution 

Air pollution contributes to the death of 5 million every year and about 6% of the global population, according to Our World in Data . The lethal combination of outdoor air pollution and toxic emissions from burning fossil fuel has been one of the leading causes of chronic and often terminal health issues including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections. 

The WHO estimates that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants. In 2017, close to 15% of population deaths in low income countries like South and East Asia are attributed to air pollution, while the higher income countries experience only about 2%. 

The drastic difference in mortality numbers can be linked to legislations such as the Clean Air Act implemented by high-income countries like the US. Such legislations usually establishes national air quality standards and regulations on hazardous air pollutants. The UK in particular, saw a sharp 60% decline in air pollutant emissions between the 1970 and 2016. 

The environmental effects of air pollution are also vast, ranging from acid rain to contributing to birth defects, reproductive failure, and diseases in wildlife animals. Agriculture is also a victim of air pollution as increased pollutants can affect crop and forest yields, reduce growth  and increased plant susceptibility to disease from increased UV radiation caused by ozone depletion.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution has once again returned to the spotlight in relation to its role in transmitting virus molecules. Preliminary studies have identified a positive correlation between COVID-19-related mortalities and air pollution. China, being one of the most polluted countries in the world, can potentially link its high death toll during the pandemic to its poor air quality. Although, more research needs to be conducted to make any substantive correlation.

You might also like: History of Air Pollution: Have We Reached the Point of No Return?

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Air pollution.

Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. It also damages buildings.

Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Geography

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Morgan Stanley

Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. It also damages buildings. Pollutants in the air take many forms. They can be gases , solid particles , or liquid droplets. Sources of Air Pollution Pollution enters the Earth's atmosphere in many different ways. Most air pollution is created by people, taking the form of emissions from factories, cars, planes, or aerosol cans . Second-hand cigarette smoke is also considered air pollution . These man-made sources of pollution are called anthropogenic sources . Some types of air pollution , such as smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes , occur naturally. These are called natural sources . Air pollution is most common in large cities where emissions from many different sources are concentrated . Sometimes, mountains or tall buildings prevent air pollution from spreading out. This air pollution often appears as a cloud making the air murky. It is called smog . The word " smog " comes from combining the words " smoke " and " fog ." Large cities in poor and developing nations tend to have more air pollution than cities in developed nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , some of the worlds most polluted cities are Karachi, Pakistan; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Lima, Peru; and Cairo, Egypt. However, many developed nations also have air pollution problems. Los Angeles, California, is nicknamed Smog City. Indoor Air Pollution Air pollution is usually thought of as smoke from large factories or exhaust from vehicles. But there are many types of indoor air pollution as well. Heating a house by burning substances such as kerosene , wood, and coal can contaminate the air inside the house. Ash and smoke make breathing difficult, and they can stick to walls, food, and clothing. Naturally-occurring radon gas , a cancer -causing material, can also build up in homes. Radon is released through the surface of the Earth. Inexpensive systems installed by professionals can reduce radon levels. Some construction materials, including insulation , are also dangerous to people's health. In addition, ventilation , or air movement, in homes and rooms can lead to the spread of toxic mold . A single colony of mold may exist in a damp, cool place in a house, such as between walls. The mold 's spores enter the air and spread throughout the house. People can become sick from breathing in the spores . Effects On Humans People experience a wide range of health effects from being exposed to air pollution . Effects can be broken down into short-term effects and long-term effects . Short-term effects , which are temporary , include illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis . They also include discomfort such as irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin. Air pollution can also cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea . Bad smells made by factories, garbage , or sewer systems are considered air pollution , too. These odors are less serious but still unpleasant . Long-term effects of air pollution can last for years or for an entire lifetime. They can even lead to a person's death. Long-term health effects from air pollution include heart disease , lung cancer , and respiratory diseases such as emphysema . Air pollution can also cause long-term damage to people's nerves , brain, kidneys , liver , and other organs. Some scientists suspect air pollutants cause birth defects . Nearly 2.5 million people die worldwide each year from the effects of outdoor or indoor air pollution . People react differently to different types of air pollution . Young children and older adults, whose immune systems tend to be weaker, are often more sensitive to pollution. Conditions such as asthma , heart disease , and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution . The length of exposure and amount and type of pollutants are also factors.

Effects 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 . Regulation In addition to the international Kyoto Protocol , most developed nations have adopted laws to regulate emissions and reduce air pollution . In the United States, debate is under way about a system called cap and trade to limit emissions . This system would cap, or place a limit, on the amount of pollution a company is allowed. Companies that exceeded their cap would have to pay. Companies that polluted less than their cap could trade or sell their remaining pollution allowance to other companies. Cap and trade would essentially pay companies to limit pollution. In 2006 the World Health Organization issued new Air Quality Guidelines. The WHOs guidelines are tougher than most individual countries existing guidelines. The WHO guidelines aim to reduce air pollution -related deaths by 15 percent a year. Reduction Anybody can take steps to reduce air pollution . Millions of people every day make simple changes in their lives to do this. Taking public transportation instead of driving a car, or riding a bike instead of traveling in carbon dioxide - emitting vehicles are a couple of ways to reduce air pollution . Avoiding aerosol cans , recycling yard trimmings instead of burning them, and not smoking cigarettes are others.

Downwinders The United States conducted tests of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site in southern Nevada in the 1950s. These tests sent invisible radioactive particles into the atmosphere. These air pollution particles traveled with wind currents, eventually falling to Earth, sometimes hundreds of miles away in states including Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Washington. These areas were considered to be "downwind" from the Nevada Test Site. Decades later, people living in those downwind areascalled "downwinders"began developing cancer at above-normal rates. In 1990, the U.S. government passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. This law entitles some downwinders to payments of $50,000.

Greenhouse Gases There are five major greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere.

  • water vapor
  • carbon dioxide
  • nitrous oxide

London Smog What has come to be known as the London Smog of 1952, or the Great Smog of 1952, was a four-day incident that sickened 100,000 people and caused as many as 12,000 deaths. Very cold weather in December 1952 led residents of London, England, to burn more coal to keep warm. Smoke and other pollutants became trapped by a thick fog that settled over the city. The polluted fog became so thick that people could only see a few meters in front of them.

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Related Resources

Essay on Air Pollution for Students and Children

500+ words essay on air pollution.

Essay on Air Pollution – Earlier the air we breathe in use to be pure and fresh. But, due to increasing industrialization and concentration of poisonous gases in the environment the air is getting more and more toxic day by day. Also, these gases are the cause of many respiratory and other diseases . Moreover, the rapidly increasing human activities like the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation is the major cause of air pollution.

Essay on Air Pollution

How Air Gets Polluted?

The fossil fuel , firewood, and other things that we burn produce oxides of carbons which got released into the atmosphere. Earlier there happens to be a large number of trees which can easily filter the air we breathe in. But with the increase in demand for land, the people started cutting down of trees which caused deforestation. That ultimately reduced the filtering capacity of the tree.

Moreover, during the last few decades, the numbers of fossil fuel burning vehicle increased rapidly which increased the number of pollutants in the air .

Causes Of Air Pollution

Its causes include burning of fossil fuel and firewood, smoke released from factories , volcanic eruptions, forest fires, bombardment, asteroids, CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons), carbon oxides and many more.

Besides, there are some other air pollutants like industrial waste, agricultural waste, power plants, thermal nuclear plants, etc.

Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is also the cause of air pollution because air pollution produces the gases that greenhouse involves. Besides, it increases the temperature of earth surface so much that the polar caps are melting and most of the UV rays are easily penetrating the surface of the earth.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Effects Of Air Pollution On Health

essay about air pollution cause and effect

Moreover, it increases the rate of aging of lungs, decreases lungs function, damage cells in the respiratory system.

Ways To Reduce Air Pollution

Although the level of air pollution has reached a critical point. But, there are still ways by which we can reduce the number of air pollutants from the air.

Reforestation- The quality of air can be improved by planting more and more trees as they clean and filter the air.

Policy for industries- Strict policy for industries related to the filter of gases should be introduced in the countries. So, we can minimize the toxins released from factories.

Use of eco-friendly fuel-  We have to adopt the usage of Eco-friendly fuels such as LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), bio-gas, and other eco-friendly fuels. So, we can reduce the amount of harmful toxic gases.

To sum it up, we can say that the air we breathe is getting more and more polluted day by day. The biggest contribution to the increase in air pollution is of fossil fuels which produce nitric and sulphuric oxides. But, humans have taken this problem seriously and are devotedly working to eradicate the problem that they have created.

Above all, many initiatives like plant trees, use of eco-friendly fuel are promoted worldwide.

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Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review

Ioannis manisalidis.

1 Delphis S.A., Kifisia, Greece

2 Laboratory of Hygiene and Environmental Protection, Faculty of Medicine, Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, Greece

Elisavet Stavropoulou

3 Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV), Service de Médicine Interne, Lausanne, Switzerland

Agathangelos Stavropoulos

4 School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Eugenia Bezirtzoglou

One of our era's greatest scourges is air pollution, on account not only of its impact on climate change but also its impact on public and individual health due to increasing morbidity and mortality. There are many pollutants that are major factors in disease in humans. Among them, Particulate Matter (PM), particles of variable but very small diameter, penetrate the respiratory system via inhalation, causing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, reproductive and central nervous system dysfunctions, and cancer. Despite the fact that ozone in the stratosphere plays a protective role against ultraviolet irradiation, it is harmful when in high concentration at ground level, also affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular system. Furthermore, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), dioxins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are all considered air pollutants that are harmful to humans. Carbon monoxide can even provoke direct poisoning when breathed in at high levels. Heavy metals such as lead, when absorbed into the human body, can lead to direct poisoning or chronic intoxication, depending on exposure. Diseases occurring from the aforementioned substances include principally respiratory problems such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, bronchiolitis, and also lung cancer, cardiovascular events, central nervous system dysfunctions, and cutaneous diseases. Last but not least, climate change resulting from environmental pollution affects the geographical distribution of many infectious diseases, as do natural disasters. The only way to tackle this problem is through public awareness coupled with a multidisciplinary approach by scientific experts; national and international organizations must address the emergence of this threat and propose sustainable solutions.

Approach to the Problem

The interactions between humans and their physical surroundings have been extensively studied, as multiple human activities influence the environment. The environment is a coupling of the biotic (living organisms and microorganisms) and the abiotic (hydrosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere).

Pollution is defined as the introduction into the environment of substances harmful to humans and other living organisms. Pollutants are harmful solids, liquids, or gases produced in higher than usual concentrations that reduce the quality of our environment.

Human activities have an adverse effect on the environment by polluting the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the soil in which plants grow. Although the industrial revolution was a great success in terms of technology, society, and the provision of multiple services, it also introduced the production of huge quantities of pollutants emitted into the air that are harmful to human health. Without any doubt, the global environmental pollution is considered an international public health issue with multiple facets. Social, economic, and legislative concerns and lifestyle habits are related to this major problem. Clearly, urbanization and industrialization are reaching unprecedented and upsetting proportions worldwide in our era. Anthropogenic air pollution is one of the biggest public health hazards worldwide, given that it accounts for about 9 million deaths per year ( 1 ).

Without a doubt, all of the aforementioned are closely associated with climate change, and in the event of danger, the consequences can be severe for mankind ( 2 ). Climate changes and the effects of global planetary warming seriously affect multiple ecosystems, causing problems such as food safety issues, ice and iceberg melting, animal extinction, and damage to plants ( 3 , 4 ).

Air pollution has various health effects. The health of susceptible and sensitive individuals can be impacted even on low air pollution days. Short-term exposure to air pollutants is closely related to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, asthma, respiratory disease, and high rates of hospitalization (a measurement of morbidity).

The long-term effects associated with air pollution are chronic asthma, pulmonary insufficiency, cardiovascular diseases, and cardiovascular mortality. According to a Swedish cohort study, diabetes seems to be induced after long-term air pollution exposure ( 5 ). Moreover, air pollution seems to have various malign health effects in early human life, such as respiratory, cardiovascular, mental, and perinatal disorders ( 3 ), leading to infant mortality or chronic disease in adult age ( 6 ).

National reports have mentioned the increased risk of morbidity and mortality ( 1 ). These studies were conducted in many places around the world and show a correlation between daily ranges of particulate matter (PM) concentration and daily mortality. Climate shifts and global planetary warming ( 3 ) could aggravate the situation. Besides, increased hospitalization (an index of morbidity) has been registered among the elderly and susceptible individuals for specific reasons. Fine and ultrafine particulate matter seems to be associated with more serious illnesses ( 6 ), as it can invade the deepest parts of the airways and more easily reach the bloodstream.

Air pollution mainly affects those living in large urban areas, where road emissions contribute the most to the degradation of air quality. There is also a danger of industrial accidents, where the spread of a toxic fog can be fatal to the populations of the surrounding areas. The dispersion of pollutants is determined by many parameters, most notably atmospheric stability and wind ( 6 ).

In developing countries ( 7 ), the problem is more serious due to overpopulation and uncontrolled urbanization along with the development of industrialization. This leads to poor air quality, especially in countries with social disparities and a lack of information on sustainable management of the environment. The use of fuels such as wood fuel or solid fuel for domestic needs due to low incomes exposes people to bad-quality, polluted air at home. It is of note that three billion people around the world are using the above sources of energy for their daily heating and cooking needs ( 8 ). In developing countries, the women of the household seem to carry the highest risk for disease development due to their longer duration exposure to the indoor air pollution ( 8 , 9 ). Due to its fast industrial development and overpopulation, China is one of the Asian countries confronting serious air pollution problems ( 10 , 11 ). The lung cancer mortality observed in China is associated with fine particles ( 12 ). As stated already, long-term exposure is associated with deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system ( 3 , 5 ). However, it is interesting to note that cardiovascular diseases have mostly been observed in developed and high-income countries rather than in the developing low-income countries exposed highly to air pollution ( 13 ). Extreme air pollution is recorded in India, where the air quality reaches hazardous levels. New Delhi is one of the more polluted cities in India. Flights in and out of New Delhi International Airport are often canceled due to the reduced visibility associated with air pollution. Pollution is occurring both in urban and rural areas in India due to the fast industrialization, urbanization, and rise in use of motorcycle transportation. Nevertheless, biomass combustion associated with heating and cooking needs and practices is a major source of household air pollution in India and in Nepal ( 14 , 15 ). There is spatial heterogeneity in India, as areas with diverse climatological conditions and population and education levels generate different indoor air qualities, with higher PM 2.5 observed in North Indian states (557–601 μg/m 3 ) compared to the Southern States (183–214 μg/m 3 ) ( 16 , 17 ). The cold climate of the North Indian areas may be the main reason for this, as longer periods at home and more heating are necessary compared to in the tropical climate of Southern India. Household air pollution in India is associated with major health effects, especially in women and young children, who stay indoors for longer periods. Chronic obstructive respiratory disease (CORD) and lung cancer are mostly observed in women, while acute lower respiratory disease is seen in young children under 5 years of age ( 18 ).

Accumulation of air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide and smoke, reaching 1,500 mg/m3, resulted in an increase in the number of deaths (4,000 deaths) in December 1952 in London and in 1963 in New York City (400 deaths) ( 19 ). An association of pollution with mortality was reported on the basis of monitoring of outdoor pollution in six US metropolitan cities ( 20 ). In every case, it seems that mortality was closely related to the levels of fine, inhalable, and sulfate particles more than with the levels of total particulate pollution, aerosol acidity, sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen dioxide ( 20 ).

Furthermore, extremely high levels of pollution are reported in Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, followed by Milan, Ankara, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Moscow ( 19 ).

Based on the magnitude of the public health impact, it is certain that different kinds of interventions should be taken into account. Success and effectiveness in controlling air pollution, specifically at the local level, have been reported. Adequate technological means are applied considering the source and the nature of the emission as well as its impact on health and the environment. The importance of point sources and non-point sources of air pollution control is reported by Schwela and Köth-Jahr ( 21 ). Without a doubt, a detailed emission inventory must record all sources in a given area. Beyond considering the above sources and their nature, topography and meteorology should also be considered, as stated previously. Assessment of the control policies and methods is often extrapolated from the local to the regional and then to the global scale. Air pollution may be dispersed and transported from one region to another area located far away. Air pollution management means the reduction to acceptable levels or possible elimination of air pollutants whose presence in the air affects our health or the environmental ecosystem. Private and governmental entities and authorities implement actions to ensure the air quality ( 22 ). Air quality standards and guidelines were adopted for the different pollutants by the WHO and EPA as a tool for the management of air quality ( 1 , 23 ). These standards have to be compared to the emissions inventory standards by causal analysis and dispersion modeling in order to reveal the problematic areas ( 24 ). Inventories are generally based on a combination of direct measurements and emissions modeling ( 24 ).

As an example, we state here the control measures at the source through the use of catalytic converters in cars. These are devices that turn the pollutants and toxic gases produced from combustion engines into less-toxic pollutants by catalysis through redox reactions ( 25 ). In Greece, the use of private cars was restricted by tracking their license plates in order to reduce traffic congestion during rush hour ( 25 ).

Concerning industrial emissions, collectors and closed systems can keep the air pollution to the minimal standards imposed by legislation ( 26 ).

Current strategies to improve air quality require an estimation of the economic value of the benefits gained from proposed programs. These proposed programs by public authorities, and directives are issued with guidelines to be respected.

In Europe, air quality limit values AQLVs (Air Quality Limit Values) are issued for setting off planning claims ( 27 ). In the USA, the NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) establish the national air quality limit values ( 27 ). While both standards and directives are based on different mechanisms, significant success has been achieved in the reduction of overall emissions and associated health and environmental effects ( 27 ). The European Directive identifies geographical areas of risk exposure as monitoring/assessment zones to record the emission sources and levels of air pollution ( 27 ), whereas the USA establishes global geographical air quality criteria according to the severity of their air quality problem and records all sources of the pollutants and their precursors ( 27 ).

In this vein, funds have been financing, directly or indirectly, projects related to air quality along with the technical infrastructure to maintain good air quality. These plans focus on an inventory of databases from air quality environmental planning awareness campaigns. Moreover, pollution measures of air emissions may be taken for vehicles, machines, and industries in urban areas.

Technological innovation can only be successful if it is able to meet the needs of society. In this sense, technology must reflect the decision-making practices and procedures of those involved in risk assessment and evaluation and act as a facilitator in providing information and assessments to enable decision makers to make the best decisions possible. Summarizing the aforementioned in order to design an effective air quality control strategy, several aspects must be considered: environmental factors and ambient air quality conditions, engineering factors and air pollutant characteristics, and finally, economic operating costs for technological improvement and administrative and legal costs. Considering the economic factor, competitiveness through neoliberal concepts is offering a solution to environmental problems ( 22 ).

The development of environmental governance, along with technological progress, has initiated the deployment of a dialogue. Environmental politics has created objections and points of opposition between different political parties, scientists, media, and governmental and non-governmental organizations ( 22 ). Radical environmental activism actions and movements have been created ( 22 ). The rise of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are many times examined as to whether and in which way they have influenced means of communication and social movements such as activism ( 28 ). Since the 1990s, the term “digital activism” has been used increasingly and in many different disciplines ( 29 ). Nowadays, multiple digital technologies can be used to produce a digital activism outcome on environmental issues. More specifically, devices with online capabilities such as computers or mobile phones are being used as a way to pursue change in political and social affairs ( 30 ).

In the present paper, we focus on the sources of environmental pollution in relation to public health and propose some solutions and interventions that may be of interest to environmental legislators and decision makers.

Sources of Exposure

It is known that the majority of environmental pollutants are emitted through large-scale human activities such as the use of industrial machinery, power-producing stations, combustion engines, and cars. Because these activities are performed at such a large scale, they are by far the major contributors to air pollution, with cars estimated to be responsible for approximately 80% of today's pollution ( 31 ). Some other human activities are also influencing our environment to a lesser extent, such as field cultivation techniques, gas stations, fuel tanks heaters, and cleaning procedures ( 32 ), as well as several natural sources, such as volcanic and soil eruptions and forest fires.

The classification of air pollutants is based mainly on the sources producing pollution. Therefore, it is worth mentioning the four main sources, following the classification system: Major sources, Area sources, Mobile sources, and Natural sources.

Major sources include the emission of pollutants from power stations, refineries, and petrochemicals, the chemical and fertilizer industries, metallurgical and other industrial plants, and, finally, municipal incineration.

Indoor area sources include domestic cleaning activities, dry cleaners, printing shops, and petrol stations.

Mobile sources include automobiles, cars, railways, airways, and other types of vehicles.

Finally, natural sources include, as stated previously, physical disasters ( 33 ) such as forest fire, volcanic erosion, dust storms, and agricultural burning.

However, many classification systems have been proposed. Another type of classification is a grouping according to the recipient of the pollution, as follows:

Air pollution is determined as the presence of pollutants in the air in large quantities for long periods. Air pollutants are dispersed particles, hydrocarbons, CO, CO 2 , NO, NO 2 , SO 3 , etc.

Water pollution is organic and inorganic charge and biological charge ( 10 ) at high levels that affect the water quality ( 34 , 35 ).

Soil pollution occurs through the release of chemicals or the disposal of wastes, such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and pesticides.

Air pollution can influence the quality of soil and water bodies by polluting precipitation, falling into water and soil environments ( 34 , 36 ). Notably, the chemistry of the soil can be amended due to acid precipitation by affecting plants, cultures, and water quality ( 37 ). Moreover, movement of heavy metals is favored by soil acidity, and metals are so then moving into the watery environment. It is known that heavy metals such as aluminum are noxious to wildlife and fishes. Soil quality seems to be of importance, as soils with low calcium carbonate levels are at increased jeopardy from acid rain. Over and above rain, snow and particulate matter drip into watery ' bodies ( 36 , 38 ).

Lastly, pollution is classified following type of origin:

Radioactive and nuclear pollution , releasing radioactive and nuclear pollutants into water, air, and soil during nuclear explosions and accidents, from nuclear weapons, and through handling or disposal of radioactive sewage.

Radioactive materials can contaminate surface water bodies and, being noxious to the environment, plants, animals, and humans. It is known that several radioactive substances such as radium and uranium concentrate in the bones and can cause cancers ( 38 , 39 ).

Noise pollution is produced by machines, vehicles, traffic noises, and musical installations that are harmful to our hearing.

The World Health Organization introduced the term DALYs. The DALYs for a disease or health condition is defined as the sum of the Years of Life Lost (YLL) due to premature mortality in the population and the Years Lost due to Disability (YLD) for people living with the health condition or its consequences ( 39 ). In Europe, air pollution is the main cause of disability-adjusted life years lost (DALYs), followed by noise pollution. The potential relationships of noise and air pollution with health have been studied ( 40 ). The study found that DALYs related to noise were more important than those related to air pollution, as the effects of environmental noise on cardiovascular disease were independent of air pollution ( 40 ). Environmental noise should be counted as an independent public health risk ( 40 ).

Environmental pollution occurs when changes in the physical, chemical, or biological constituents of the environment (air masses, temperature, climate, etc.) are produced.

Pollutants harm our environment either by increasing levels above normal or by introducing harmful toxic substances. Primary pollutants are directly produced from the above sources, and secondary pollutants are emitted as by-products of the primary ones. Pollutants can be biodegradable or non-biodegradable and of natural origin or anthropogenic, as stated previously. Moreover, their origin can be a unique source (point-source) or dispersed sources.

Pollutants have differences in physical and chemical properties, explaining the discrepancy in their capacity for producing toxic effects. As an example, we state here that aerosol compounds ( 41 – 43 ) have a greater toxicity than gaseous compounds due to their tiny size (solid or liquid) in the atmosphere; they have a greater penetration capacity. Gaseous compounds are eliminated more easily by our respiratory system ( 41 ). These particles are able to damage lungs and can even enter the bloodstream ( 41 ), leading to the premature deaths of millions of people yearly. Moreover, the aerosol acidity ([H+]) seems to considerably enhance the production of secondary organic aerosols (SOA), but this last aspect is not supported by other scientific teams ( 38 ).

Climate and Pollution

Air pollution and climate change are closely related. Climate is the other side of the same coin that reduces the quality of our Earth ( 44 ). Pollutants such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and aerosols affect the amount of incoming sunlight. As a result, the temperature of the Earth is increasing, resulting in the melting of ice, icebergs, and glaciers.

In this vein, climatic changes will affect the incidence and prevalence of both residual and imported infections in Europe. Climate and weather affect the duration, timing, and intensity of outbreaks strongly and change the map of infectious diseases in the globe ( 45 ). Mosquito-transmitted parasitic or viral diseases are extremely climate-sensitive, as warming firstly shortens the pathogen incubation period and secondly shifts the geographic map of the vector. Similarly, water-warming following climate changes leads to a high incidence of waterborne infections. Recently, in Europe, eradicated diseases seem to be emerging due to the migration of population, for example, cholera, poliomyelitis, tick-borne encephalitis, and malaria ( 46 ).

The spread of epidemics is associated with natural climate disasters and storms, which seem to occur more frequently nowadays ( 47 ). Malnutrition and disequilibration of the immune system are also associated with the emerging infections affecting public health ( 48 ).

The Chikungunya virus “took the airplane” from the Indian Ocean to Europe, as outbreaks of the disease were registered in Italy ( 49 ) as well as autochthonous cases in France ( 50 ).

An increase in cryptosporidiosis in the United Kingdom and in the Czech Republic seems to have occurred following flooding ( 36 , 51 ).

As stated previously, aerosols compounds are tiny in size and considerably affect the climate. They are able to dissipate sunlight (the albedo phenomenon) by dispersing a quarter of the sun's rays back to space and have cooled the global temperature over the last 30 years ( 52 ).

Air Pollutants

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports on six major air pollutants, namely particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead. Air pollution can have a disastrous effect on all components of the environment, including groundwater, soil, and air. Additionally, it poses a serious threat to living organisms. In this vein, our interest is mainly to focus on these pollutants, as they are related to more extensive and severe problems in human health and environmental impact. Acid rain, global warming, the greenhouse effect, and climate changes have an important ecological impact on air pollution ( 53 ).

Particulate Matter (PM) and Health

Studies have shown a relationship between particulate matter (PM) and adverse health effects, focusing on either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) PM exposure.

Particulate matter (PM) is usually formed in the atmosphere as a result of chemical reactions between the different pollutants. The penetration of particles is closely dependent on their size ( 53 ). Particulate Matter (PM) was defined as a term for particles by the United States Environmental Protection Agency ( 54 ). Particulate matter (PM) pollution includes particles with diameters of 10 micrometers (μm) or smaller, called PM 10 , and extremely fine particles with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers (μm) and smaller.

Particulate matter contains tiny liquid or solid droplets that can be inhaled and cause serious health effects ( 55 ). Particles <10 μm in diameter (PM 10 ) after inhalation can invade the lungs and even reach the bloodstream. Fine particles, PM 2.5 , pose a greater risk to health ( 6 , 56 ) ( Table 1 ).

Penetrability according to particle size.

Multiple epidemiological studies have been performed on the health effects of PM. A positive relation was shown between both short-term and long-term exposures of PM 2.5 and acute nasopharyngitis ( 56 ). In addition, long-term exposure to PM for years was found to be related to cardiovascular diseases and infant mortality.

Those studies depend on PM 2.5 monitors and are restricted in terms of study area or city area due to a lack of spatially resolved daily PM 2.5 concentration data and, in this way, are not representative of the entire population. Following a recent epidemiological study by the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health (Boston, MA) ( 57 ), it was reported that, as PM 2.5 concentrations vary spatially, an exposure error (Berkson error) seems to be produced, and the relative magnitudes of the short- and long-term effects are not yet completely elucidated. The team developed a PM 2.5 exposure model based on remote sensing data for assessing short- and long-term human exposures ( 57 ). This model permits spatial resolution in short-term effects plus the assessment of long-term effects in the whole population.

Moreover, respiratory diseases and affection of the immune system are registered as long-term chronic effects ( 58 ). It is worth noting that people with asthma, pneumonia, diabetes, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are especially susceptible and vulnerable to the effects of PM. PM 2.5 , followed by PM 10 , are strongly associated with diverse respiratory system diseases ( 59 ), as their size permits them to pierce interior spaces ( 60 ). The particles produce toxic effects according to their chemical and physical properties. The components of PM 10 and PM 2.5 can be organic (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, benzene, 1-3 butadiene) or inorganic (carbon, chlorides, nitrates, sulfates, metals) in nature ( 55 ).

Particulate Matter (PM) is divided into four main categories according to type and size ( 61 ) ( Table 2 ).

Types and sizes of particulate Matter (PM).

Gas contaminants include PM in aerial masses.

Particulate contaminants include contaminants such as smog, soot, tobacco smoke, oil smoke, fly ash, and cement dust.

Biological Contaminants are microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and bacterial spores), cat allergens, house dust and allergens, and pollen.

Types of Dust include suspended atmospheric dust, settling dust, and heavy dust.

Finally, another fact is that the half-lives of PM 10 and PM 2.5 particles in the atmosphere is extended due to their tiny dimensions; this permits their long-lasting suspension in the atmosphere and even their transfer and spread to distant destinations where people and the environment may be exposed to the same magnitude of pollution ( 53 ). They are able to change the nutrient balance in watery ecosystems, damage forests and crops, and acidify water bodies.

As stated, PM 2.5 , due to their tiny size, are causing more serious health effects. These aforementioned fine particles are the main cause of the “haze” formation in different metropolitan areas ( 12 , 13 , 61 ).

Ozone Impact in the Atmosphere

Ozone (O 3 ) is a gas formed from oxygen under high voltage electric discharge ( 62 ). It is a strong oxidant, 52% stronger than chlorine. It arises in the stratosphere, but it could also arise following chain reactions of photochemical smog in the troposphere ( 63 ).

Ozone can travel to distant areas from its initial source, moving with air masses ( 64 ). It is surprising that ozone levels over cities are low in contrast to the increased amounts occuring in urban areas, which could become harmful for cultures, forests, and vegetation ( 65 ) as it is reducing carbon assimilation ( 66 ). Ozone reduces growth and yield ( 47 , 48 ) and affects the plant microflora due to its antimicrobial capacity ( 67 , 68 ). In this regard, ozone acts upon other natural ecosystems, with microflora ( 69 , 70 ) and animal species changing their species composition ( 71 ). Ozone increases DNA damage in epidermal keratinocytes and leads to impaired cellular function ( 72 ).

Ground-level ozone (GLO) is generated through a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen and VOCs emitted from natural sources and/or following anthropogenic activities.

Ozone uptake usually occurs by inhalation. Ozone affects the upper layers of the skin and the tear ducts ( 73 ). A study of short-term exposure of mice to high levels of ozone showed malondialdehyde formation in the upper skin (epidermis) but also depletion in vitamins C and E. It is likely that ozone levels are not interfering with the skin barrier function and integrity to predispose to skin disease ( 74 ).

Due to the low water-solubility of ozone, inhaled ozone has the capacity to penetrate deeply into the lungs ( 75 ).

Toxic effects induced by ozone are registered in urban areas all over the world, causing biochemical, morphologic, functional, and immunological disorders ( 76 ).

The European project (APHEA2) focuses on the acute effects of ambient ozone concentrations on mortality ( 77 ). Daily ozone concentrations compared to the daily number of deaths were reported from different European cities for a 3-year period. During the warm period of the year, an observed increase in ozone concentration was associated with an increase in the daily number of deaths (0.33%), in the number of respiratory deaths (1.13%), and in the number of cardiovascular deaths (0.45%). No effect was observed during wintertime.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is produced by fossil fuel when combustion is incomplete. The symptoms of poisoning due to inhaling carbon monoxide include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and, finally, loss of consciousness.

The affinity of carbon monoxide to hemoglobin is much greater than that of oxygen. In this vein, serious poisoning may occur in people exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide for a long period of time. Due to the loss of oxygen as a result of the competitive binding of carbon monoxide, hypoxia, ischemia, and cardiovascular disease are observed.

Carbon monoxide affects the greenhouses gases that are tightly connected to global warming and climate. This should lead to an increase in soil and water temperatures, and extreme weather conditions or storms may occur ( 68 ).

However, in laboratory and field experiments, it has been seen to produce increased plant growth ( 78 ).

Nitrogen Oxide (NO 2 )

Nitrogen oxide is a traffic-related pollutant, as it is emitted from automobile motor engines ( 79 , 80 ). It is an irritant of the respiratory system as it penetrates deep in the lung, inducing respiratory diseases, coughing, wheezing, dyspnea, bronchospasm, and even pulmonary edema when inhaled at high levels. It seems that concentrations over 0.2 ppm produce these adverse effects in humans, while concentrations higher than 2.0 ppm affect T-lymphocytes, particularly the CD8+ cells and NK cells that produce our immune response ( 81 ).It is reported that long-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide can be responsible for chronic lung disease. Long-term exposure to NO 2 can impair the sense of smell ( 81 ).

However, systems other than respiratory ones can be involved, as symptoms such as eye, throat, and nose irritation have been registered ( 81 ).

High levels of nitrogen dioxide are deleterious to crops and vegetation, as they have been observed to reduce crop yield and plant growth efficiency. Moreover, NO 2 can reduce visibility and discolor fabrics ( 81 ).

Sulfur Dioxide (SO 2 )

Sulfur dioxide is a harmful gas that is emitted mainly from fossil fuel consumption or industrial activities. The annual standard for SO 2 is 0.03 ppm ( 82 ). It affects human, animal, and plant life. Susceptible people as those with lung disease, old people, and children, who present a higher risk of damage. The major health problems associated with sulfur dioxide emissions in industrialized areas are respiratory irritation, bronchitis, mucus production, and bronchospasm, as it is a sensory irritant and penetrates deep into the lung converted into bisulfite and interacting with sensory receptors, causing bronchoconstriction. Moreover, skin redness, damage to the eyes (lacrimation and corneal opacity) and mucous membranes, and worsening of pre-existing cardiovascular disease have been observed ( 81 ).

Environmental adverse effects, such as acidification of soil and acid rain, seem to be associated with sulfur dioxide emissions ( 83 ).

Lead is a heavy metal used in different industrial plants and emitted from some petrol motor engines, batteries, radiators, waste incinerators, and waste waters ( 84 ).

Moreover, major sources of lead pollution in the air are metals, ore, and piston-engine aircraft. Lead poisoning is a threat to public health due to its deleterious effects upon humans, animals, and the environment, especially in the developing countries.

Exposure to lead can occur through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption. Trans- placental transport of lead was also reported, as lead passes through the placenta unencumbered ( 85 ). The younger the fetus is, the more harmful the toxic effects. Lead toxicity affects the fetal nervous system; edema or swelling of the brain is observed ( 86 ). Lead, when inhaled, accumulates in the blood, soft tissue, liver, lung, bones, and cardiovascular, nervous, and reproductive systems. Moreover, loss of concentration and memory, as well as muscle and joint pain, were observed in adults ( 85 , 86 ).

Children and newborns ( 87 ) are extremely susceptible even to minimal doses of lead, as it is a neurotoxicant and causes learning disabilities, impairment of memory, hyperactivity, and even mental retardation.

Elevated amounts of lead in the environment are harmful to plants and crop growth. Neurological effects are observed in vertebrates and animals in association with high lead levels ( 88 ).

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons(PAHs)

The distribution of PAHs is ubiquitous in the environment, as the atmosphere is the most important means of their dispersal. They are found in coal and in tar sediments. Moreover, they are generated through incomplete combustion of organic matter as in the cases of forest fires, incineration, and engines ( 89 ). PAH compounds, such as benzopyrene, acenaphthylene, anthracene, and fluoranthene are recognized as toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic substances. They are an important risk factor for lung cancer ( 89 ).

Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene, and xylene ( 90 ), have been found to be associated with cancer in humans ( 91 ). The use of new products and materials has actually resulted in increased concentrations of VOCs. VOCs pollute indoor air ( 90 ) and may have adverse effects on human health ( 91 ). Short-term and long-term adverse effects on human health are observed. VOCs are responsible for indoor air smells. Short-term exposure is found to cause irritation of eyes, nose, throat, and mucosal membranes, while those of long duration exposure include toxic reactions ( 92 ). Predictable assessment of the toxic effects of complex VOC mixtures is difficult to estimate, as these pollutants can have synergic, antagonistic, or indifferent effects ( 91 , 93 ).

Dioxins originate from industrial processes but also come from natural processes, such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions. They accumulate in foods such as meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish, and especially in the fatty tissue of animals ( 94 ).

Short-period exhibition to high dioxin concentrations may result in dark spots and lesions on the skin ( 94 ). Long-term exposure to dioxins can cause developmental problems, impairment of the immune, endocrine and nervous systems, reproductive infertility, and cancer ( 94 ).

Without any doubt, fossil fuel consumption is responsible for a sizeable part of air contamination. This contamination may be anthropogenic, as in agricultural and industrial processes or transportation, while contamination from natural sources is also possible. Interestingly, it is of note that the air quality standards established through the European Air Quality Directive are somewhat looser than the WHO guidelines, which are stricter ( 95 ).

Effect of Air Pollution on Health

The most common air pollutants are ground-level ozone and Particulates Matter (PM). Air pollution is distinguished into two main types:

Outdoor pollution is the ambient air pollution.

Indoor pollution is the pollution generated by household combustion of fuels.

People exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants experience disease symptoms and states of greater and lesser seriousness. These effects are grouped into short- and long-term effects affecting health.

Susceptible populations that need to be aware of health protection measures include old people, children, and people with diabetes and predisposing heart or lung disease, especially asthma.

As extensively stated previously, according to a recent epidemiological study from Harvard School of Public Health, the relative magnitudes of the short- and long-term effects have not been completely clarified ( 57 ) due to the different epidemiological methodologies and to the exposure errors. New models are proposed for assessing short- and long-term human exposure data more successfully ( 57 ). Thus, in the present section, we report the more common short- and long-term health effects but also general concerns for both types of effects, as these effects are often dependent on environmental conditions, dose, and individual susceptibility.

Short-term effects are temporary and range from simple discomfort, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, skin, throat, wheezing, coughing and chest tightness, and breathing difficulties, to more serious states, such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, and lung and heart problems. Short-term exposure to air pollution can also cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

These problems can be aggravated by extended long-term exposure to the pollutants, which is harmful to the neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems and causes cancer and even, rarely, deaths.

The long-term effects are chronic, lasting for years or the whole life and can even lead to death. Furthermore, the toxicity of several air pollutants may also induce a variety of cancers in the long term ( 96 ).

As stated already, respiratory disorders are closely associated with the inhalation of air pollutants. These pollutants will invade through the airways and will accumulate at the cells. Damage to target cells should be related to the pollutant component involved and its source and dose. Health effects are also closely dependent on country, area, season, and time. An extended exposure duration to the pollutant should incline to long-term health effects in relation also to the above factors.

Particulate Matter (PMs), dust, benzene, and O 3 cause serious damage to the respiratory system ( 97 ). Moreover, there is a supplementary risk in case of existing respiratory disease such as asthma ( 98 ). Long-term effects are more frequent in people with a predisposing disease state. When the trachea is contaminated by pollutants, voice alterations may be remarked after acute exposure. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be induced following air pollution, increasing morbidity and mortality ( 99 ). Long-term effects from traffic, industrial air pollution, and combustion of fuels are the major factors for COPD risk ( 99 ).

Multiple cardiovascular effects have been observed after exposure to air pollutants ( 100 ). Changes occurred in blood cells after long-term exposure may affect cardiac functionality. Coronary arteriosclerosis was reported following long-term exposure to traffic emissions ( 101 ), while short-term exposure is related to hypertension, stroke, myocardial infracts, and heart insufficiency. Ventricle hypertrophy is reported to occur in humans after long-time exposure to nitrogen oxide (NO 2 ) ( 102 , 103 ).

Neurological effects have been observed in adults and children after extended-term exposure to air pollutants.

Psychological complications, autism, retinopathy, fetal growth, and low birth weight seem to be related to long-term air pollution ( 83 ). The etiologic agent of the neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) is not yet known, although it is believed that extended exposure to air pollution seems to be a factor. Specifically, pesticides and metals are cited as etiological factors, together with diet. The mechanisms in the development of neurodegenerative disease include oxidative stress, protein aggregation, inflammation, and mitochondrial impairment in neurons ( 104 ) ( Figure 1 ).

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Impact of air pollutants on the brain.

Brain inflammation was observed in dogs living in a highly polluted area in Mexico for a long period ( 105 ). In human adults, markers of systemic inflammation (IL-6 and fibrinogen) were found to be increased as an immediate response to PNC on the IL-6 level, possibly leading to the production of acute-phase proteins ( 106 ). The progression of atherosclerosis and oxidative stress seem to be the mechanisms involved in the neurological disturbances caused by long-term air pollution. Inflammation comes secondary to the oxidative stress and seems to be involved in the impairment of developmental maturation, affecting multiple organs ( 105 , 107 ). Similarly, other factors seem to be involved in the developmental maturation, which define the vulnerability to long-term air pollution. These include birthweight, maternal smoking, genetic background and socioeconomic environment, as well as education level.

However, diet, starting from breast-feeding, is another determinant factor. Diet is the main source of antioxidants, which play a key role in our protection against air pollutants ( 108 ). Antioxidants are free radical scavengers and limit the interaction of free radicals in the brain ( 108 ). Similarly, genetic background may result in a differential susceptibility toward the oxidative stress pathway ( 60 ). For example, antioxidant supplementation with vitamins C and E appears to modulate the effect of ozone in asthmatic children homozygous for the GSTM1 null allele ( 61 ). Inflammatory cytokines released in the periphery (e.g., respiratory epithelia) upregulate the innate immune Toll-like receptor 2. Such activation and the subsequent events leading to neurodegeneration have recently been observed in lung lavage in mice exposed to ambient Los Angeles (CA, USA) particulate matter ( 61 ). In children, neurodevelopmental morbidities were observed after lead exposure. These children developed aggressive and delinquent behavior, reduced intelligence, learning difficulties, and hyperactivity ( 109 ). No level of lead exposure seems to be “safe,” and the scientific community has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the current screening guideline of 10 μg/dl ( 109 ).

It is important to state that impact on the immune system, causing dysfunction and neuroinflammation ( 104 ), is related to poor air quality. Yet, increases in serum levels of immunoglobulins (IgA, IgM) and the complement component C3 are observed ( 106 ). Another issue is that antigen presentation is affected by air pollutants, as there is an upregulation of costimulatory molecules such as CD80 and CD86 on macrophages ( 110 ).

As is known, skin is our shield against ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and other pollutants, as it is the most exterior layer of our body. Traffic-related pollutants, such as PAHs, VOCs, oxides, and PM, may cause pigmented spots on our skin ( 111 ). On the one hand, as already stated, when pollutants penetrate through the skin or are inhaled, damage to the organs is observed, as some of these pollutants are mutagenic and carcinogenic, and, specifically, they affect the liver and lung. On the other hand, air pollutants (and those in the troposphere) reduce the adverse effects of ultraviolet radiation UVR in polluted urban areas ( 111 ). Air pollutants absorbed by the human skin may contribute to skin aging, psoriasis, acne, urticaria, eczema, and atopic dermatitis ( 111 ), usually caused by exposure to oxides and photochemical smoke ( 111 ). Exposure to PM and cigarette smoking act as skin-aging agents, causing spots, dyschromia, and wrinkles. Lastly, pollutants have been associated with skin cancer ( 111 ).

Higher morbidity is reported to fetuses and children when exposed to the above dangers. Impairment in fetal growth, low birth weight, and autism have been reported ( 112 ).

Another exterior organ that may be affected is the eye. Contamination usually comes from suspended pollutants and may result in asymptomatic eye outcomes, irritation ( 112 ), retinopathy, or dry eye syndrome ( 113 , 114 ).

Environmental Impact of Air Pollution

Air pollution is harming not only human health but also the environment ( 115 ) in which we live. The most important environmental effects are as follows.

Acid rain is wet (rain, fog, snow) or dry (particulates and gas) precipitation containing toxic amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. They are able to acidify the water and soil environments, damage trees and plantations, and even damage buildings and outdoor sculptures, constructions, and statues.

Haze is produced when fine particles are dispersed in the air and reduce the transparency of the atmosphere. It is caused by gas emissions in the air coming from industrial facilities, power plants, automobiles, and trucks.

Ozone , as discussed previously, occurs both at ground level and in the upper level (stratosphere) of the Earth's atmosphere. Stratospheric ozone is protecting us from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. In contrast, ground-level ozone is harmful to human health and is a pollutant. Unfortunately, stratospheric ozone is gradually damaged by ozone-depleting substances (i.e., chemicals, pesticides, and aerosols). If this protecting stratospheric ozone layer is thinned, then UV radiation can reach our Earth, with harmful effects for human life (skin cancer) ( 116 ) and crops ( 117 ). In plants, ozone penetrates through the stomata, inducing them to close, which blocks CO 2 transfer and induces a reduction in photosynthesis ( 118 ).

Global climate change is an important issue that concerns mankind. As is known, the “greenhouse effect” keeps the Earth's temperature stable. Unhappily, anthropogenic activities have destroyed this protecting temperature effect by producing large amounts of greenhouse gases, and global warming is mounting, with harmful effects on human health, animals, forests, wildlife, agriculture, and the water environment. A report states that global warming is adding to the health risks of poor people ( 119 ).

People living in poorly constructed buildings in warm-climate countries are at high risk for heat-related health problems as temperatures mount ( 119 ).

Wildlife is burdened by toxic pollutants coming from the air, soil, or the water ecosystem and, in this way, animals can develop health problems when exposed to high levels of pollutants. Reproductive failure and birth effects have been reported.

Eutrophication is occurring when elevated concentrations of nutrients (especially nitrogen) stimulate the blooming of aquatic algae, which can cause a disequilibration in the diversity of fish and their deaths.

Without a doubt, there is a critical concentration of pollution that an ecosystem can tolerate without being destroyed, which is associated with the ecosystem's capacity to neutralize acidity. The Canada Acid Rain Program established this load at 20 kg/ha/yr ( 120 ).

Hence, air pollution has deleterious effects on both soil and water ( 121 ). Concerning PM as an air pollutant, its impact on crop yield and food productivity has been reported. Its impact on watery bodies is associated with the survival of living organisms and fishes and their productivity potential ( 121 ).

An impairment in photosynthetic rhythm and metabolism is observed in plants exposed to the effects of ozone ( 121 ).

Sulfur and nitrogen oxides are involved in the formation of acid rain and are harmful to plants and marine organisms.

Last but not least, as mentioned above, the toxicity associated with lead and other metals is the main threat to our ecosystems (air, water, and soil) and living creatures ( 121 ).

In 2018, during the first WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, the WHO's General Director, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called air pollution a “silent public health emergency” and “the new tobacco” ( 122 ).

Undoubtedly, children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, especially during their development. Air pollution has adverse effects on our lives in many different respects.

Diseases associated with air pollution have not only an important economic impact but also a societal impact due to absences from productive work and school.

Despite the difficulty of eradicating the problem of anthropogenic environmental pollution, a successful solution could be envisaged as a tight collaboration of authorities, bodies, and doctors to regularize the situation. Governments should spread sufficient information and educate people and should involve professionals in these issues so as to control the emergence of the problem successfully.

Technologies to reduce air pollution at the source must be established and should be used in all industries and power plants. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 set as a major target the reduction of GHG emissions to below 5% by 2012 ( 123 ). This was followed by the Copenhagen summit, 2009 ( 124 ), and then the Durban summit of 2011 ( 125 ), where it was decided to keep to the same line of action. The Kyoto protocol and the subsequent ones were ratified by many countries. Among the pioneers who adopted this important protocol for the world's environmental and climate “health” was China ( 3 ). As is known, China is a fast-developing economy and its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is expected to be very high by 2050, which is defined as the year of dissolution of the protocol for the decrease in gas emissions.

A more recent international agreement of crucial importance for climate change is the Paris Agreement of 2015, issued by the UNFCCC (United Nations Climate Change Committee). This latest agreement was ratified by a plethora of UN (United Nations) countries as well as the countries of the European Union ( 126 ). In this vein, parties should promote actions and measures to enhance numerous aspects around the subject. Boosting education, training, public awareness, and public participation are some of the relevant actions for maximizing the opportunities to achieve the targets and goals on the crucial matter of climate change and environmental pollution ( 126 ). Without any doubt, technological improvements makes our world easier and it seems difficult to reduce the harmful impact caused by gas emissions, we could limit its use by seeking reliable approaches.

Synopsizing, a global prevention policy should be designed in order to combat anthropogenic air pollution as a complement to the correct handling of the adverse health effects associated with air pollution. Sustainable development practices should be applied, together with information coming from research in order to handle the problem effectively.

At this point, international cooperation in terms of research, development, administration policy, monitoring, and politics is vital for effective pollution control. Legislation concerning air pollution must be aligned and updated, and policy makers should propose the design of a powerful tool of environmental and health protection. As a result, the main proposal of this essay is that we should focus on fostering local structures to promote experience and practice and extrapolate these to the international level through developing effective policies for sustainable management of ecosystems.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest

IM is employed by the company Delphis S.A. The remaining authors declare that the present review paper was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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essay about air pollution cause and effect

by Chris Woodford . Last updated: November 22, 2022.

Photo: Air pollution is obvious when it pours from a smokestack (chimney), but it's not always so easy to spot. This is an old photo of the kind of smoke that used to come from coal-fired power plants and, apart from soot (unburned carbon particles), its pollutants include sulfur dioxide and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Thanks to tougher pollution controls, modern power plants produce only a fraction as much pollution. Modern pollution made by traffic consists of gases like nitrogen dioxide and "particulates" (microscopic soot and dust fragments) that are largely invisible.

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is a gas (or a liquid or solid dispersed through ordinary air) released in a big enough quantity to harm the health of people or other animals, kill plants or stop them growing properly, damage or disrupt some other aspect of the environment (such as making buildings crumble), or cause some other kind of nuisance (reduced visibility, perhaps, or an unpleasant odor).

Natural air pollution

Photo: Forest fires are a completely natural cause of air pollution. We'll never be able to prevent them breaking out or stop the pollution they cause; our best hope is to manage forests, where we can, so fires don't spread. Ironically, that can mean deliberately burning areas of forest, as shown here, to create firebreaks. Forests are also deliberately burned to regenerate ecosystems. Photo by courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service .

Top-ten kinds of air pollution Photo: Flying molecules—if you could see air pollution close up, this is what it would look like. Image courtesy of US Department of Energy. Any gas could qualify as pollution if it reached a high enough concentration to do harm. Theoretically, that means there are dozens of different pollution gases. It's important to note that not all the things we think of as pollution are gases: some are aerosols (liquids or solids dispersed through gases). In practice, about ten different substances cause most concern: Sulfur dioxide : Coal, petroleum, and other fuels are often impure and contain sulfur as well as organic (carbon-based) compounds. When sulfur (spelled "sulphur" in some countries) burns with oxygen from the air, sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ) is produced. Coal-fired power plants are the world's biggest source of sulfur-dioxide air pollution, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and health problems that include lung disease. [5] Large amounts of sulfur dioxide are also produced by ships, which use dirtier diesel fuel than cars and trucks. [6] Carbon monoxide : This highly dangerous gas forms when fuels have too little oxygen to burn completely. It spews out in car exhausts and it can also build up to dangerous levels inside your home if you have a poorly maintained gas boiler , stove, or fuel-burning appliance. (Always fit a carbon monoxide detector if you burn fuels indoors.) [7] Carbon dioxide : This gas is central to everyday life and isn't normally considered a pollutant: we all produce it when we breathe out and plants such as crops and trees need to "breathe" it in to grow. However, carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse gas released by engines and power plants. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, it's been building up in Earth's atmosphere and contributing to the problem of global warming and climate change . [8] Nitrogen oxides : Nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) and nitrogen oxide (NO) are pollutants produced as an indirect result of combustion, when nitrogen and oxygen from the air react together. Nitrogen oxide pollution comes from vehicle engines and power plants, and plays an important role in the formation of acid rain, ozone and smog. Nitrogen oxides are also "indirect greenhouse gases" (they contribute to global warming by producing ozone, which is a greenhouse gas). [9] Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) : These carbon-based (organic) chemicals evaporate easily at ordinary temperatures and pressures, so they readily become gases. That's precisely why they're used as solvents in many different household chemicals such as paints , waxes, and varnishes. Unfortunately, they're also a form of air pollution: they're believed to have long-term (chronic) effects on people's health and they play a role in the formation of ozone and smog. VOCs are also released by tobacco smoke and wildfires. [10] Particulates : There are many different kinds of particulates, from black soot in diesel exhaust to dust and organic matter from the desert. Airborne liquid droplets from farm pollution also count as particulates. Particulates of different sizes are often referred to by the letters PM followed by a number, so PM 10 means soot particles of less than 10 microns (10 millionths of a meter or 10µm in diameter, roughly 10 times thinner than a thick human hair). The smaller ("finer") the particulates, the deeper they travel into our lungs and the more dangerous they are. PM 2.5 particulates are much more dangerous (they're less than 2.5 millionths of a meter or about 40 times thinner than a typical hair). In cities, most particulates come from traffic fumes. [11] Ozone : Also called trioxygen, this is a type of oxygen gas whose molecules are made from three oxygen atoms joined together (so it has the chemical formula O 3 ), instead of just the two atoms in conventional oxygen (O 2 ). In the stratosphere (upper atmosphere), a band of ozone ("the ozone layer") protects us by screening out harmful ultraviolet radiation (high-energy blue light) beaming down from the Sun. At ground level, it's a toxic pollutant that can damage health. It forms when sunlight strikes a cocktail of other pollution and is a key ingredient of smog (see box below). [12] Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) : Once thought to be harmless, these gases were widely used in refrigerators and aerosol cans until it was discovered that they damaged Earth's ozone layer. We discuss this in more detail down below. [13] Unburned hydrocarbons : Petroleum and other fuels are made of organic compounds based on chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms. When they burn properly, they're completely converted into harmless carbon dioxide and water ; when they burn incompletely, they can release carbon monoxide or float into the air in their unburned form, contributing to smog. Lead and heavy metals : Lead and other toxic "heavy metals" can be spread into the air either as toxic compounds or as aerosols (when solids or liquids are dispersed through gases and carried through the air by them) in such things as exhaust fumes and the fly ash (contaminated waste dust) from incinerator smokestacks. [14] What are the causes of air pollution?

Photo: Even in the age of electric cars, traffic remains a major cause of air pollution. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (NREL photo id#46361).

Photo: Brown smog lingers over Denver, Colorado. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (NREL photo id#56919).

Chart: Most of the world's major cities routinely exceed World Health Organization (WHO) air pollution guidelines, though progress is being made: you can see that the 2022 figures (green) show a marked improvement on the 2016 ones (orange) in almost every case. This chart compares annual mean PM 2.5 levels in 12 representative cities around the world with the recently revised (2021) WHO guideline value of 5μg per cubic meter (dotted line). PM 2.5 particulates are those smaller than 2.5 microns and believed to be most closely linked with adverse health effects. For more about this chart and the data sources used, see note [22] .

Photo: Smokestacks billowing pollution over Moscow, Russia in 1994. Factory pollution is much less of a problem than it used to be in the world's "richer" countries—partly because a lot of their industry has been exported to nations such as China, India, and Mexico. Photo by Roger Taylor courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) .

What effects does air pollution have?

Photo: Air pollution can cause a variety of lung diseases and other respiratory problems. This chest X ray shows a lung disease called emphysema in the patient's left lung. A variety of things can cause it, including smoking and exposure to air pollution. Photo courtesy of National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health.

" In 2016, 91% of the world population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met." World Health Organization , 2018

Photo: For many years, the stonework on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece has been blackened by particulates from traffic pollution, but other sources of pollution, such as wood-burning stoves, are increasingly significant. Photo by Michael M. Reddy courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey .

How air pollution works on different scales

Indoor air pollution.

Photo: Air freshener—or air polluter?

Further reading

Acid rain—a closer look.

Photo: Acid rain can turn lakes so acidic that fish no longer survive. Picture courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Public Affairs. Why does that matter? Pure water is neither acidic nor alkaline but completely neutral (we say it has an acidity level or pH of 7.0). Ordinary rainwater is a little bit more acidic than this with about the same acidity as bananas (roughly pH 5.5), but if rain falls through sulfur dioxide pollution it can turn much more acidic (with a pH of 4.5 or lower, which is the same acidity as orange or lemon juice). When acid rain accumulates in lakes or rivers, it gradually turns the entire water more acidic. That's a real problem because fish thrive only in water that is neutral or slightly acidic (typically with a pH of 6.5–7.0). Once the acidity drops below about pH 6.0, fish soon start to die—and if the pH drops to about 4.0 or less, all the fish will be killed. Acid rain has caused major problems in lakes throughout North America and Europe. It also causes the death of forests, reduces the fertility of soil, and damages buildings by eating away stonework (the marble on the US Capitol in Washington, DC has been eroded by acid-rain, for example). One of the biggest difficulties in tackling acid rain is that it can happen over very long distances. In one notable case, sulfur dioxide air pollution produced by power plants in the UK was blamed for causing acid rain that fell on Scandinavian countries such as Norway, producing widespread damage to forests and the deaths of thousands of fish in acidified lakes. The British government refused to acknowledge the problem and that was partly why the UK became known as the "dirty man of Europe" in the 1980s and 1990s. [18] Acid rain was a particular problem in the last 30–40 years of the 20th century. Thanks to the decline in coal-fired power plants, and the sulfur dioxide they spewed out, it's less of a problem for western countries today. But it's still a big issue in places like India, where coal remains a major source of energy. Global air pollution It's hard to imagine doing anything so dramatic and serious that it would damage our entire, enormous planet—but, remarkable though it may seem, we all do things like this everyday, contributing to problems such as global warming and the damage to the ozone layer (two separate issues that are often confused). Global warming Every time you ride in a car, turn on the lights, switch on your TV , take a shower, microwave a meal, or use energy that's come from burning a fossil fuel such as oil, coal, or natural gas, you're almost certainly adding to the problem of global warming and climate change: unless it's been produced in some environmentally friendly way, the energy you're using has most likely released carbon dioxide gas into the air. While it's not an obvious pollutant, carbon dioxide has gradually built up in the atmosphere, along with other chemicals known as greenhouse gases . Together, these gases act a bit like a blanket surrounding our planet that is slowly making the mean global temperature rise, causing the climate (the long-term pattern of our weather) to change, and producing a variety of different effects on the natural world, including rising sea levels. Read more in our main article about global warming and climate change . Ozone holes

How can we solve the problem of air pollution?

Photo: Pollution solution: an electrostatic smoke precipitator helps to prevent air pollution from this smokestack at the McNeil biomass power plant in Burlington, VT. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

What can you do to help reduce air pollution?

Photo: Buying organic food reduces the use of sprayed pesticides and other chemicals, so it helps to reduce air (as well as water) pollution.

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Breathless by Chris Woodford paperback book cover rendered as dummy book.

  • Breathless: Why Air Pollution Matters—and How it Affects You by Chris Woodford. Icon, 2021. My new book explores the problem in much more depth than I've been able to go into here. You can also read a bonus chapter called Angels with dirty faces: How air pollution blackens our buildings and monuments .
  • The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution and How We Can Fight Back by Gary Fuller. Melville House, 2018.
  • Reducing Pollution and Waste by Jen Green. Raintree/Capstone, 2011. A 48-page introduction for ages 9–12. The emphasis here is on getting children to think about pollution: where it comes from, who makes it, and who should solve the problem.
  • Pollution Crisis by Russ Parker. Rosen, 2009. A 32-page guide for ages 8–10. It starts with a global survey of the problem; looks at air, water, and land pollution; then considers how we all need to be part of the solution.
  • Earth Matters by Lynn Dicks et al. Dorling Kindersley, 2008. This isn't specifically about pollution. Instead, it explores how a range of different environmental problems are testing life to the limit in the planet's major biomes (oceans, forests, and so on). I wrote the section of this book that covers the polar regions.
  • State of Global Air : One of the best sources of global air pollution data.
  • American Lung Association: State of the Air Report : A good source of data about the United States.
  • European Environment Agency: Air quality in Europe : A definitive overview of the situation in the European countries.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database : A spreadsheet of pollution data for most major cities in the world (a little out of date, but a new version is expected soon).
  • Our World in Data : Accessible guides to global data from Oxford University.
  • The New York Times Topics: Air Pollution
  • The Guardian: Pollution
  • Wired: Pollution
  • 'Invisible killer': fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, research finds by Oliver Milman. The Guardian, February 9, 2021. Pollution of various kinds causes something like one in five of all deaths.
  • Millions of masks distributed to students in 'gas chamber' Delhi : BBC News, 1 November 2019.
  • 90% of world's children are breathing toxic air, WHO study finds by Matthew Taylor. The Guardian, October 29, 2018. The air pollution affecting billions of children could continue to harm their health throughout their lives.
  • Pollution May Dim Thinking Skills, Study in China Suggests by Mike Ives. The New York Times, August 29, 2018. Long-term exposure to air pollution seems to cause a decline in cognitive skills.
  • Global pollution kills 9m a year and threatens 'survival of human societies' by Damian Carrington. The Guardian, October 19, 2017. Air, water, and land pollution kill millions, cost trillions, and threaten the very survival of humankind, a new study reveals.
  • India's Air Pollution Rivals China's as World's Deadliest by Geeta Anand. The New York Times, February 14, 2017. High levels of pollution could be killing 1.1 million Indians each year.
  • More Than 9 in 10 People Breathe Bad Air, WHO Study Says by Mike Ives. The New York Times, September 27, 2016. New WHO figures suggest the vast majority of us are compromising our health by breathing bad air.
  • Study Links 6.5 Million Deaths Each Year to Air Pollution by Stanley Reed. The New York Times, June 26, 2016. Air pollution deaths are far greater than previously supposed according to a new study by the International Energy Agency.
  • UK air pollution 'linked to 40,000 early deaths a year' by Michelle Roberts, BBC News, February 23, 2016. Diesel engines, cigarette smoke, and even air fresheners are among the causes of premature death from air pollution.
  • This Wearable Detects Pollution to Build Air Quality Maps in Real Time by Davey Alba. Wired, November 19, 2014. A wearable pollution gadget lets people track their exposure to air pollution through a smartphone app.
  • Air pollution and public health: emerging hazards and improved understanding of risk by Frank J. Kelly and Julia C. Fussell, Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 2015
  • Health effects of fine particulate air pollution: lines that connect by C.A. Pope and D.W. Dockery. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, 2006
  • Ambient and household air pollution: complex triggers of disease by Stephen A. Farmer et al, Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 2014

Text copyright © Chris Woodford 2010, 2022. All rights reserved. Full copyright notice and terms of use .

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  • Air Pollution Essay


Essay on Air Pollution

Environmental changes are caused by the natural or artificial content of harmful pollutants and can cause instability, disturbance, or adverse effects on the ecosystem. Earth and its environment pose a more serious threat due to the increasing pollution of air, water, and soil. Environmental damage is caused by improper resource management or careless human activities. Therefore, any activity that violates the original nature of the environment and leads to degradation is called pollution. We need to understand the origin of these pollutants and find ways to control pollution. This can also be done by raising awareness of the effects of pollutants.

Air pollution is any physical, chemical, or biological change in the air. A certain percentage of the gas is present in the atmosphere. Increasing or decreasing the composition of these gasses is detrimental to survival. This imbalance in gas composition causes an increase in global temperature which is called global warming.

Introduction to air pollution 

The Earth and its environment are facing a serious threat by the increasing pollution of the air, water, and soil—the vital life support systems of the Earth. The damage to the environment is caused by improper management of resources or by careless human activity. Hence any activity that violates the original character of nature and leads to its degradation is called pollution. We need to understand the sources of these pollutants and find ways to control pollution. This can be also done by making people aware of the effects of pollutants. 

Air with 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, and 1% of all other gasses support life on Earth. Various processes take place to sustain the regular percentage of gasses and their composition in general. 

Atmospheric pollution can have natural sources, for example, volcanic eruptions. The gaseous by-products of man-made processes such as energy production, waste incineration, transport, deforestation and agriculture, are the major air pollutants.

Although air is made up of mostly Oxygen and Nitrogen, mankind, through pollution, has increased the levels of many trace gasses, and in some cases, released completely new gasses to the atmosphere. 

Air pollution can result in poor air quality, both in cities and in the countryside. Some air pollutants make people sick, causing breathing problems and increasing the likelihood of cancer. 

Some air pollutants are harmful to plants, animals, and the ecosystems in which they live. Statues, monuments, and buildings are being corroded by the air pollutants in the form of acid rain. It also damages crops and forests, and makes lakes and streams unsuitable for fish and other plant and animal life. 

Air pollution created by man-made resources is also changing the Earth’s atmosphere. It is causing the depletion of the ozone layer and letting in more harmful radiation from the Sun. The greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere prevents heat from escaping back into space and leads to a rise in global average temperatures. Global warming affects the average sea-level and increases the spread of tropical diseases.

Air pollution occurs when large amounts of gas and tiny particles are released into the air and the ecological balance is disturbed. Each year millions of tons of gasses and particulate matter are emitted into the air. 

Primary air pollutants are pollutants, which are directly released into the air. They are called SPM, i.e., Suspended Particulate Matter. For example, smoke, dust, ash, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, and radioactive compounds, etc.

Secondary Pollutants are pollutants, which are formed due to chemical interactions between the atmospheric components and primary pollutants. For example, Smog (i.e. Smoke and fog), ozone, etc.

Major gaseous air pollutants include Carbon Dioxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide, etc.

Natural sources are volcanic eruptions, forest fires, dust storms, etc. 

Man-made sources include gasses released from the automobiles, industries, burning of garbage and bricks kilns, etc.

Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air pollution has adverse effects on human health. 

Breathing polluted air puts you at higher risk of asthma.

When exposed to ground ozone for 6 to 7 hours, people suffer from respiratory inflammation.

Damages the immune system, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

A high level of air pollution has been associated with higher incidents of heart problems.

The toxic chemicals released into the air are affecting the flora and fauna immensely.

Preventive Measures to Reduce Air Pollution

We can prevent pollution by utilizing raw materials, water energy, and other resources more efficiently. When less harmful substances are substituted for hazardous ones, and when toxic substances are eliminated from the production process, human health can be protected and economic wellbeing can be strengthened. 

There are several measures that can be adopted by people to reduce pollution and to save the environment.


Promotion of public transport.

No smoking zone.

Restricted use of fossil fuels.

Saving energy.

Encouraging organic farming.

The government has put restrictions on the amount of fossil fuels that can be used as well as restrictions on how much carbon dioxide and other pollutants can be emitted. Although the government is attempting to save our environment from these harmful gasses, it is not sufficient. We as a society need to keep the environment clean by controlling the pollution of air.


FAQs on Air Pollution Essay

1. State the Causes of Air Pollution ?

The following are the causes of air pollution.

Vehicular pollution consisting of Carbon Monoxide causes pollution.

Emission of Nitrogen oxide by a large number of supersonic transport airplanes causes deterioration of the Ozone layer and also causes serious damage to the flora and fauna.

The release of Chlorofluorocarbons into the Stratosphere causes depletion of Ozone, which is a serious concern to animals, microscopic, and aquatic organisms.

Burning garbage causes smoke, which pollutes the atmosphere. This smoke contains harmful gases such as Carbon dioxide and Nitrogen oxides.

In India, brick kilns are used for many purposes and coal is used to burn the bricks. They give out huge quantities of Carbon dioxide and particulate matter such as smoke, dust that are very harmful to people working there and the areas surrounding it. 

Many cleansing agents release poisonous gases such as Ammonia and Chlorine into the atmosphere. 

Radioactive elements emit harmful rays into the air.

Decomposed animals and plants emit Methane and Ammonia gas into the air.

2. What Does Global Warming Mean?

Global warming is the gradual rising average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere due to the concentration of methane in certain toxic gasses such as carbon dioxide. This has a major impact on the world climate. The world is warming. The land and the sea are now warmer than they were at the beginning and temperatures are still rising. This rise in temperature is, in short, global warming. This temperature rise is man-made. The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere which capture solar heat and raise surface and air temperatures.

3. Name the Alternative Modes of Transport. In What Way Does it Help to Reduce Air Pollution?

Public transport could be an alternative mode of transport. Public transport like trains, buses and trams, can relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution from road transport. The use of public transport must be encouraged in order to develop a sustainable transport policy.

4. Mention other means of transportation! How can I help reduce air pollution?

Public transportation can be another mode of transportation. Public transport such as trains, buses and trams can reduce traffic congestion and reduce air pollution from road transport. The use of public transport and to develop sustainable transport policies should be encouraged. While one passenger vehicle has the convenience factor, other modes of transportation reduce travel costs, spend less time, reduce stress, improve health, and reduce energy consumption and parking. Other trips for work include walking/cycling, public transport, hybrid travel and transport.

5. What are the effects of pollution?

Excessive air pollution can increase the risk of heart attack, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Air pollution can also cause heart problems, asthma, and other lung problems. Due to the emission of greenhouse gases, the composition of the air in the air is disturbed. This causes an increase in global temperature. The damaging ozone layer due to air pollution does not prevent harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, which cause skin and eye problems in individuals. Air pollution has caused a number of respiratory and heart diseases among people. The incidence of lung cancer has increased in recent decades. Children living in contaminated areas are more likely to develop pneumonia and asthma. Many people die every year due to the direct or indirect effects of air pollution. When burning fossil fuels, harmful gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the air. Water droplets combine with these pollutants and become acidic and fall as acid rain, which harms human, animal and plant life.

6. What is the solution to air pollution?

Production of renewable fuels and clean energy. The basic solution to air pollution is to get away from fossil fuels and replace them with other energies such as solar, wind and geothermal. The government limits the amount of fossil fuel that can be used and how much carbon dioxide and other pollutants it can emit. While the government is trying to save our environment from this harmful gas, it is not enough. We as a society need to keep the environment clean by controlling air pollution. To more in detail about air pollution and its causes. To learn more about air pollution and its impact on the environment, visit the Vedantu website.

  • Biology Article

Air Pollution Control

Air pollution & its control, air pollution definition.

“Air Pollution is the release of pollutants such as gases, particles, biological molecules, etc. into the air that is harmful to human health and the environment.”

Air Pollution Diagram

Air pollution

Table of Contents

What is Air Pollution?

Types of air pollutants, primary pollutants, secondary pollutants, causes of air pollution.

Air pollution refers to any physical, chemical or biological change in the air. It is the contamination of air by harmful gases, dust and smoke which affects plants, animals and humans drastically.

There is a certain percentage of gases present in the atmosphere. An increase or decrease in the composition of these gases is harmful to survival. This imbalance in the gaseous composition has resulted in an increase in earth’s temperature, which is known as global warming.

There are two types of air pollutants:

The pollutants that directly cause air pollution are known as primary pollutants. Sulphur-dioxide emitted from factories is a primary pollutant.

The pollutants formed by the intermingling and reaction of primary pollutants are known as secondary pollutants. Smog, formed by the intermingling of smoke and fog, is a secondary pollutant.

Also Read:  Water Pollution

Following are the important causes of air pollution:

Burning of Fossil Fuels

The combustion of fossil fuels emits a large amount of sulphur dioxide. Carbon monoxide released by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels also results in air pollution.


The gases emitted from vehicles such as jeeps, trucks, cars, buses, etc. pollute the environment. These are the major sources of greenhouse gases and also result in diseases among individuals.

Agricultural Activities

Ammonia is one of the most hazardous gases emitted during agricultural activities. The insecticides, pesticides and fertilisers emit harmful chemicals in the atmosphere and contaminate it.

Factories and Industries

Factories and industries are the main source of carbon monoxide, organic compounds, hydrocarbons and chemicals. These are released into the air, degrading its quality.

Mining Activities

In the mining process, the minerals below the earth are extracted using large pieces of equipment. The dust and chemicals released during the process not only pollute the air, but also deteriorate the health of the workers and people living in the nearby areas.

Domestic Sources

The household cleaning products and paints contain toxic chemicals that are released in the air. The smell from the newly painted walls is the smell of the chemicals present in the paints. It not only pollutes the air but also affects breathing.

Effects of Air Pollution

The hazardous effects of air pollution on the environment include:

Air pollution has resulted in several respiratory disorders and heart diseases among humans. The cases of lung cancer have increased in the last few decades. Children living near polluted areas are more prone to pneumonia and asthma. Many people die every year due to the direct or indirect effects of air pollution.

Global Warming

Due to the emission of greenhouse gases, there is an imbalance in the gaseous composition of the air. This has led to an increase in the temperature of the earth. This increase in earth’s temperature is known as global warming . This has resulted in the melting of glaciers and an increase in sea levels. Many areas are submerged underwater.

The burning of fossil fuels releases harmful gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides in the air. The water droplets combine with these pollutants, become acidic and fall as acid rain which damages human, animal and plant life.

Ozone Layer Depletion

The release of chlorofluorocarbons, halons, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere is the major cause of depletion of the ozone layer. The depleting ozone layer does not prevent the harmful ultraviolet rays coming from the sun and causes skin diseases and eye problems among individuals. Also Read:  Ozone Layer Depletion

Effect on Animals

The air pollutants suspend in the water bodies and affect aquatic life. Pollution also compels the animals to leave their habitat and shift to a new place. This renders them stray and has also led to the extinction of a large number of animal species.

Following are the measures one should adopt, to control air pollution:

Avoid Using Vehicles

People should avoid using vehicles for shorter distances. Rather, they should prefer public modes of transport to travel from one place to another. This not only prevents pollution, but also conserves energy.

Energy Conservation

A large number of fossil fuels are burnt to generate electricity. Therefore, do not forget to switch off the electrical appliances when not in use. Thus, you can save the environment at the individual level. Use of energy-efficient devices such as CFLs also controls pollution to a greater level.

Use of Clean Energy Resources

The use of solar, wind and geothermal energies reduce air pollution at a larger level. Various countries, including India, have implemented the use of these resources as a step towards a cleaner environment.

Other air pollution control measures include:

  • By minimising and reducing the use of fire and fire products.
  • Since industrial emissions are one of the major causes of air pollution, the pollutants can be controlled or treated at the source itself to reduce its effects. For example, if the reactions of a certain raw material yield a pollutant, then the raw materials can be substituted with other less polluting materials.
  • Fuel substitution is another way of controlling air pollution. In many parts of India, petrol and diesel are being replaced by CNG – Compressed Natural Gas fueled vehicles. These are mostly adopted by vehicles that aren’t fully operating with ideal emission engines.
  • Although there are many practices in India, which focus on repairing the quality of air, most of them are either forgotten or not being enforced properly. There are still a lot of vehicles on roads which haven’t been tested for vehicle emissions.
  • Another way of controlling air pollution caused by industries is to modify and maintain existing pieces of equipment so that the emission of pollutants is minimised.
  • Sometimes controlling pollutants at the source is not possible. In that case, we can have process control equipment to control the pollution.
  • A very effective way of controlling air pollution is by diluting the air pollutants.
  • The last and the best way of reducing the ill effects of air pollution is tree plantation. Plants and trees reduce a large number of pollutants in the air. Ideally, planting trees in areas of high pollution levels will be extremely effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Essay on Air Pollution for Students: Check Samples of 100 Words to 250 Words

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  • Sep 4, 2023

Essay on Air Pollution for Students

Essay on Air Pollution : Invisible but insidious, air pollution silently infiltrates our lives, impacting health, the environment, and future generations. Through this blog, let’s explore its roots, repercussions, and remedies, which are essential in our quest for cleaner, healthier skies. Essay writing here becomes more crucial, to raise awareness about air pollution’s dire consequences and drive action for cleaner air.

This Blog Includes:

What are the causes of air pollution, what are the effects of air pollution, essay on air pollution: how to tackle air pollution, essay on air pollution sample (100 words), essay on air pollution sample (250 words).

Must Read: Essay On Environment

Air pollution is caused by various factors, including:

  • Industrial Emissions: Factories and manufacturing processes release pollutants like chemicals and particulate matter into the air.
  • Vehicle Emissions: Combustion engines in cars, trucks, and aeroplanes emit exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
  • Burning Fossil Fuels: The use of coal, oil, and natural gas for energy generation and heating releases pollutants and greenhouse gases.
  • Agricultural Activities: Pesticides and fertilizers release chemicals, while livestock emit methane.
  • Deforestation: Cutting down trees reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb pollutants.
  • Waste Disposal: Improper disposal of waste leads to the release of harmful substances into the air.
  • Natural Sources: Volcanic eruptions, dust storms, and wildfires can also contribute to air pollution.

Air pollution poses severe health and environmental risks. Short-term exposure can lead to respiratory issues, eye irritation, and exacerbation of pre-existing conditions. Long-term exposure is linked to chronic diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disorders. 

Additionally, air pollution harms ecosystems, causing acid rain, damaging vegetation, and polluting water bodies. It also contributes to climate change by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. Addressing air pollution is crucial to safeguard human health and protecting the planet’s ecosystems and climate.

Addressing air pollution is paramount for a healthier planet. By curbing emissions, adopting clean technologies, and fostering sustainable practices, we can safeguard our environment and public health. Here are some key points on how to tackle air pollution:

  • Reduce Vehicle Emissions:
  • Improve Industrial Practices
  • Increase Green Spaces
  • Monitor and Regulate
  • Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
  • Promote Renewable Energy
  • Encourage Sustainable Practices
  • Raise Public Awareness:
  • Reduce Open Burning:
  • International Cooperation:

Tackling air pollution requires a multi-faceted approach involving government policies, community engagement, and individual responsibility.

Must Read: Essay On Global Warming

Air pollution is a pressing environmental issue with far-reaching consequences. It occurs when harmful substances, such as particulate matter and toxic gases, contaminate the atmosphere. These pollutants result from various sources, including industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, and agricultural activities.

The consequences of air pollution are severe, impacting both human health and the environment. Prolonged exposure to polluted air can lead to respiratory diseases, cardiovascular issues, and even premature death. Additionally, air pollution harms ecosystems, leading to reduced crop yields and biodiversity loss.

Mitigating air pollution requires collective efforts, including stricter emission regulations, cleaner energy sources, and promoting public awareness. By addressing this issue, we can safeguard our health and preserve the environment for future generations.

Air pollution is a pressing global issue that affects the health and well-being of people and the environment. It occurs when harmful substances, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, are released into the atmosphere. This pollution can have dire consequences for both humans and the planet.

First and foremost, air pollution poses a significant threat to human health. Particulate matter and toxic gases can enter the respiratory system, leading to various respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. Long-term exposure to polluted air has also been linked to cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and premature death. Vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk.

Additionally, air pollution has adverse effects on the environment. It contributes to climate change by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to rising global temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events. Moreover, pollutants can harm ecosystems, contaminate water bodies, and damage crops, impacting food security.

The sources of air pollution are diverse, including industrial processes, transportation, agriculture, and energy production. To combat this problem, governments, industries, and individuals must take collective action. Implementing stricter emission standards for vehicles and industrial facilities, transitioning to cleaner energy sources, and promoting public transportation are essential steps in reducing air pollution.

In conclusion, air pollution is a critical issue that affects human health and the environment. Its detrimental effects on respiratory health and its contributions to climate change necessitate urgent action. By adopting sustainable practices and reducing emissions, we can mitigate the impact of air pollution and create a healthier and more sustainable future for all.

Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials.

To prevent air pollution, reduce vehicle emissions by using public transport, carpooling, or opting for electric vehicles. Promote clean energy sources like wind and solar power. Implement strict industrial emissions standards. Encourage reforestation and green spaces. Educate the public about responsible waste disposal and advocate for clean energy policies.

We hope this blog gave you an idea about how to write and present an essay on air pollution that put forth your opinions. The skill of writing an essay comes in handy when appearing for standardized language tests. Thinking of taking one soon? Leverage Edu provides the best online test prep for the same via Leverage Live . Register today to know more!

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February 8, 2024

Air Pollution Threatens Millions of Lives. Now the Sources Are Shifting

As EPA tightens air pollution standards for particulate matter, new research suggests some components of that pollution could worsen with climate change

By Virginia Gewin

Hairdresser applies hair care product with spray

Sergii Kolesnikov/Getty Images

Particle-based ambient air pollution causes more than 4 million premature deaths each year globally, according to the World Health Organization. The tiniest particles—2.5 microns or smaller, known as PM 2.5 —pose the greatest health risk because they can travel deep into the lungs and may even get into the bloodstream.

Although total PM 2.5 levels have decreased 42 percent in the U.S. since 2000 as a result of clean air regulations, scientists are concerned about the health impacts of even low levels of such pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered the annual national air quality standard for PM 2.5 from 12 to nine micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m 3 ) this week. EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a press conference that officials estimate the new standard will save up to $46 billion dollars in avoided health care and hospitalization costs by 2032. “Health benefits will include up to 800,000 avoided cases of asthma symptoms, 4,500 avoided premature deaths, and 290,000 avoided lost workdays,” he said. The World Health Organization adopted an even lower 5 µg/m 3 standard in 2021, citing the growing evidence of deadly harm.

Beyond investigating their size, scientists are also digging into the chemistry of airborne particles, which, unlike other regulated pollutants such as lead and ozone, encompass a wide array of solid and liquid particles from soot to nitrate. Some airborne particles are directly emitted from car tailpipes or industrial sources; others form in the atmosphere. And the balance of those is shifting. To help states meet the tougher air standards, scientists will need more detailed studies of particle sources.

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In July 2022, for the first time in more than a decade, teams of scientists conducted an intensive campaign to characterize what’s in the summertime soup of particles that New York City residents breathe. The researchers measured the chemical makeup of PM 2.5 over the course of a month.

The team found that the PM 2.5 was 80 to 83 percent organic, or carbon-based —up from roughly 50 percent in 2001, according to the study, which was published January 22 in ACS ES&T Air . “Over the past 20 years, summertime particulate matter has shifted to organic aerosols due largely to the successful reductions of sulfate and other inorganic compounds,” says Tori Hass-Mitchell, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student at Yale University.

Roughly 76 percent of the total organic aerosols measured by the study in New York City were not directly emitted from a source but rather formed in the atmosphere. These so-called secondary organic aerosols are produced when gases, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxidize in the atmosphere. VOCs are produced by a wide range of sources such as cars, vegetation and household chemicals, including cosmetics and cleaners , which complicates efforts to identify the most impactful sources.

Hass-Mitchell and colleagues’ paper is the first to include data from the Atmospheric Science and Chemistry Measurement Network ( ASCENT)—a network of 12 sites around the U.S. that is the first long-term monitoring system able to chemically characterize distinct particle types. Sally Ng, who led the design of the $12-million, National Science Foundation–funded network, says Europe has had similar measurement capabilities for more than five years. “It’s time for the U.S. to modernize its air quality measurement infrastructure,” says Ng, an aerosol scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a co-author of the New York City study.

Recent studies have shown that secondary organic aerosols may be linked to serious health problems—especially cardiovascular disease. A study published last September in Environmental Science & Technology found that as organic aerosols oxidize, they produce highly reactive molecules that can break down human cells and cause tissue damage . Oxidized organic aerosols are the most toxic organic component of PM 2.5 , Ng says. And her work suggests that secondary organic aerosols become more toxic the longer they oxidize in the atmosphere.

Havala Pye, an EPA research scientist, co-authored a separate 2021 Nature study that found that secondary organic aerosols are strongly associated with county-level heart and lung disease death rates in the U.S. Secondary organic aerosols were associated with a 6.5 times higher mortality rate than PM 2.5 .

“There’s a good chance the aerosols are becoming more toxic on a per mass basis, and secondary organic aerosols would be part of the reason why,” says Allen Robinson, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University, who was not involved in the new research or Pye’s study. In other words, breathing more oxidized aerosols may be more toxic to humans. But the literature looking at health effects of individual components of PM 2.5 is messy, Robinson notes. More work is needed to unravel the impact of complex combinations of different particle sizes and chemistries in PM 2.5 , he explains. Pye also cautions that consistent results from repeated experiments are needed to verify whether secondary organic aerosols carry significantly greater health risks than other particles that make up PM 2.5 .

Will a warming climate worsen air pollution health risks?

Previous studies have found that warmer temperatures can lead to greater production of these secondary organic aerosols. Hass-Mitchell and colleagues found in the new study that secondary organic aerosol production increased by 60 percent and 42 percent in Queens and Manhattan, respectively, during a sweltering five-day heat wave in July 2022. “We should expect higher health burdens as temperatures rise in a warming climate, with potentially more frequent extreme heat events in the future,” Hass-Mitchell says.

“Secondary organic aerosols are an increasingly important contributor to particulate matter in the summertime and urban air quality, and [they have] a temperature sensitivity that is really important to keep in mind in the context of future climate scenarios,” says Drew Gentner, a chemical and environmental engineer at Yale University and senior author of the new paper. These compounds “are becoming more oxidized at higher temperatures,” he adds, and increased temperatures can cause greater emissions of reactive volatile organic compounds.

And as temperatures increase amid climate change, more frequent and severe wildfires have already begun to chip away at air quality gains in western states. Although Hass-Mitchell and colleagues didn’t observe smoke from wildfires in the summer of 2022, they expect that organic aerosols from wildfires—such as those in the smoke that choked much of the Northeast and Midwest last summer—will also play a major role as the climate changes.

Many other cities, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Seoul, have also documented an increasing proportion of PM 2.5 from secondary organic aerosols. But the exact mix of natural versus human-produced sources varies widely from city to city. To continue reducing PM 2.5 , “we need to understand the underlying sources and chemistry contributing to secondary organic aerosol production,” Gentner says.

Until the early 2000s, both the tools to measure secondary organic aerosols and the understanding of their formation were limited, says Benjamin Nault, a co-author of the New York City study and a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. Currently, most instruments are designed to measure either the size or the chemistry of aerosols but not both, he says. Scientists rely on models to determine how much secondary organic aerosol comes from, for example, live vegetation, asphalt or cooking. But it’s unclear whether some sources are more harmful than others. “There are different signatures for the chemicals that come from taking a shower versus painting [a house],” he says. “Now we’re trying to understand how they come together in an urban environment.”

And that improved understanding is leading to more nuanced pollution research. “As aerosol studies advance, with increasing capabilities to examine the various chemical components of aerosols, we can ask important questions about the relative impact of those components on air quality, human health and the environment,” Gentner says. “It may be less straightforward to address secondary organic aerosol sources compared to primary sources of pollution, but studies [like ours] demonstrate that secondary organic aerosols are the biggest contributor in some urban areas.”

Reporting for this piece was supported by the Nova Institute for Health.

A business journal from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

The Overlooked Causes of Air Pollution

February 19, 2024 • 4 min read.

Short bursts of air pollution, often caused by indoor cooking, are being neglected by existing regulations, according to research by Wharton’s Susanna Berkouwer.

Smoggy view of the skyline in Nairobi, Kenya to illustrate the overlooked causes of air pollution

Air pollution, identified by the World Health Organization as the foremost environmental threat to human health, claims between 7 and 9 million lives annually, representing 10%–15% of global deaths.   In response to this critical issue,   Wharton professor of business economics and public policy  Susanna Berkouwer has studied the nuanced causes of air pollution, focusing on the crucial distinctions between short-term exposure peaks and continuous sustained exposure.

“High levels of air pollution significantly decrease life expectancy, but existing regulations primarily focus on the annual or daily averages of pollution, overlooking short-term fluctuations that many people experience. Short bursts of pollution are often caused by indoor cooking,” said Berkouwer.

Their paper , co-authored with the University of Chicago’s Joshua Dean,   argues that shedding light on these nuances is crucial for creating effective environmental regulations to address this global health crisis. Should policies focus on how everyday individuals can reduce peak pollution, or should they address broader, ambient air quality concerns?

“Improved cookstoves have a huge impact in that short window of cooking – but not on the 24-hour average.” — Susanna Berkouwer

Short- and Long-term Air Pollution Impact Your Health Differently

The researchers conducted a field study in Nairobi, Kenya, examining the impact of improved cookstove adoption on pollution and health.   Through randomized subsidies and credit access, they generated random variation in the adoption of improved cookstoves and followed up with participants 3.5 years later, employing high-frequency monitoring techniques and detailed health measurements.

To measure air pollution, each participant in the study wore a backpack with devices that recorded tiny particles and carbon monoxide in the air every minute for 48 hours.   The study found that the improved stove greatly reduced peak cooking emissions by 42%, significantly improving air quality during cooking.   There was also a substantial decrease in average exposure to pollution during cooking in the treatment group using improved stoves compared to the control group (50 micrograms per cubic meter vs. 33 micrograms).

However, the overall impact on daily pollution exposure was much less pronounced, due to the limited time people spent cooking each day (approximately 9% of the time).   “Improved cookstoves have a huge impact in that short window of cooking – but not on the 24-hour average,” Berkouwer said.

When it comes to health impacts, the improved stove led to a statistically significant decrease (0.24 standard deviation) in self-reported respiratory symptoms, including sore throat, headache, cough, and runny nose.   These improvements were not consistently reflected in more clinical health measurements like blood pressure and oxygen levels.

“We find that addressing the short-term peaks really helps resolve the kind of symptoms you’d get if you spend time around a campfire. But we don’t see any impact on longer-term medical diagnoses like pneumonia,” said Berkouwer.

“Providing improved stoves for free would be a considerably cheaper way to reduce carbon emissions than almost any other technology available today.” — Susanna Berkouwer

Climate Policy Needs to Address Diverse Causes of Air Pollution

The results have important policy implications, as they underscore the need for nuanced measures to address the diverse causes of air pollution.   While individual efforts, such as using improved stoves, may offer modest health benefits in the short term, the research suggests that government regulations targeting broader environmental factors could yield more substantial and enduring health improvements. “You might need government intervention to address the ambient pollution — it could be regulating emissions from cars or coal-fired power plants,” Berkouwer said.

Given that billions of people living in cities, especially in poorer countries, face daily exposure to high pollution levels, the study’s implications are global.   More than 90% of pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, affecting around 4 billion people who lack access to improved cookstoves, resulting in sporadic bursts of high pollution.

Additionally, the study is relevant to international development and climate policy, in terms of the impact of subsidies on improved cookstove usage. Offering subsidies between $30–$40 resulted in a 72 percentage point-higher ownership rate after 3.5 years.   Combining that with the findings on reduced emissions, the study estimates that providing improved stoves for free would cost around $4.90 for every ton of carbon dioxide reduced — considerably lower than many other available methods.

People using these improved stoves in urban areas also continue to save money on charcoal, about $86 per year, suggesting that investing in initiatives like improved cookstoves can be an effective and economical strategy for wealthier countries and international organizations to contribute to carbon reduction efforts.   “There’s huge financial benefits to be had,” said Berkouwer. “Providing improved stoves for free would be a considerably cheaper way to reduce carbon emissions than almost any other technology available today.”

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Essay on Air Pollution for Students | Causes, Effects, and Solutions

When chemicals, particles, or other harmful elements pollute the air quality, the phenomenon is known as air pollution. It can have adverse effects on the health of humans, animals, and plants.

Also, the damage is not limited to living beings – it also affects human-made structures, like buildings.

According to World Health Organization’s  recent reports, over seven million people die each year because of air pollution. Another similar report tells that nine out of ten human beings on the planet are breathing polluted air.

This essay on air pollution will focus on the causes, effects, and solutions of air pollution. You may also use some key points for your coming speech, debate, or other activity.

It will also make you aware of your responsibilities as a decent and nature-loving human being.

Page Contents

What is Air Pollution?

Essay on Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused by harmful chemicals and particles mixed in the air, which pollute the air, and the occurrence is known as air pollution.

These toxic substances in the air pose severe environmental and health threats.

Some air pollution comes from natural sources like volcanic eruptions and wildfires. However, most air pollution is the result of human activities. There are various types of air pollution.

Moreover, every kind of air pollution relates directly or indirectly to human assistance. The most common emissions contributing to air pollution are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

Also, these greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and other factors leading to the worst air quality.

Causes of Air Pollution

It is not possible to witness air pollution with the naked eye.

However, it becomes visible in the high density of smoke and smog. Since we cannot see this type of pollution with open eyes, it is essential to know about the sources that are the causes of air pollution.

1. The Fossil fuel burning

The essential needs of today’s world are electricity and transportation. Humans have depended on fossil fuels for o long times to meet these needs.

This burning of coal, gasoline, and natural to drive industry and transportation is one of the primary causes of air pollution.

Carbon monoxide is in higher concentrations when more fossil fuels are burnt. This process also emits toxic pollutants, which causes the air quality to go down rapidly.

Similarly, breathing such air leads to various heart diseases and respiratory problems.

2. Indoor causes of air pollution

You must have witnessed the usage of volatile organic compounds and other toxic compounds in your home or your surroundings. Such products and chemicals are part of people’s lives and are used daily.

Whether you are in the comfort of your home or office, such items of daily usage contribute to air pollution in one way or another.

Also, smoking indoors and using gas-powered heaters can cause suffocation and indoor air pollution.

Similarly, these indoor pollution factors can lead to numerous diseases and respiratory problems.

3. Wildfires

Climate changes due to air pollution are increasing wildfires spiking air pollution. This burning of trees and other forest residue causes an increase of particl3s in the air.

Similarly, this increases the density of smoke particles and leads to more significant threats like smog. It would help if you had an idea about the smog, which makes the air hazy, and people find breathing difficult.

4. Vehicles and transport

You cannot deny that transportation is the primary cause of air pollution. Hundreds of millions of engines continuously run every day, producing air-polluting gases.

Most polluted air is often observed in urban areas with more vehicles.

Your vehicle is responsible for increasing carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and other particulates in the environment. Drastic health issues are becoming a routine because of the holes in the ozone layer.

Similarly, those holes in the ozone layer are caused due to unfriendly elements emitted from your vehicle.

Did you know that if you breathe gasoline engine gases, it is equivalent to smoking ten cigarettes?

5. Industrial Emissions

The industrial revolution introduced the concept of mass production to humans. It made their lives easier and products cheaper. However, it also brought a curse on nature through air pollution.

Industrial emissions are one of the primary causes of air pollution around the globe. Most industries of the world rely on fossil fuels as the primary power source.

Ultimately, an excess of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

During the second industrial revolution, a few industrial towns were wiped out due to bad air quality.

6. Burning of Garbage

Recycling garbage through proper means is a better way to move forward. However, when an excess of waste is burnt in the open air, it is only causing more problems rather than solutions.

Furthermore, it can cause serious health issues, including liver issues, cancer, and damaging immune systems.

7. Agriculture

Pesticides and fertilizers are used to increase the productivity of crops. However, the same agents are one of the air pollution causes worldwide.

Using the wrong method of agriculture can even lead to a large number of deaths. Ultimately, the life-giving resource can be a life-taking thing, if not used properly.

8. Chemicals and Other Synthetic Products

You cannot overlook indoor air pollution and only consider outdoor pollution. Household chemical products cause more health issues and problems than outdoor air pollution.

Furthermore, when you inhale poor indoor air quality, it can cause respiratory diseases like Asthama’and other lung problems.

Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution affects all living things, directly or indirectly. It is the primary cause of various respiratory and skin diseases. More than ninety percent of the world’s population is affected by it.

From greenhouse gases to climate change, it has a more profound impact on the environment than you think. A few significant effects of air pollution are discussed in upcoming paragraphs.

1. Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

In 1952 more than 4000 people died due to dense smog. Similarly, according to a report published by WHO, more than seven million die each year due to air pollution.

Children and the elderly already suffering from various diseases are affected most by air pollution.

It would be best if you did not take it lightly because most of the world’s urban population is at a higher risk due to air pollution. Also, it is gradually increasing with each passing day.

You may  check the air quality  and its attributes in your area to avoid any unnecessary outdoor activities or visits.

Furthermore, it can cause Coughing, headache, fatigue, cancer, congenital disabilities, nervous system damage, and even death.

2. Effects on Plants and Animals

Just like humans are affected by air pollution, plants and animal are also at significant risk in one way or another. Their respiratory system is often damaged among animals, and skin irritations can also happen.

There is a structure in plants called stomata which are damaged due to  ozone pollution .

Some plants can protect themselves against this threat, but others cannot. In the end, it can cause a massive loss of crops or other natural resources.

3. Air Pollution Causes Acid Rain.

When harmful gases are released into the atmosphere, they mix themselves in the rain system. Similarly, the winds can take thousands of miles away.

Finally, when it rains, the rainwater has higher acidity, which can cause skin disease in humans and animals. Aside from damaging vegetation and crops, it can also damage buildings and other structures.

Acid rain is known to spawn more than five billion dollars of damage each year.

4. Sunlight Reduction

Plants and animals depend on sunlight to grow. Similarly, humans rely on animals and plants. The pollutants in the air cause the sunlight to go dim, and a more small amount of the sun reaches the earth’s surface.

The plants grow little, and animals cannot live up to their full potential.

5. Excess of Nitrogen

Air pollution caused by agricultural pesticides, chemicals, and car emissions can cause an increase in nitrogen levels in the soil .

Plants need nitrogen to grow, but its access can halt the growth of a few plants while increasing the development of others.

It disrupts the natural ecological balance and can lead to the worst situations.

Solution of Air Pollution

Where there is a problem, there is a solution. You have read about many effects and causes of air pollution, and now you will read some of the answers to air pollution.

These solutions are pretty straightforward and straightforward, and if you adopt them and spread them, they can save millions of lives each year and healthily affect nature. Your kids will breathe in cleaner and safe air.

1. Use Public Transports

Since most of the world’s air pollution is caused due to vehicles and transportation, you can save your money, resources, and environment by using public transport.

If more people travel by public transport, fewer vehicles will come out, and less gasoline will burn. Finally, it will have a significant and fruitful impact on the air quality and the environment.

2. Save Electricity

Electricity is a cleaner energy source if it is hydro, wind, or solar-generated.

But unfortunately, to meet the rising demands of voltage around the globe, many countries use gas turbines, coal-powered turbines, and nuclear facilities to generate enough electricity.

Suppose you will switch off unnecessary lights and use them with care. In that case, you will not only contribute towards saving an essential resource, but you will also be contributing towards cleaner air and the environment.

3. Reduce Smoking

If you are a smoker, it will be an astonishing fact that trillions of cigarettes are smoked each week around the globe. Smoking less might reduce many harmful and cancer-causing elements in the air.

When a smoker is exhaling smoke, he is causing other nearby people to inhale the smoke. This process of smoking is often referred to as passive smoking.

By quitting smoking, you will save yourself from various diseases and others as well.

4. Preferring Fans Over Air Conditioning

Air conditioning uses a lot of electricity and adds heat to the environment. If you adopt this solution of air pollution, you will save money and keep the environment healthy.

Also, it prevents numerous diseases caused by sudden changes in body temperature when exiting or entering an air-conditioned room or building.

Conclusion: Essay on Air Pollution

You have read the effects, causes, and solutions to air pollution. At this point, you must have an idea and deep understanding of this critical issue surrounding human beings.

As a surface dweller, a person’s primary duty is to keep these solutions in mind and implement them in daily life.

Most disasters and calamities that befell humans were always the consequences of their deeds and actions. Similarly, air quality today has declined and will continue falling if this carefree attitude continues.

Using public transport, avoiding extra chemical usage, saving electricity, using filters, and eliminating the usage of crackers can contribute to fresh and healthy air.

Why do you leave money and other resources for future generations? The answer is simple – for their better future and ease of life. Similarly, why not leave them a cleaner air and environment?

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Essay on air pollution: causes, effects and control of air pollution.

essay about air pollution cause and effect


Essay on Air Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control of Air Pollution!

The World Health Organization defines air pollution as “the presence of materials in the air in such concentration which are harmful to man and his environment.”

In fact air pollution is the occurrence or addition of foreign particles, gases and other pollutants into the air which have an adverse effect on human beings, animals, vegetation, buildings, etc.

Cause of Air Pollution:

The various causes of air pollution are:

(i) Combustion of natural gas, petroleum, coal and wood in industries, automobiles, aircrafts, railways, thermal plants, agricultural burning, kitchens, etc. (soot, flyash, CO 2 , CO, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides).

(ii) Metallurgical processing (mineral dust, fumes containing fluorides, sulphides and metallic pollutants like lead, chromium, nickel, beryllium, arsenic, vanadium, cadmium, zinc, mercury).

(iii) Chemical industries including pesticides, fertilizers, weedicides, fungicides.

(iv) Cosmetics.

(v) Processing industries like cotton textiles, wheat flour mills, asbestos.

(vi) Welding, stone crushing, gem grinding.

Natural air pollutants include (a) pollen, spores, (b) marsh gas, (c) volcanic gases and (a) synthesis of harmful chemicals by electric storms and solar flares. The major cause of pollution in the urban areas is automobiles which inefficiently burn petroleum, releases 75% of noise and 80% of air pollutants. Concentration of industries in one area is another major cause of air pollution.

Effect of Air Pollutants:

Air pollutants are broadly classified into particulate and gaseous. The particulate substances include solid and liquid particles. The gaseous include substances that are in the gaseous state at normal temperature and pressure. The air pollutants have adverse effect on human beings, animals, vegetation, buildings. Air pollutants also change earth’s climate. Aesthetic sense is also influenced by air pollutants. The different air pollutants and their effects are as follows:

1. Particulate Matter:

It is of two types—settleable and suspended. The settleable dusts have a particle longer than 10 (am. The smaller particles are able to remain suspended for long periods in the air. The important effects of particulate matter are.

(i) Dust and smoke particles cause irritation of the respiratory tract and produces bronchitis, asthma and lung diseases.

(ii) Smog is a dark or opaque fog which is formed by the dust and smoke particles causing condensation of water vapours around them as well as attracting chemicals like SO 2 , H 2 S, NO 2 , etc. Smog harms plant life through glazing and necrosis besides reduced availability of light. In human beings and animals it produces respiratory troubles.

(iii) Particulate matter suspended in air, scatters and partly absorbs light. In industrial and urban areas, sunlight is reduced to 1/3 in summer and 2/3 in winter.

(iv) At a concentration above 150 g/100m 3 , cotton dust in ginning process produces pneumoconiosis or lung fibrosis called byssinosis. Lung fibrosis produced in other industries includes asbestosis (in asbestos industry), silicosis (stone grinders), siderosis (iron mill), coal miners’ pneumoconiosis, flour mill pneumoconiosis, etc.

2. Carbon monoxide:

It accounts for 50% of the total atmospheric pollutants. It is formed by incomplete combustion of carbon fuels in various industries, motor vehicles, hearths, kitchens, etc. Carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin of blood and impairs its oxygen carrying capacity. At higher concentration, carbon monoxide proves lethal.

3. Sulphur Oxides:

They occur mainly in the form of sulphur dioxide. It is produced in large quantity during smelting of metallic ores and burning of petroleum and coal in industries, thermal plants, home and motor vehicles. In the air, SO 2 combines with water to form sulphurous acid (H 2 SO 3 ) which is the cause of acid rain. It causes chlorosis and necrosis of vegetation. Sulphur dioxide, above 1 ppm, affects human beings. It causes irritation to eyes and injury to respiratory tract. It results in discolouration and deterioration of buildings, sculptures, painted surfaces, fabrics, paper, leather, etc.

4. Nitrogen Oxides:

They are produced naturally through biological and non-biological activities from nitrates, nitrites, electric storms, high energy radiations and solar flares. Human activity forms nitrogen oxides in combustion process of industries, automobiles, incinerators and nitrogen fertilizers. Nitrogen oxides act on unsaturated hydrocarbons to form peroxy-acyl nitrates or PAN. It gives rise to photochemical smog. They cause eye irritation, respiratory troubles, blood congestion and dilation of arteries.

5. Carbon dioxide:

Due to excessive combustion activity, the content of C0 2 has been steadily rising. As carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere it absorbs more and more of the reflected infrared radiation. This could cause an increase in temperature referred to as the green house effect. Melting polar ice caps and glaciers could cause sea levels to rise, flooding most of the major population centres and fertile lands.

6. Phosgene and Methyl Isocyanate:

Phosgene (COCl 2 ) is a poisonous and suffocating volatile liquid which is employed in dye industry and synthesis of organic compounds. Release of phosgene and MIC in industrial accident of Bhopal (Dec. 2, 1984) killed over 2500 and maimed several thousand persons.

7. Aerosols:

They are widely used as disinfectants. Other sources are jet plane emissions which contain chlorofluorocarbons. Chlorofluorocarbons are also used in refrigeration and formation of certain types of solid plastic foams. Burning of plastics produces polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The latter are persistent and pass into the food chain. Chlorofluorocarbons and carbon tetrachloride react with ozone layers of stratosphere and hence deplete the same.

8. Photochemical oxidants:

Hydrocarbons have carcinogen properties. Some of these are also harmful to plants because they cause senescence and abscission. In the presence of sunlight, hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides to produce ozone, peroxy-acyl nitrates, aldehydes and other compounds. Peroxy-acyl nitrates are a major constituent of air pollution. They cause eye irritation and respiratory diseases.

9. Automobile Exhausts:

They are one of the major sources of air pollution. The important pollutants are Carbon monoxide, Benzpyrene, Lead, Nitrogen oxides, Sulphur compounds and Ammonia.

10. Pollen and Microbes:

Excess of microbes in the atmosphere directly damage the vegetation, food articles and causes diseases in plants, animals and human beings. Excess of pollen causes allergic reactions in several human beings. The common reactions are also collectively called hay-fever. The important allergic pollen belong to Amaranthus spinosus, Chenopodium album, Cynodon dactylon, Ricinus communis, Sorghum vulgare, Prosopis chilensis etc.

Control of Air Pollution :

1. Industrial estates should be established at a distance from residential areas.

2. Use of tall chimneys shall reduce the air pollution in the surroundings and compulsory use of filters and electrostatic precipitators in the chimneys.

3. Removal of poisonous gases by passing the fumes through water tower scrubber or spray collector.

4. Use of high temperature incinerators for reduction in particulate ash production.

5. Development and employment of non-combustive sources of energy, e.g., nuclear power, geothermal power, solar power, tidal power, wind power, etc.

6. Use of non-lead antiknock agents in gasoline.

7. Attempt should be made to develop pollution free fuels for automobiles, e.g., alcohol, hydrogen, battery power. Automobiles should be fitted with exhaust emission controls.

8. Industrial plants and refineries should be fitted with equipment for removal and recycling of wastes.

9. Growing plants capable of fixing carbon monoxide, e.g. Phaseolus vulgaris, Coleus blumei, Daucus carota, Ficus variegata (Bidwell and Bebee, 1974).

10. Growing plants capable of metabolising nitrogen oxides and other gaseous pollutants, e.g., Vitis, Pimis, Jttniperus, Quercus, Pyrus, Robinia pseudo-acacia, Viburnum, Crataegus, Ribes, Rhamnus.

11. Afforestation of the mining area on priority basis.

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Essay on Air Pollution – Causes, Effects, Solutions, Conclusion

Category: Essays and Paragraphs On November 20, 2018 By Aparna

Air Pollution

The whole world has been suffering from lots of problems since its existence, and the problems are getting bigger and bigger day by days.

One of the biggest problems that the entire planet faces is the amount of pollution on the planet. Pollution is of several kinds, but the pollution that affects the most to our nature and environment is Air pollution .

Air pollution is the pollution in which the pollutants get released in the air, and those pollutants then pollute the air which affects the health of a human being.

Air pollution is the pollution when the dirt, dirt particles and other kinds of pollutants get mixed to air and make the air polluted.

Today, every city in the world is suffering from air pollution , and that is why a lot of people and organizations in the world are trying their best to save the world from air pollution.

Air Pollution in India

Indian cities are much polluted and that can get seen from various visuals. Land and air pollution are connected directly as if the land is dirty, after a few days, that dirty land will lead to air pollution. In India, there are only a few surfaces where the pollution level is less. For example, the pollution level in Chandigarh city is lesser than a lot of cities in India. However, the pollution level in various cities of NCR, UP and Bihar is way higher than a lot of cities in India. The air pollution in India is getting increased day by day. But, the good news is that the people who had no interest in cleaning their country before, are now getting involved in schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, etc.

There are lots of causes of air pollution in the world and here are a few of those causes:

  • The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest cause of air pollution, and that is why it has been prohibited at a lot of places in the world.
  • Cars, buses, motorbikes are another big cause of air pollution because they emit a lot of pollution also.
  • Volcano eruptions are another big cause of air pollution.
  • When we cook at home, sometimes we need wood and charcoal for it, and these materials cause a huge amount of air pollution.
  • People smoking cigarettes is another big cause of air pollution.
  • If due to some reason a forest catches fire , then it becomes one of the biggest reasons for air pollution.

These are a few effects on human beings, plants, and animals due to air pollution:

  • The rainwater flows through the surface and ends in the river, and when the surface gets polluted, all the rainwater will take the polluted surface particles with itself which will not only pollute the river, but it will also pollute the land through which the water flows .
  • A lot of people suffer from allergies which are a side effect of living in an air-polluted
  • Air pollution can also lead to severe diseases like cancer, heart diseases, and other respiratory problems, etc.
  • One should restrict the use of charcoal , wood, thus the pollution caused by these resources would not be there in the world.
  • A restriction should be there on industries to use the kind of materials which causes zero to no air pollution at all.
  • The cities which have the maximum air pollution should get asked as to how they will reduce the air pollution and what are their plans for it.

Air pollution is a huge problem not only in India but the whole world, various organizations do their bit to make sure that plans are made to restrict air pollution , but unfortunately those plans never get executed rightly. That is why even after knowing that the air is getting polluted every day, the organizations around the world are unable to provide a good solution to it. As a human being, we must contribute, that is why, we need to gather and make sure that all the places, suffering from air pollution, should get organized in a manner so that air pollution should not exist. Everyone should participate in schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which will not only reduce the air pollution in the country but will also reduce various other kinds of pollution.

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Air Pollution and Its Impact on Human Health

Common health problems associated with air pollution.

Indoor and outdoor air pollution causes several common health problems which according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (2009) are grouped according to the major pollutants. To begin with, carbon monoxide compromises the heart activities hence lethargy and fatigue. It also causes nausea, dizziness, and headaches and in large amounts may even lead to death. Nitrogen dioxide causes nasal and throat irritation and increases the risk of developing respiratory infections. Ozone causes irritation of the respiratory system leading to coughs, chest and throat pains. Particulates cause damage to respiratory tract tissues especially lung tissue leading to lung diseases. Sulfur dioxide is known to make worse existing lung diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Lead on the other hand causes damage to the brain and the nervous system with children being most susceptible (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 2009; California Air Resources Board 2007a). From these, it is evident that air pollution has adverse common effects on the respiratory system and to some extent other body parts.

Vulnerability of children to pollutants

The most common health problems in children associated with air pollution occurs in the respiratory system. This is due to the fact that children’s respiratory system is not fully developed therefore immature. This means that the structures are weak and are prone to damage at the slightest exposure to air pollutants. The children’s health study by the California air resources board reported that children are more vulnerable to effects of air pollutants as they are exposed to more air pollution than adults as they have higher respiratory rates and are normally outdoors (California Air Resources Board 2007b). Other factors may include the underdeveloped immune system in children that is not able to effectively and efficiently fight off the effects of air pollution on the body and large surface area to volume ratio that exposes a large surface area to air pollution.

Needs assessment process and the role of Health educator

Community needs assessment is a systematic process in which the health educator, the nurse and other health care professionals together with the members of the community determine the health problems & needs of the community & develop plans of action and implement those plans. In this case the needs assessment process will be in relation to air pollution. The first step is exploration which involves mapping out the community with the purpose of obtaining baseline information that help plan for the rest of the assessment process. The second is step is planning for assessment exercise where by the necessary resources are put into place and objective designed, in this case it will be; to assess health impacts of air pollution and how to combat these effects. The third step is recruitment and training of assistants, fourth step is pretesting and reworking of the tool as it helps to detect faults and shortcomings after which corrections are made. The fifth step is execution of the assessment which basically involves actual going to the community and engaging the community into discussions and giving them the assessment tools so that they can feel it with relevant information. The sixth step is critical analysis of the findings and recommendations. The collected data is analyzed and then findings and recommendations are drawn. One of fundamental recommendation that will be made is to initiate Health Education and Promotion to combat the effects of air pollution. Health education/promotion empowers an individual with the much needed and relevant information that can be of great assistance in management of his/her health and other related issues. The health education and promotion will involve sources of air pollutants, their effects on human health, management and prevention measures. The health educator, the nurse and other stakeholders can carry out this activity with the help of the local health professionals working within the community and even train some community members who will be educating their colleagues; this creates a sense of belonging and ownership among the community members in that they will participate in the health education/promotion activities as their own. This empowers the community and the information stays with them even years after the time of carrying out the assessment. The final step is evaluation and just as in nursing process, evaluations helps in checking if the assessment was a success and whether there has been any positive impact and if interventions put in place had desired results. Evaluation also helps in knowing if the set goals and objectives were met, determining success or failure of the problem and to put corrective measure into place (Zerwekh, 112; Holloway, & Wheeler, 76; Grol 361). The health educator works hand in hand with the community health nurse and other health professionals in the above process where by he/she acts the overall supervisor.

Air pollution has adverse effects on health and majorly affects the respiratory system with children being most vulnerable due to their under developed respiratory system. Health educators are charged with the overall responsibility of overseeing planning, implementation and evaluation of education programs in the community. They also function as consultants to the other health care professionals involved in health education and promotion.

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  • The Children’s Health Study . California Air Resources Board. 2007b. Web.
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IvyPanda . (2024) 'Air Pollution and Its Impact on Human Health'. 16 January.

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IvyPanda . "Air Pollution and Its Impact on Human Health." January 16, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/air-pollution-and-its-impact-on-human-health/.

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How air pollution delayed a surge in extreme rain

Aerosol pollutants have masked the effects of global warming. without them, the u.s. is about to get a lot wetter..

essay about air pollution cause and effect

The past half-century has seen remarkable improvements in air quality in many parts of the world, thanks largely to legislation like the U.S. Clean Air Act. Efforts like these took aim at pollutants like the group of chemicals known as aerosols, which include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other compounds that are harmful to human health.

Like greenhouse gases, aerosols are produced by cars, factories, and power plants — but unlike greenhouse gases, they make the earth cooler rather than warmer. This is because aerosols reflect the sun’s rays, rather than trapping its heat like carbon. Some studies estimate that, without aerosol pollution, the world might have already warmed by another half a degree Celsius . 

This creates a tricky paradox, which renowned climate scientist James Hansen has called a “Faustian bargain.” If you remove aerosols from the air, you reduce the health impacts of pollution, saving thousands of people from lung and heart disease, but you might also make global warming worse. This powerful relationship has been on display over the past few years in the maritime shipping industry : As freight ships have stopped using dirty bunker fuel since 2020, they’ve also stopped emitting trails of sulfur dioxide, which has caused world temperatures to jump by an additional .05 degrees C.

Now, new research shows that the interaction between aerosols and greenhouse gases also has implications for flooding, which is one of the costliest climate disasters. A peer-reviewed paper published this week in Nature Communications finds that the presence of toxic aerosols in the atmosphere over the United States helped suppress the impacts of climate change on rainfall for decades, postponing a surge in rainfall and flood risk driven by climate change. The passage of clean air laws, which removed these aerosols from the atmosphere, ironically unleashed a trend of worsening floods.

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The paper’s results help solve what had been something of a mystery in climate science: Even though warmer air holds more moisture, rainfall in the United States hasn’t been increasing in the way scientists expected as temperatures rise.

“This paper highlights that the counteraction between aerosols and greenhouse gases has likely masked a lot of climate hazards over the last few decades,” said Geeta Persad, an assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert on aerosols. (Persad wasn’t involved in the study.)

“If aerosol emissions drop drastically over the next few decades and greenhouse gases don’t, a lot of those unanticipated climate hazards could be revealed,” added Persad.

The paper uses data from thousands of rain gauges to tease out how aerosols and greenhouse gases have influenced rainfall averages and the frequency of extreme rain events. The use of rain gauges allowed researchers to trace how the two types of human-caused pollution balance each other out in different regions of the country.

Greenhouse gases have been stacking up in the atmosphere for more than a century, and they have a pretty simple impact on rainfall. The more carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, the hotter it gets; the hotter it gets, the more moisture the atmosphere can hold. Aerosols are more complicated: They react differently with different types of clouds, and as a result their impact on rainfall varies from region to region and from season to season. In most of the U.S., they made things drier.

The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act in 1970 caused a rapid decline in aerosol pollution as factories installed “scrubber” devices to clean up their smokestacks and automakers updated their cars to comply with emission limits. The disappearance of these aerosols left greenhouse gases to dominate in the atmosphere, which started to ratchet up rainfall totals. If those aerosols hadn’t been there, the paper argues, rainfall and flooding might have started worsening in the United States several decades earlier.

Separating out the effect of these aerosols also allows the researchers to make predictions about how flood risk will change over the next decade. It’s not good news: Now that there’s nothing to offset the heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide and methane, much of the country is about to get a lot wetter and see a lot more monster storms.

“This somewhat rapid intensification of rainfall extremes is the new normal, at least for the next five years,” said Mark Risser, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and one of the paper’s lead authors.

The effect is most pronounced in the southeastern United States, where a slew of hurricanes and rainstorms have caused billions of dollars of flood damage in recent years. The authors find that aerosol pollution tamped down summer and fall precipitation until the late 20th century, when the effect of greenhouse gases started to dominate in the region. That led to both an increase in annual rainfall totals and an increase in the frequency of big rainstorms. (Previous research has shown that aerosols can also suppress the emergence of tropical storms by disrupting cloud formation.)

The paper’s findings could have big implications for the next few decades of environmental regulation. President Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency is racing to finalize strict regulations on industrial pollution that could slash emissions of key aerosol pollutants such as sulfur dioxide. If these regulations take effect, they would apply to numerous facilities in the Southeast, including the petrochemical facilities in the Louisiana region known as “Cancer Alley.”

These regulations would protect residents who live near industrial facilities from asthma, heart disease, and cancer, but a further decline in aerosols could also make hurricane season worse by allowing big storms to hold moisture — meaning more events like Hurricane Harvey, which struck in 2017 and stunned climate scientists by dropping more than 50 inches of rain over Houston, Texas.

Persad, the aerosols expert, says the paper offers a grim warning about future climate risk. If air pollution declines in the United States over the next few decades, many more Americans in regions such as the Southeast could see stronger storms and more severe flooding.

“We’re looking at a situation where over the next 30 years, you could either keep masking, or you could reveal 50 percent more warming,” she said. “Up until now, there has not been very much recognition of how much the evolution of this aerosol signal, over the lifetime of a mortgage of a house that somebody buys today, is going to affect the climate hazards they’re exposed to.”

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Causes and Effects of Pollution

The environment people live in is affecting them, including health and lifestyle, and the nature around them, like plants, animals, water bodies, and the atmosphere. Environmental issues caused by humans using natural resources and treating nature with no respect have resulted in some negative changes. One of the most significant problems people are facing nowadays is pollution. It affects all the crucial elements for sustaining human life: water, air, and soil. The causes and effects of pollution are multiple and varied, and they should be examined closely to better understand this phenomenon.

General reasons for pollution include major emissions of carbon dioxide, as well as the chemicals produced as the result of the burning of fossil fuels. This happens because of different factories’ activity and their waste, which is being discharged into water, soil, and the atmosphere. Other than big manufacturing elements, pollution is caused by people individually. This involves emissions caused by cars, using much energy for different activities, and producing enormous amounts of waste, especially the types that are not decomposable or take hundreds of years to do so.

The first side of the environment impacted by pollution is the atmosphere. Air pollution can be defined as a combination of harmful gases or particles that accumulate in the air in unsafe quantities. The worsening air quality can result in multiple health issues, including “heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases” (“Ambient (outdoor) air pollution,” 2018, para. 1). As air quality is measured around the world, many deficiencies are detected, which directly influence human life.

According to the World Health Organization data, in 2016, about 91 percent of the population inhabited places with unsatisfactory air quality (as cited in “Ambient (outdoor) air pollution,” 2018). Therefore, air pollution is affecting not only those living in big urban areas but is also spreading around the whole planet.

Water covers the majority of the planet, so water pollution is also a crucial problem. Wastewater and emission of fertilizers into water bodies cause water pollution, which can make water harmful to human consumption. Other than becoming undrinkable, contaminated water will affect or even kill aquatic creatures and plants, as well as transfer to crops, making them just as dangerous. The United Nations World Water Development Report stated that over 80 percent of wastewater is discharged back into the environment, not being appropriately treated (2017). Thus, not only do the major water bodies become largely polluted but the effect is also transferred to soil.

As a significant part of the food for humans and domestic animals is grown, polluted soil can also cause complications. Soil pollution occurs when certain toxic chemicals are gathered in large amounts. Soil can be affected by harmful substances as a result of industrial waste emission into the ground, contaminated water interacting with it, or excessive amounts of pesticides or fertilizers being used. As a result, plants and crops become dangerous for human consumption and can cause multiple health problems.

Pollution is a global phenomenon, causing much damage to the planet and harming people and other living creatures. It can manifest in different forms, but its impact is hugely detrimental. Seeking solutions for this problem is now one of the main agendas for the whole of humankind, which can only be done with combined efforts of government structures and community and individual actions. Only by being aware of this situation and taking measures for improvement will people be able to protect their health and create better conditions for future generations.

Ambient (outdoor) air pollution . (2018). Web.

The United Nations world water development report 2017. (2017). Web.

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There’s Only One Way to Fix Air Pollution Now

Clean-air rules just can’t keep up with climate change.

Dark afternoon smoke from the Alamo Fire burning in the nearby coastal mountains, within view of the Pacific Ocean, creates an eerie, surreal scene on July 9, 2017, near Santa Maria, California.

It feels like a sin against the sanctitude of being alive to put a dollar value on one year of a human life. A year spent living instead of dead is obviously priceless, beyond the measure of something so unprofound as money. But it gets a price tag in the world of economic models. Different agencies and organizations use different estimates—no one can seem to agree on the precise going rate. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a statistical lifetime is valued at about $11.5 million in 2024 dollars. By one new analysis, that translates to about $250,000 per year of living.

That’s important to know, because the EPA is in the business of calculating how much money is lost or saved by preventing people’s early demise through various environmental regulations. Making contaminated water safer and dirty air cleaner costs money, but the country also benefits financially by keeping people alive. In the EPA’s own language, the agency simply estimates how much people are willing to pay to reduce their risk of dying from exposure to an unclean environment.

Polluted air is particularly important to the life-cost calculus. Air pollution is associated with some 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths each year. Particulate matter from burning fossil fuels is responsible for roughly one in five deaths worldwide. In the U.S., those lost life years and other air-pollution-related damages amount to about 5 percent of GDP . The U.S. has largely decided that the cost is worth it, more than made up for by the financial benefits of keeping the economy moving. But a pair of new analyses suggests that we may be getting that calculus wrong—that air pollution is already a silent but severe tax on human life and will get only more costly as the world warms.

In the first report , economists at MIT, the University of Chicago, McMaster University, and the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009—despite causing profound economic hardship—actually increased Americans’ life expectancy. And the economic advantages of those added life-years might even roughly equal the economic costs.

Using county-level data focused on local labor markets, they found that every 1 percent increase in unemployment led to a .5 percent decrease in the death rate. Some regions saw larger benefits than others, and young people, whose lifetime earning power is especially harmed in any recession, were likely still harmed more than helped, at least in the short term. But older Americans, who have naturally higher mortality rates, got especially lucky. Out of every 25 Americans age 55, for instance, one appears to have received an extra year of life. On average, across all age groups, the recession reduced the American mortality rate by 2.3 percent.

The recession officially lasted just 18 months, but life expectancy stayed elevated for at least 10 years. And crucially, the researchers estimate that more than a third of the reduction in deaths resulted from fewer commuters hitting the road, as well as lower industrial activity and electricity generation—in short, a reduction in air pollution.

When the team applied the value of a life-year to the recession-induced longevity, they suddenly saw the recession differently: What Americans lost in income and purchasing power, they gained in life-years, Matthew J. Notowidigdo, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and an author of the paper, told me. “From a social-welfare perspective, they kind of even out.”

Remarkably, the recession seemed to even reduce the “ deaths of despair ” typically linked to economic downturns. For each 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate during the recession, deaths from drug overdose, liver disease, and suicide went down 1.4 percent in the years following it. The cleaner air of the Great Recession might have contributed: A recent study of suicide in China found that a major reduction in particulate-matter pollution during the country’s recent crackdown on pollution prevented some 46,000 such deaths in just five years.

The China study is not the first to link dirty air with suicide. And that makes sense, given the many connections researchers are now drawing between air pollution and cognitive outcomes. Ultra-small air-pollution particles known as PM2.5—so named because they are 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter, about 30 times narrower than a human hair—can cross the blood-brain barrier, and are linked to a suite of neurological harms. A 2023 paper found that Amercians living in places with the country’s median level of PM2.5 air pollution had a 56 percent higher chance of developing Parkinson’s disease than those living in the cleanest air. High levels of PM2.5 appear to also be related to higher rates of dementia . In children, whose brains are still developing, exposure to PM2.5 has been associated with behavioral and cognitive problems.

Because particulate matter poses such a health risk, the U.S. has for more than half a century enforced rules limiting how much of it can leave tailpipes and smokestacks. Prior to the Clean Air Act, breathing was an outrageously hazardous activity in many towns and cities. On Halloween weekend in 1948, two dozen people suffocated to death in the city of Donora, Pennsylvania, when a windless weather pattern made pollution from the local zinc plant stall over the town.

Each year since the air-quality rules came into force, they have prevented nearly 250,000 premature deaths, staved off nearly 200,000 heart attacks, kept American adults at work a cumulative 17 million days, and boosted school attendance by 5.4 million days. But those benefits are now being swamped by another source of air pollution, one that’s far less directly manageable than cars and power plants: climate change. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the nonprofit First Street Foundation, which found that climate-change-fueled environmental conditions such as wildfires and ozone pollution are already reversing decades of air-quality gains for millions of Americans, a trend that will get worse for at least the next 30 years.

According to First Street, American air got better from the 1970s until 2016. Then, it began to reverse course. As the climate crisis deepens—specifically as more frequent, hotter wildfires bear down on the American West and as temperatures rise across the country—that degradation will continue. By 2054, the report projects, U.S. air quality will have degraded to what it was in 2004, wiping out years of progress. “We’re essentially adding back more premature deaths, we’re adding back more heart attacks,” Jeremy Porter, a demographer who serves as the head of climate implications at First Street, said during a webinar presenting the findings.

Read: A frightening new reason to worry about air pollution

The impacts will be worse across the West, where wildfires are set to cause the greatest increases in PM2.5 pollution. Pierce County, in Washington State, is projected to see 12 more days of poor air quality a year by 2054, the biggest increase in the country. The researchers defined poor air days as those with an Air Quality Index of 101 or above, the threshold at which the EPA says air becomes dangerous for sensitive groups (elderly people, children, and people with certain illnesses) and can impair lung function for a sizable portion of active, healthy people too. “Twelve days doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’re thinking about 12 more days being trapped in your house, not being able to go outside, worrying about the health consequences of being exposed to the poor air quality,” Porter said. California’s San Bernardino County came in second, with nine additional days, and Fresno County would add eight more days.

California is already experiencing the worst of what First Street called the “climate penalty” on air quality. Its number of “hazardous” air-quality days—the worst on the EPA’s Air Quality Index, indicating emergency conditions—increased from three in 2010 to 38 in 2021. “Very unhealthy” days, the next level down from “hazardous,” went from one to 17 over that period. The number of days designated as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” went up, from 15 to 55. And “good” air-quality days, when the air is considered safe for everyone to breathe, declined by 32 percent.

The First Street researchers described California’s situation as a glimpse into the rest of the country’s future under climate change, barring dramatic action to curb it. The East Coast and Great Lakes regions got a taste of that future last summer, when wildfire smoke blown over from Canada’s record burns turned the sky in some places a sickening orange. Notowidigdo told me that last year, he was working on the Great Recession paper when Canadian wildfires sent air quality plummeting in Chicago, where he lives. He and his kids were stuck inside, and wore masks if they had to go out. Still, the bad air got to them through their house’s walls.

Although clean-air rules served their purpose relatively well in the 20th century, today the pollution they regulate is being dwarfed by the consequences of a warming planet. You can’t put scrubbers on a wildfire. But you can cut off the fuel—climate change—coaxing them to get bigger. The faster the American economy moves away from fossil energy, the sooner the burns stop growing.

That transition will be expensive. But the science makes clear that Americans are already paying steep costs, and stand to pay even more in the coming decades. GDP, as Notowidigdo and his colleagues note, may be an incomplete proxy for the true health of society. As long as economic growth is linked to polluting industries, it will come at the cost of human health. As such, we live in a world where economic downturns can paradoxically save lives. But a country powered by clean energy could presumably prosper economically without killing people prematurely.

The air we breathe is worsening because of an expired calculation. Maybe it was always bunk. Now, preserving life depends on how quickly we can correct that equation.

Encyclopedia of Humanities

The most comprehensive and reliable Encyclopedia of Humanities

Environmental pollution

We explain what environmental pollution is, and explore its causes and effects. In addition, we discuss its characteristics and types.

essay about air pollution cause and effect

What is environmental pollution?

Pollution is the presence of substances or materials in the environment that cause direct or indirect adverse effects on human health and living beings in general. This phenomenon occurs when ecosystems are unable to absorb and eliminate the toxic substances introduced into them , resulting in their accumulation and subsequent environmental degradation.

The effects of environmental pollution may be severe and long-lasting , impacting not only humans but also plant and animal life, as well as soil and water quality. These effects may be observed either directly or indirectly, and may vary in magnitude—from minor environmental issues to the death of plant and animal species.

Moreover, pollution may have negative economic impacts such as reduced agricultural production, lower tourism activity, and the degradation of natural resources.

Water pollution

essay about air pollution cause and effect

Water pollution is an environmental issue that has negative consequences on human health, aquatic life, and the natural environment in general. It occurs when substances or materials are introduced into water affecting its quality and making it unfit for human or animal consumption.

Factories often use rivers and other bodies of water to dispose of the waste generated by their activities. The absence of adequate regulation and pollution control measures has led to a significant increase in water pollution levels worldwide.

Likewise, a large number of communities discharge raw sewage into water without adequate treatment. Wastewater not properly treated contains bacteria, viruses, and other hazardous chemicals that may have adverse effects on human and animal health.

Water pollution also has a significant impact on the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems . Chemical substances present in water can kill aquatic organisms and alter natural ecosystems. Furthermore, water pollution may affect food chains and biological processes, which in turn will impact both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Air pollution


Air pollution is linked to the burning of fossil fuels, industry, agriculture, transportation, and energy production . It is caused by the accumulation of gaseous pollutants in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, chlorofluorocarbon, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur oxide.

The main effect of air pollution is climate change . Most gas emissions come from greenhouse gases (GHGs), which increase the amount of heat retained in the atmosphere, causing the planet's global temperature to rise. This rise in temperature has intensified other severe weather phenomena such as droughts , floods , and hurricanes .

  • See also: Air pollution

Land pollution

contaminación - minería

The health and life of all living beings depend on the balance between organic and inorganic matter in soils. Plants, being the base of the food chain, extract nutrients and water from the soil, meaning that any source of pollution in this medium may have negative effects on the health of animals and humans.

The discharge of toxic waste like chemicals, metals, and oils may seriously contaminate soils . They may even seep, accumulate, and remain there for long periods of time, negatively affecting soil quality and all the biodiversity depending on it.

The inadequate use of chemicals in agriculture (such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers) is also a major cause of soil pollution. These substances are used to increase production and protect crops, though if used excessively or inappropriately, they can alter the natural balance of the soil and cause serious environmental issues.

Causes of pollution

essay about air pollution cause and effect

Pollutants can be classified into:

  • Industrial chemicals . These are waste materials or by-products of industrial and materials transformation processes which, when dumped into the soil or water, alter their chemical balance.
  • Greenhouse gases . These are gases that contribute to the rise in the temperature of the planet. The major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and methane.
  • Radioactive materials . These are toxic radioactive elements capable of causing diseases and genetic mutations.
  • Non-biodegradable waste . It includes plastics and petroleum by-products with long biodegradation cycles. They are abundant in the garbage produced daily, degrade plant and animal life, and unbalance ecosystems.

Types of pollution

essay about air pollution cause and effect

According to the extent of its source, pollution can be classified into:

  • Point source . The pollution source is easily defined and is located at a specific point.
  • Linear source . The source of pollution extends along a line or sequence.
  • Diffuse . Pollutants are introduced into the environment in a dispersed, multiple, or varied way.

According to the natural environment where it occurs:

  • Water or hydric . It occurs when foreign or harmful substances are introduced into the waters of seas, rivers, lakes and lagoons, or into groundwater reservoirs.
  • Soil or land . It takes place when foreign or toxic substances spread through soils altering their physical and chemical properties.
  • Air or atmospheric . It occurs when gases and suspended solids are dispersed in the atmosphere, degrading air quality.

According to the type of contaminant:

  • Chemical pollution. Produced by industrial waste, toxic substances or compounds that alter the chemical and biological properties of the environment.
  • Radioactive contamination. Caused by the presence of radioactive materials that can damage the genetic material of living beings.
  • Thermal pollution. Caused by air or water temperature rise as a result of human activities.
  • Noise pollution. Produced by constant high noise levels that negatively affect living beings.
  • Electromagnetic pollution. Produced by electromagnetic waves emitted by telephone antennas, high-voltage towers, radio and television stations, and satellite communication systems that may have negative effects on human health.
  • Light pollution. Caused by the excess of artificial light in the environment, which is harmful to human and animal health.
  • Visual pollution. Occurs due to the presence of disturbing elements in the urban landscape which impair its visual perception and which, in excess, may generate discomfort and stress, affecting the quality of life.


Degradability is a material’s capacity to be decomposed and return to its original state in nature . A material is degradable when it is capable of being broken down by living organisms or by natural processes and is reintroduced into the environment without causing environmental damage or degradation.

Nowadays, degradability has become a major issue due to the negative impact that a large number of materials have on the environment. Most materials used in everyday life (such as plastic or glass) are non-biodegradable , taking hundreds of years to decompose.

This means that once they are discarded, they remain in the natural environment for a long time, generating long-term pollution and ecosystem degradation.

Effects of pollution


Pollution has consequences on life and the balance of ecosystems. Among the most important effects are species extinction, loss of biodiversity, the emergence of diseases (in humans, animals, and plants), increased acid rain , and the worsening of climate change.

  • Academia Mexicana de Ciencias (2007) Los efectos de la contaminación ambiental sobre nuestra salud . https://www.amc.edu.mx/
  • DKV (2022) La contaminación radiactiva: qué es, por qué se produce, cuáles son sus consecuencias . https://dkv.es/
  • Instituto para la Salud Geoambiental (s.f) La contaminación atmosférica provoca unas 400.000 muertes prematuras en Europa . https://www.saludgeoambiental.org/
  • Ecolec (2021) ¿Qué es la contaminación hídrica? https://ecolec.es/
  • FAO (2018) La contaminación de los suelos está contaminando nuestro futuro . https://www.fao.org/
  • Martín, E (2022) La contaminación térmica. Causas y consecuencias . https://www.narasolar.com/
  • Organización de Naciones Unidas (s.f) ¿Qué es el cambio climático? https://www.un.org/
  • UNAM (s.f) Contaminación lumínica . http://www2.astroscu.unam.mx/

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    Air pollution causes asthma, bronchitis, and many other diseases. Moreover, it increases the rate of aging of lungs, decreases lungs function, damage cells in the respiratory system. Ways To Reduce Air Pollution Although the level of air pollution has reached a critical point.

  7. Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review

    Diseases occurring from the aforementioned substances include principally respiratory problems such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, bronchiolitis, and also lung cancer, cardiovascular events, central nervous system dysfunctions, and cutaneous diseases.

  8. How air pollution is destroying our health

    The health effects of air pollution are serious - one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt. ... Air pollution causes over half of all child deaths from acute lower ...

  9. Air pollution

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is one of the world's biggest killers: outdoor (ambient) pollution causes around four million people to die prematurely each year, while indoor (household) pollution (mainly from fuel burning) kills another 3.8 million. Many of these deaths happen in less-developed or developing ...

  10. Air Pollution Essay for Students in English

    CBSE CBSE Study Material Textbook Solutions Essay on Air Pollution Environmental changes are caused by the natural or artificial content of harmful pollutants and can cause instability, disturbance, or adverse effects on the ecosystem. Earth and its environment pose a more serious threat due to the increasing pollution of air, water, and soil.

  11. Air Pollution

    Air pollution refers to any physical, chemical or biological change in the air. It is the contamination of air by harmful gases, dust and smoke which affects plants, animals and humans drastically. There is a certain percentage of gases present in the atmosphere. An increase or decrease in the composition of these gases is harmful to survival.

  12. Cause and Effect Air Pollution Essay

    Air pollution contributes to many negative effects in society such as the health of humans, the damage of crops and soil, and global warming. While it is mostly our fault, we have a choice and a chance to make it right. The first way air pollution negatively affects society is through the health of humans. As humans, we need air to breathe.

  13. Essay on Air Pollution for Students: Check Samples 100 Words to 250

    Essay on Air Pollution Sample (250 Words) Air pollution is a pressing global issue that affects the health and well-being of people and the environment. It occurs when harmful substances, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, are released into the atmosphere.

  14. Air Pollution Threatens Millions of Lives. Now the Sources Are Shifting

    Public Health. Particle-based ambient air pollution causes more than 4 million premature deaths each year globally, according to the World Health Organization. The tiniest particles—2.5 microns ...

  15. The Overlooked Causes of Air Pollution

    Air pollution, identified by the World Health Organization as the foremost environmental threat to human health, claims between 7 and 9 million lives annually, representing 10%-15% of global deaths.

  16. Essay on Air Pollution for Students

    February 18, 2021 Essay Rehan. When chemicals, particles, or other harmful elements pollute the air quality, the phenomenon is known as air pollution. It can have adverse effects on the health of humans, animals, and plants. Also, the damage is not limited to living beings - it also affects human-made structures, like buildings.

  17. Essay on Air Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control of Air Pollution

    The major cause of pollution in the urban areas is automobiles which inefficiently burn petroleum, releases 75% of noise and 80% of air pollutants. Concentration of industries in one area is another major cause of air pollution. Effect of Air Pollutants: Air pollutants are broadly classified into particulate and gaseous.

  18. Pollution Cause and Effect Essay

    Pollution caused by humans and naturally. The environment consists of many pollutants in the air and water. Each pollution has its own risks and it disrupts the balance in our ecosystem and affects the environment. It also causes illnesses, contamination and global warming and it is related to the growth of population (UKEssays, 2018).

  19. Cause and Effect Essay on Air Pollution

    Air pollution can create really bad climates, such as acid rains, mega-storms, floods, and more. In 2011, air pollution took away $131 billion of the world's damages. "Air pollution is affecting the economy. It costs human lives, it reduces people's ability to work, it affects vital products like food, it damages cultural and historical monuments".

  20. Cause And Effect Essay Pollution

    Air Pollution - The Causes &amp; Effect. Defi-Air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, poses health risks to millions of Americans every day, contributing to asthma, emphysema, heart disease, and other potentially lethal conditions. Managing air pollution causes, and defending successful safeguards like the Clean Air Act, is critical

  21. Essay on Air Pollution

    Causes There are lots of causes of air pollution in the world and here are a few of those causes: The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest cause of air pollution, and that is why it has been prohibited at a lot of places in the world. Cars, buses, motorbikes are another big cause of air pollution because they emit a lot of pollution also.

  22. Air Pollution and Its Impact on Human Health

    Updated: Jan 16th, 2024 Common health problems associated with air pollution Indoor and outdoor air pollution causes several common health problems which according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (2009) are grouped according to the major pollutants.

  23. How air pollution delayed a surge in extreme rain

    How air pollution delayed a surge in extreme rain. Aerosol pollutants have masked the effects of global warming. Without them, the U.S. is about to get a lot wetter. The past half-century has seen ...

  24. Causes and Effects of Pollution

    StudyCorgi Environment Causes and Effects of Pollution Topic: Pollution Words: 584 Pages: 2 The environment people live in is affecting them, including health and lifestyle, and the nature around them, like plants, animals, water bodies, and the atmosphere.

  25. There's Only One Way to Fix Air Pollution Now

    Air pollution is associated with some 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths each year. Particulate matter from burning fossil fuels is responsible for roughly one in five deaths worldwide. In the U.S ...

  26. Environmental pollution: concept, causes, types and effects

    Air pollution is linked to the burning of fossil fuels, industry, agriculture, transportation, and energy production. It is caused by the accumulation of gaseous pollutants in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, chlorofluorocarbon, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur oxide. The main effect of air pollution is climate change.

  27. Air pollution as a substantial threat to the improvement of

    Objective. This study aims to provide empirical evidence about whether and to what extent air pollution affects the global agricultural total factor productivity (TFP). <P />Methods. The research sample covers 146 countries all over the world during 2010-2019. Two-way fixed effects panel regression models are used to estimate air pollution's impacts. A random forest analysis is conducted to ...