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Do you know that the gradual rise in global temperature predicts that all the polar ice will melt which will lead to the gradual extinction of life as we know today? And did you know that air pollutants are one of the major reasons as to why the global temperature is increasing at such a rapid level? If you didn’t, you are at the right place, and if you did, well, time to know a little more!

What is air pollution?

When harmful and poisonous elements get introduced into the air and contaminate it, it is called air pollution. The elements which pollute the air are known as air pollutants and have harmful effects on all living beings.

Our earth is protected by the atmosphere which is again divided into many layers. The layer closest to the surface of the Earth is the Troposphere, after which comes the Stratosphere, followed by the Mesosphere and then other subsequent layers of the atmosphere. One of the main reasons why life has been possible on the Earth is because the atmosphere regulates the amount of heat which can enter the Earth. In the Stratosphere of the atmosphere lies a layer of ozone which is responsible for absorbing the ultraviolet radiation emanating from the sun. This helps in making sure that the global temperature of the Earth remains conducive to maintaining life. However, due to the rise of air pollutants and the constant increase in the concentration of air pollutants, the ozone layer is gradually depleting which in turn in leading to the rise of global temperature, which is popularly known as global warming.

Sources of air pollution

The sources of air pollution can be broadly categorized into two types- natural and manmade.

When the air gets contaminated due to natural elements like the eruption of volcanoes and forest fires then, these are termed as natural sources of air pollution or natural air pollutants.

When the air gets contaminated due to manmade causes like smoke from cars and factories, smoke from burning fossil fuel etc, then these are termed as manmade sources of air pollution.

What are the main air pollutants & their sources?

There are a lot of elements, an increased concentration of which can seriously contaminate the air. Let us take a look at the most important ones:

Pollutants Sources Hazards
  1. Carbon Monoxide (CO)

A little denser than unpolluted air, this is a gas which is tasteless, odorless and does not have any color.

  1. Burning petrol, wood, and diesel
  2. Smoking cigarettes
  3. Forest fires
  4. Burning dry leaves, twigs and branches
There are a lot of serious health hazards associated with CO. It basically brings down the capacity of the body to intake oxygen which in turn leads to breathing problems. An increased concentration of CO can also make us weak and drowsy.
  1. CFC or Chlorofluorocarbons

Gaseous compounds which consist of any gases like carbon, chlorine, fluorine, hydrogen etc.

This is released when we use air conditioners and refrigerators CFCs are have a very serious effect on the atmosphere because it is primarily responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer.
  1. CO

A compound of carbon and oxygen this is the gas that we exhale out of our bodies while breathing.

  1. Burning Coal
  2. Burning natural gases and oil
Also known as one of the greenhouse gases, an excessive amount of CO2 aids in trapping the extra amount of heat which needs to dissipate from the Earth’s surface which in turns leads to the rise of global temperature.
  1. Nitrogen oxide

Any oxides of Nitrogen like nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide etc.

Burning of fossil fuels
  1. Causes respiratory problems
  2. Results in acid rain and smog
  1. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2 )

A pungent smelling, odorless gas

  1. Burning of coal in thermal power plants
  2. Smelting metals
  3. Industrial manufacturing of paper
  1. Causes serious lung diseases
  2. Also results in acid rain and smog
  1. Suspended particulate matter or SPM

Very fine and minute liquid and solid particles that remain suspended in the air

  1. Industrial plants
  2. Smoke from factories
  3. Smoke from cars
  1. Causes respiratory problems
  2. Produces haze which makes it difficult to see
  1. Ozone

The gas which protects the earth from the harmful rays of the sun in the atmosphere, but causes pollution when emitted at the ground level

  1. Smoke from cars
  2. Smoke from factories and plants
  1. Makes us prone to cold and cough by lowering our immunity against them
  2. Hurts our eyes by making them burn and itch.
  1. Lead

A grey colored soft metal

  1. Burning diesel and petrol
  2. Present in batteries
  3. Present in hair dyes and paints
  4. Present in pencils
  1. Damage to the nervous system
  2. Can lead to cancerous growth in the body
  3. Cause digestive problems

Various effects of air pollution

In the table provided above, we have come across the words acid rain and smog. Do you know what they mean?

Smog: When different gases combine with dust and water vapour, then it is referred to as smog. The main pollutant that is present in smog is the ozone gas that is emitted at the ground level and some airborne particles. Smog is harmful to all living beings.

Acid Rain: We know that SO2 and oxides of Nitrogen are some of the major air pollutants. When they combine along with water vapour that is there in the atmosphere and falls down as snow or rain, it is known as acid rain. It is highly corrosive and can cause serious harm to natural life.

How to control air pollution?

While you cannot do anything to control the natural sources of air pollution, you can control the manmade ones:

  1. Send your car for regular pollution checks
  2. Do not keep more than one car per family.
  3. Always travel via pollution-free means like taking a bicycle to school. You can also share a ride with a friend or take a pool car to school.
  4. Factories and plants should incorporate proper air filtration system so that they do not let out harmful smoke.
  5. Plant more and more trees so that it can absorb the harmful CO2 present in the atmosphere.

It is very important to be aware of air pollution so that you can take better care of your environment.

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