Air pollution

We need to breathe air to stay alive. But the air we breathe must be clean air. If the air we breathe is polluted (made dirty) we can become sick.

Air pollution and your health
Breathing polluted air can make your eyes and nose burn. It can irritate your throat and make breathing difficult.

Pollutants such as tiny airborne particles of dust, soot, and smoke can get deep into a person's lungs. This can cause problems for people, especially those with asthma.

Some pollutants make their way up into the upper atmosphere, causing a thinning of the protective ozone layer. This has led to changes in the environment and increases in skin cancers.

Air pollution and the environment
Air pollution can also damage trees, crops, other plants, lakes, and the animals that live on the land and in the water.

Air pollution also dirties and damages buildings, monuments, and statues.

Air pollution cost a lot of money. The costs of health care for people made sick, the cost of the damage to the environment can be great. Air pollution also reduces farm crops and forests that also costs lots of money in lost food and timber production.

What are the causes of air pollution?
The causes of air pollution are both natural and human.

Strong winds blow dust into the air, polluting it.
© [2007] Jupiterimages Corporation

Natural causes of air pollution include smoke and a gas called carbon monoxide that is released by bushfires.
Wind erosion blows soil into the air in places where there are few plants to hold the soil together.
Pollen is dispered from plants and into the air.
Methane is a gas produced by farm animals as they digest their food. The animals belch and fart the gas into the air. Methane is also produced by the natural rotting of plants.
Radon, a gas from radioactive decay within the Earth's crust, pollutes the air.
Erupting volcanoes release the poisonous gases sulfur and chlorine, and blow ash particulates into the air.

Fossil fuels are burned to power this factory.
© [2007] Jupiterimages Corporation

Probably the main human cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and petrol. Fossil fuels are used for heating, to run transport including cars buses, planes and ships, to make electricity at power plants, and in factories where many goods are made. When they are burned, these fuels cause smog, acid rain, and soot.

At home, the burning of wood in fireplaces and in stoves adds to pollution to the air.

Fumes from paint, hair spray, varnish, aerosol sprays and many cleaning products we use in our homes are polluting the air we breathe.

Some things you can do to reduce air pollution

Turn off lights to save energy. This means less pollution into the air from power stations.

Use gas for the barbeque. It is less polluting than wood or charcoal.

Cycle or walk to school rather than have a parent drive you.

Recycle paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans. (This conserves energy and reduces emissions from factories).

Can you think of other ways to reduce your contribution to air pollution?

If you use any part of this, write the source in your bibliography like this:
Thomas & Sydenham, Air pollution. [Online] (2009)

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