Air Pollution Facts & Health Issues

A search for air pollution facts may take us to the US govt.’s Clean Air Act.

It is the law that defines EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency) responsibilities for protecting and improving the air quality and the ozone layer.

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The result is a set of National Ambient Air Quality Standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.

Industrial development has taken modern living to very high standards but there have been plenty of side effects from many such scientific inventions.

Humans are exposed to outdoor and indoor air of different qualities due to which our health may get affected. Pollutants in air can cause many problems to us unless they are strictly monitored and controlled.

Let us have a look at the various aspects of the issues involved through the following tables.


Air Pollution Facts

DefinitionAn air pollutant is any substance in the air that can cause harm to humans or the environment. Pollutants may be natural or man-made and may take the form of solid particles, liquid droplets or gases.
ClassificationsPrimary pollutants are those released directly from the source : Carbon Monoxide Gas from vehicles' exhaust pipes or different obnoxious gases released from factories.
Secondary pollutants are those that are formed due to the reactions of the primary pollutants with air, such as ground level ozone.


Types of Air Pollutants &
Their Sources

Particulate MatterParticulate Matter or Particulates are very fine particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas
OzoneGround-level ozone is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight; Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents
Carbon MonoxideFrom vehicles' exhaust pipes
Nitrogen Oxidesare made up of nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts
Sulfur DioxideSulfur dioxide gases are formed when fuel containing sulfur, such as coal and oil, is burned, and when gasoline is extracted from oil, or metals are extracted from ore
LeadSources : industrial processes, primarily metals processing;waste incinerators, utilities and lead-acid battery manufacturers; Lead can also enter our body through water or through paint dust during house renovation work


Air Pollutants & Their Health Effects

GeneralAir pollutants cause difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing and aggravation of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions.


Specific Air Pollutants &
Their Health Effects

Carbon Monoxide (CO)Reduced oxygen delivery to heart, brain and tissues
At low level of CO exposure - heart patients will suffer chest pain, will have difficulty to exercise
At a higher level of CO exposure - people will experience difficulty in vision, reduced ability to learn or work or in performing complex tasks
Extremely high levels of CO exposure may even cause death, since it is poisonous
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)Affects children, young and old persons, affects people with Asthma problem, heart and lung patients
Nitrogen OxidesGive rise to breathing and respiratory problems like emphysema and bronchitis, damage to lung tissues;
OzoneAffects young and old people exposed to it, causing irritation to nasal passages and eyes, coughing, wheezing while doing exercises, aggrevating asthma, lung damage on long exposure
LeadChildren exposed to high levels may suffer from brain and nervous system damage, affects adults also causing hyper tension, high blood pressure and nerve disorders, memory and concentration difficulties, muscle and joint pain
Particulate MatterCauses respiratory difficulties like coughing, decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis and aggrevated asthma

From the above tables it is clear that air pollutants can play havoc with our health.

Awareness about air pollution facts is the first step to lead a healthy life. We can use such knowledge in different ways:

  1. As part of the managing entity in business enterprises, we can interpret the rules and standards issued by the government pollution control department(s) correctly so as to produce a pollution free atmosphere to the society.

  2. As individuals we can monitor our pollution causing equipments and tools such as our transport vehicles, lawn mowers, diesel power sets etc in our residential areas, clubs, leisure time activities, farm or gardening work etc.

  3. We can take part in different public forums on air pollution to educate the public, write to magazines bringing out the newer developments on the topic etc.

Sources for air pollution facts :
  1. US Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Wikipedia

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