Causes and Disadvantages of Air Pollution

Essay by natbat48High School, 12th grade February 2004

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Air pollution is a major problem facing our environment today. This dilemma is harmful to every living creature on this planet. How can we limit the causes of air pollution? There are industrial as well as residential causes of air pollution. We need to limit the effects of air pollution. We all know it affects the environment, but it also can affect us directly. Air pollution needs to be controlled. Air pollution can be defined as pollution in the air. It is all around us. It might not be as clearly visible in some areas as others but the fact is that air pollution is still there affecting us in some way. It has been known to cause illness or even death. Many people are not aware of this. The air that surrounds us is a mixture of 78 percent nitrogen; 21 percent oxygen; less than 1 percent of carbon dioxide, argon, and other gases; and varying amounts of water vapor.

Any other particles, gases or unoriginal constituents hanging in the air which are not part of its original composition are called 'Pollutants' and this kind of air is called Polluted Air. Even inhaling small amounts of such air pollutants can have serious effects on one's health and leads to environmental problems. We can see some air pollutants such as the reddish-brown haze in smog; however, other air pollutants, including some of the most dangerous, are invisible.

There are two main causes of air pollution. One of the main causes is natural pollution. Natural pollution is just windblown dust, pollen, fog, and other natural forms. The other main cause is people pollution. People pollution is the main concern and most serious form. Most of people pollution is caused by industry, cars, trucks, and airplanes. The residential causes are automobile emissions and forest fires. Industrial causes are those such as factory emissions and the burning of fossil fuels. One residential cause is the emissions of automobiles. This is probably the most harmful cause. People have drive automobiles every day to get from one place to another. If automobiles did not exist, the air would be cleaner. But the luxury of being able to travel long distances in short periods would be gone. This is a problem because people need to go places, but automobile emissions are still harmful to the environment.

Motor vehicle emissions are generated in several different ways and locations during their operation. The most important sources are those produced in combustion and vented through the exhaust pipe. These exhaust gases consist mainly of unburned HCs, CO, and NOx and it accounts for approximately 90- 92% of all vehicle emissions. Some products of combustion are not vented through the exhaust system because they slip by the piston rings and the cylinder walls. These "blowby" gases are mainly unburned HCs that accumulate in the crankcase exhaust port. A third source of emissions is the votalization of HCs through the carburetor and fuel tank vents. Carburetor emissions are pronounced during the time the engine shuts off. Forest fires caused by humans puts harmful smoke into the environment. These forest fires do not happen often, but when they do, there is much destruction caused to the atmosphere. In the early 1950's, forest fires in the Southeastern United States covered huge areas of the country with smoke so thick that flights were canceled in New York City. Chlorofluorocarbons or CFC's were developed by chemists at General Motors in 1928. When they were developed, they were looked upon as "miracle" gases that could be safely used for many purposes. They were not toxic. They did not corrode the materials that they came in contact with. They were not flammable either. Finally they could be manufactured easily and inexpensively.

Over the years these CFC's have been made to serve many purposes from refrigerator coolants to jet streams in aerosol cans and polystyrene material to air conditioners. When people do not properly dispose of CFC's, they could escape into the atmosphere, creating a hole in the ozone layer.

More and more, we are discovering what is polluting our earth, and how to stop it. The discovery in the 1980s that air pollutants such as fluorocarbons are causing a loss of ozone from the earth's protective ozone layer has caused the phasing out of fluorocarbons. The worldwide increase in the burning of coal and oil since the late 1940s has led to more and more increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide. The resulting "greenhouse effect", which allows solar energy to enter the atmosphere but reduces the remission of infrared radiation from the earth, could lead to a warning trend that might affect the global climate and lead to a melting of the polar ice caps. Possibly an increase in cloud cover or absorption of excess carbon dioxide by the oceans would check the greenhouse effect before it reached the stage of polar melting. Nevertheless, research reports released in the U.S. in the 1980s indicate that the greenhouse effect is definitely under way and that the nations of the world should be taking immediate steps to deal with it. In the U.S., the Clean Air Act of 1967 as amended in 1970, 1977, and 1990 is the legal basis for air-pollution control throughout the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has primary responsibility for carrying out the requirements of the act, which specifies that air-quality standards be established for harmful substances. These standards are in the form of concentration levels that are believed to be low enough to protect public health. Source emission standards are also specified to limit the discharge of pollutants into the air so that air-quality standards will be achieved. The amendments of 1990 identify ozone, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, acid rain, and air toxins as major air pollution problems. Internationally, 49 countries agreed in March 1985 on a United Nations convention to protect the ozone layer. This "Montreal Protocol,", calls for the phaseout of certain chlorocarbons and fluorocarbons by the year 2000 and provides aid to developing countries in making this transition.

These steps that are being taken to help air pollution will never change the fact that we will most likely always have air pollutions. The industrial life that we have here in the year 2004 leaves us with that one disadvantage. People enjoy being able to travel from place to place, and they enjoy the factories that provide them with the goods that they need. Air pollution can be controlled, but I don't think it could ever be stopped.