Whether we realize it or not, air pollution continues to be a major challenge around the world. There are many causes of this kind of environmental pollution and many undesirable consequences as a result. The world is becoming more in touch with the results of human actions. By taking responsibility at global, national, community, and individual level, the problem of air pollution can be somewhat reduced in the coming years.
Causes of Air Pollution
There are many sources of air pollution, but most are tied to human activities and the combustion of fossil fuels. Air pollution is caused by any process that produces small particles or gas that compromise the quality of the air when released into the atmosphere.
Some common contributors to air pollution include industry and power generation. These often use fossil fuels such as coal and fuel to power their operations or generate electricity. When these fuels burn, they release many harmful gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. This happens at a large scale because of the size of the operations.
The transport sector is also a major contributor to air pollution. Millions of cars travel regularly powered by combustion engines. The combined effect is a lot of pollution. Other manmade forms of air pollution include home cooking using gas and other fuels, home heating, tobacco smoking, metal smelting, and the use of aerosols containing CFC’s.
There are natural causes of air pollution as well. Volcanic eruptions release many compounds including the pollutant gas sulfur dioxide. Forest fires also cause a lot of havoc with excessive combustion. Finally, farm animals can also contribute to polluting the air. Many types of livestock like cattle release methane gas.
Consequences of Air Pollution
There is a range of negative effects of releasing pollutants into the air. Global warming is one example, and this is causing climate change across the globe. The full effects of these weather changes take time to be seen and are often difficult to predict. Climate change also affects agriculture and world food production.
Air pollution is behind many respiratory diseases as well as cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks. Some recent scientific studies have suggested that air pollution is killing more people than smoking each year—an estimated 8.8 million people globally. Other consequences of air pollution include acid rain and harm to buildings and property.
Regulation, Monitoring, and Possible Solutions
Regulatory bodies around the world are paying greater attention to environmental protection and issues around air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) has many measures in place for global monitoring, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees these and other related issues in the United States.
One of the measures uses to monitor air pollution is the air quality index (AQI). This index is utilized by governments around the world to compare and communicate the level of air pollution in the air in their various countries. The index goes from green to yellow, and all the way to darker red. It indicates an increase in the severity of the level of air pollution and associated health risks.
Some of the ways being looked at to lessen man’s negative impact on the environment and reduce air pollution include the use of renewable sources of energy to meet the demand for electricity and to power vehicles. Greener sources such as solar, wind, and water power do not rely on combustion of fuels.
Currently, Finland has the best air quality in the world, followed by Iceland, Sweden, Estonia, and Denmark. There could be a number of reasons for this. Countries like Finland use a lot of renewable energy and are not heavily industrial countries. They also have more regulation of air quality and car emissions.