Air pollution’s many sources.

Discussion on health consequences of air particulates

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Air pollution’s many sources.

Postby Wilberforce » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:48 pm

Air pollution’s many sources.

Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013 6:00 am

By WOLF D. FUHRIG, Journal-Courier

Smog hanging over urban and industrial center is the most obvious form of air pollution. Visible or invisible, it contributes to global warming.

Among the possible pollutants of the atmosphere, six stand out: Particulate matter; ground-level ozone; carbon monoxide; sulfur dioxide; nitrogen oxides; and lead. These pollutants do not only harm living beings, they also damage the environment. Particle pollution and ground-level ozone are the most widespread threats to life.

According to the American Lung Association, nearly 6.4 million people in the United States live in an area with harmful year-round levels of particle pollution in the form of dust. They are at heightened risk of asthma and other damage to the lungs.

Stratospheric and ground-level ozone depletion due to air pollution have long been recognized as endangering the earth’s ecosystems and thus human health. Indoor air pollution and urban air quality are listed as two of the world’s worst toxic pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute’s report on the world’s worst polluted places.

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is difficult to detect because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless and initially non-irritating. It is caused by incomplete combustion of organic matter when there is insufficient oxygen supply for complete oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. Although living beings emit carbon dioxide when they breathe, the gas becomes a pollutant when emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and natural gas. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and the main pollutant warming the earth’s atmosphere.

Sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas with a pungent, irritating smell, is released by volcanic activity and industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide. It may also contribute to smog, acid rain and global warming. Sulfur dioxide reflects light when released into the atmosphere, so that it keeps sunlight out and causes the earth to cool. Lower sulfur dioxide levels may actually make global warming worse. Just as sulfur dioxide from volcanoes can cool the planet by blocking sunlight, cutting the amount of the compound in the atmosphere lets more sunlight through and warms the earth.

Nitric oxide is a gas with a sharp, sweet smell. It is colorless but may turn brown at room temperature. Nitrogen oxides are released into the air from motor vehicle exhaust as well as from burning of coal, oil, diesel fuel and natural gas, particularly at electric power plants. Nitrogen oxides, moreover, are discharged during industrial processes, such as welding, electroplating, engraving and dynamite blasting. Nitrogen oxides are also produced by smoke from cigars and cigarettes.

Lead pollution spreads when automobiles used gas containing lead. Since nowadays unleaded gas is commonly used, lead pollution occurs mainly at lead smelters, metal processing plants and incinerators.

Lead has long been recognized as a harmful pollutant that can damage the brain and the nervous system of humans as well as animals. It can also cause birth defects in unborn children. In 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services called lead the “number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States.”

Greenhouse gases also include methane gas emitted by swamps and livestock, as well as chlorofluorocarbons contained in refrigerants and aerosol propellants. They were banned because of their destructive effect on the earth’s ozone layer. Many governments are trying to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide emissions, to which they committed themselves when they signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. By leveling taxes on carbon emissions or by increasing taxes on gasoline, governments hope to give people a financial incentive to conserve energy and pollute less.

The main means of transportation, such as cars, trucks, buses, ships and trains, account for 90 percent of the cancer risk caused by air pollution. Where people drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic, pollutants on the outside can seep into cars and make the air inside actually more polluted than urban air. Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, according to the California Department of Education.

Even in people who do not smoke tobacco, their lungs or hearts may be damaged simply from exposure to ozone and particulate matter.

Wolf Fuhrig may be reached at or (217) 243-2423. For other essays, go to

source ... f6878.html
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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