Bringing More Awareness to Air Pollution

Updated on January 30, 2019

Outdoor air pollution has damaging effects on both the environment and living things and fixing it is proving to be a formidable task. We need to stop contributing to air pollution or it will only get worse, causing health problems for living things and deteriorating the Earth. Urban areas are especially affected by outdoor air pollution because pollutants are being released by means of transportation, production of goods, heating, and many other sources. Pollutants can be released by a natural source, such as a volcano releasing gases, but they are most often released by human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Air pollution is a worldwide problem. Many organizations are giving facts to people to help educate them on how to avoid air pollution. First and foremost, the negative effects upon living things, the environment, and human health are gradually decreasing in some areas, but the casualties from air pollution on all things are still large in number. Two, the ozone layer in the stratosphere, which protects us from UV rays of the sun, has holes in it from air pollution. Three, humans contributing to air pollution with the actions of burning fossil fuels, using transportation that release toxins, and household or crop chemicals, are very detrimental. On top of that, primary pollutants go through chemical reactions creating secondary pollutants.

First, air pollution is a major factor of: changes in the environment, global warming, and death. Fortunately, air pollution is decreasing in a lot of areas such as the United States. However, there are still a large amount of casualties. There are many premature deaths annually, especially in urban areas. In an MIT study, researchers found that 200,000 premature deaths are caused yearly in the US due to air pollution. It is a threat to children the most because of their underdeveloped lungs. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that outdoor air pollution can cause cancer, as well. Results of continuous exposure to air pollution can be, most commonly, respiratory diseases, such as asthma or lung dysfunction, and death. Global warming is quickening due to greenhouse gases being released. Carbon dioxide, something we do not want to breathe, is building up because plants cannot convert all of it into oxygen fast enough. More effects include acidification and particulate matter. An example of acidification is when sulfuric acid is mixed with water droplets that make up the clouds, creating an acidic compound, and acid rain falls harming and killing wildlife. Acid rain enters the soil making it unreliable for habitats or for nutrition. Air pollutants in the form of particulate matter are very harmful and the amount of exposure time determines the effects. These effects can range from irritation to the eyes to brain damage.

Secondly, our protector from ultraviolet rays, the ozone layer, is being destroyed. This is a long-term consequence of air pollution and very tragic as well. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are pollutants that destroy the ozone layer in the stratosphere. Furthermore, when a CFC is released it goes up to the upper atmosphere and is broken down by ultraviolet rays. The chlorine that is a product of this process reacts chemically with oxygen atoms in the ozone and destroys the ozone layer. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a single atom of chlorine can destroy over a hundred thousand ozone molecules. The ozone layer keeps out ultraviolet rays from the sun. These rays can cause skin cancer and damage living things. Air pollution is breaking apart the ozone layer, causing thin ozone layers called ‘ozone holes’ to occur. Researchers have actually noted a drop in reproduction rates of some animals due to ultraviolet rays. The EPA also states that the ozone molecules cannot “naturally” be created as fast as it is being destroyed.

Third, the contributions of society to air pollution is just blatant disrespect for the environment and disregard for the health of living things. Primary and poisonous pollutants are gases or particles pumped into the air and include: sulfur dioxide, which comes from volcanoes and fossil fuels, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, and particles by fossil fuels. Secondary pollutants are pollutants that are the result of a chemical reaction in the air, which includes primary pollutants. Pollutants are pumped into the air by transportation vehicles, such as cars, and by burning fossil fuels for production of goods. Then, very harmful secondary pollutants are being created. For instance, ground-level ozone, or tropospheric ozone, is a poisonous gas that is a product of air pollutants and natural gases. This ozone prevents photosynthesis in plants as well as respiration in plants, which means no growth.

As you heard or read, air pollution is a major consequence internationally. The exposure to pollutants lies more in the hands of international, national, and regional authorities and how they decide to approach this predicament. Every person can do their part to contribute to making the environment safer and healthier. We definitely need to stop contributing to air pollution, and we need to do it now.


1952, the Great Smog of London killed 4000 to 12000.

Asia’s air pollution and death rate, due to air pollution, are increasing the fastest.

Bicycling, walking, and running are best ways to prevent pollution.

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