Today’s world population uses cars, motorcycles, airplanes and other polluting transports, with increasing frequency. Although it is a quick way to travel and move from one place to another, we must be aware that our actions can further aggravate the current situation with air pollution . In addition, there are other practices carried out by human beings that affect the well-being of our environment and the air we breathe, such as industrialization.
Responsible use must be made of the limited resources that we have, and also their degree of pollution, because if not in a few years we will not be able to inhale the air that surrounds us. And it is that the air we breathe is essential for life on planet Earth and is composed in specific proportions of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, among others. The alterations that the air in our atmosphere can undergo have serious consequences for living beings, and we are the main emitters of harmful substances such as certain gases.
This EcologiaVerde article explains why the air is polluted , that is, what are the activities that cause our atmosphere to become polluted.
- What is air pollution or atmospheric pollution
- Why is the air polluted? – the main causes
- Consequences of air pollution
What is air pollution or atmospheric pollution
The pollution of air can be defined as the alteration of the gas composition suspended in the atmosphere. These polluting gases are, for example, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) among others. All of them affect our health, for example with respiratory problems, but they also contribute to the damage caused by climate change and the hole in the ozone layer, thus affecting the environment and its ecosystems. Thus, normally, these new components are detrimental to the health of living beings and come, for the most part, from activities carried out by humans, such as the use of automobiles or industrialization.
The pollution of our atmosphere is directly linked to the technological advances and industrial development that humans have been making, especially in the last century. That is why, in the last 150 years, more emissions have been emitted into the atmosphere than those corresponding to the rest of our civilization.
Obviously, not all regions produce the same emissions, so gases will not be concentrated in the same way either. On the one hand, there may be localized areas with a higher concentration of pollutants, which form an immense pollutant cloud and where there are great difficulties to breathe and, on the other hand, there will be areas in which due to lack of industrial structures or because they are far from cities and urban centers have pollution levels lower than the country’s average. These differences between regions can be economic incentives for the poorest countries, that is, some of the most polluting and richest countries (China, the US, Russia, Japan, etc.) can pay for exceeding their emissions in exchange for other countries cover their annual quota. This process is commonly calledCarbon Market .
Why is the air polluted? – the main causes
Pollutant emissions into our atmosphere can be produced by anthropic causes, that is, by causes that are human actions , or by natural causes . In the latter case, the emissions of harmful gases that are produced, although important, are not the main reason why the quality of the air in our atmosphere is decreasing at times.
Below are the main causes of air or atmospheric pollution :
Most industrial activities emit substances that are harmful to our health and that of the environment. Smoke emissions from industries, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides, ozone (O3) or methane (CH4), cause the quality of the air we breathe to decrease considerably. Depending on the industrial activity carried out (chemical, textile, etc.), different concentrations of these harmful gases will be emitted. In some cases, depending on the nature and composition of each pollutant, these can mix and react with each other, causing even more dangerous substances.
A drastic example of industrial pollution is what happened in England in December 1952, called Smog, when the entire city of London and its surroundings were exposed to a large cloud of black smoke that covered the sky. During those days, the number of respiratory illnesses increased dramatically, killing more than 10,000 people in just a few days. This phenomenon, in addition to being harmful to humans, seriously affected the environment and its fauna and flora, causing their deaths or physiological changes in them.
Cars and transportation that use fossil fuels
The use of fuels such as gasoline or diesel to move with our usual means of transport is increasing. These emissions produce pollutants such as carbon monoxide and dioxide (CO and CO2), nitrogen oxides and, to a lesser extent, sulfur dioxide (SO2).
This process turns out to be a serious problem, especially in highly populated cities, since due to the large number of cars that circulate every day and the retentions that are formed, an immense cloud of pollution is created that can last several days. This process is aggravated if the cars and motorcycles that are used are more than ten years old, for which reason prevention measures have recently begun to be put in place to regulate the number of cars that enter these large cities.
In order to begin to remedy this problem, in the last ten years electric or hybrid cars have begun to be launched on the market . This has been done mainly for two reasons; to pollute less and to stop depending on fuels that are a limited resource and that will end up running out in the next 30 years.
There are other types of pollution that, like those mentioned above, are produced by humans. They are, for example, the burning of garbage, the evaporation of certain herbicides and pesticides, mining extractions or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Natural causes of air pollution
But there is also a part of air pollution produced naturally , that is, by the environment itself. A good example is volcanic eruptions or forest fires . The gases that are emitted in these processes, it is true that they pollute the air, but they do not reach the damage and pollution that we humans do with the mismanagement of the resources that we have.
In addition, actions such as deforestation of forests , do not help our atmosphere, in a natural way, to recover little by little. The plants and trees that surround us play a fundamental role in the renewal of the air we breathe, since they capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and convert it into the oxygen (O2) that we breathe.
It could therefore be said that the air in our atmosphere is polluted mainly because of us, and we also do not allow it to be renewed naturally.
Consequences of air pollution
Air pollution leads to serious consequences for the environment and its fauna and flora. The main consequences of air pollution are explained below .
Climate change and greenhouse effect
Because of the pollutants that we emit into our atmosphere, a layer of gases is being created in our atmosphere that prevents the rays of the Sun that enter, from leaving in the same way. That is to say, these heat rays are retained on planet Earth and cause it to heat up more and more at times, which we know as the greenhouse effect . This has serious consequences for the flora and fauna of our environment, since it implies that they must adapt as best they can to this rise in temperatures or die. A good example is the displacement of many species, both plant and animal, to higher altitudes in order to live.
In the long term, this increase in temperatures will mean that our seasons and temperatures are increasingly irregular, and it will be increasingly difficult for living beings to adapt to this climate change .
Every day there are more cases of respiratory, cardiovascular and even dermatological problems directly related to air pollution. This implies a risk to human health that can even be lethal in some cases.
Plant and crop problems
The presence of more pollutants in the air makes plant species more difficult to photosynthesize and is also exposed to a greater range of diseases and problems when it comes to growing. This implies that the productions and the quality of the crops are reduced, which will mean that plant products are increasingly difficult to obtain and their price increases.
In addition to the problems of global warming , there are environmental factors that have also been affected by the increase in polluting gases in our atmosphere. A good example is acid rain, produced by a high concentration of gases such as sulfur acids, which leads to immediate degradation, destruction of the environment on which it falls, as well as being extremely harmful to living beings. Another example, already mentioned above, is that of Smog, a large cloud of polluting gases that is retained for a certain time, especially over cities where there are large pollution peaks.
In conclusion, these last two centuries we have polluted our atmosphere to levels that planet Earth will not endure for much longer. Therefore, either we begin to correct our actions and adopt new, more sustainable measures, or the amount of problems that our air pollution contracts will have a serious and irreversible impact on us.
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