What is Air Pollution?
Air pollution refers to the chemical, physical or biological modification of the air. Air pollution happens when dust particles, gases, odour or smoke are released into the atmosphere in a method that makes it harmful to humans, animals and plant. The air becomes unclean and contaminated.
Causes of Air Pollution?
Burning of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels cause air pollution in the following ways:
Fossil Fuels are still the major source of energy used world over. This includes coal and other oil based fuels like diesel, petrol etc.
Coal is used primarily in thermal plants and factories causing pollution in the local places where these factories are situated. Burning of coal releases corrosive and poisonous compounds of sulphur and nitrogen. Burning oil based products is more difficult to control than that produced by burning of coal. Oil based fuels such as diesel and gasoline are burnt in vehicles including trucks, jeeps, cars, trains, airplanes. Burning of petrol causes a very high temperature and produces poisonous lead compounds. Combustion causes these compounds to oxidize.
During rains these oxides suspend in rain water to form varying concentration of acids like sulfuric or nitric acid and resulting in what is called ‘Acid Rain’. This Acid Rain can contaminate drinking water and vegetation, damage aquatic life and erode buildings.
Burning of fossil fuels releases many toxic gases into the air including Carbon dioxide which is one of the ‘Greenhouse Gases’ causing increase in temperature of the earth surface creating a phenomenon called as ‘Greenhouse Effect’.
Factories and Industries Exhaust
The presence of chemicals, particulates or biological compounds in the atmosphere can harm human and animal health and damage the environment.
Factories and manufacturing industries discharge large volumes of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, chemicals and organic compounds into the atmosphere.
- Energy Sources
Factories need an energy source to power their production processes. The burning of fossil fuel helps in production of electricity, especially coal. Power generation for factories may cause greater air pollution than the factory processes.
Alternatives - Renewal energy fossil fuel like Natural Gas is the least polluting for power generation. It gives out carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides on burning but in far lower quantities than coal.
In the recent years, there is an increased advocacy and use of Solar Energy to reduce the burden on Fossil Fuels. Use of Solar energy though does not cause much pollution, however, the process through which the solar panels are made involve high levels of emission of greenhouse gases. Hence the pollution levels caused as a result of using solar power equipment is debatable.
- Petroleum Refineries
Petroleum refineries release hydrocarbons and various other chemicals that pollute the air as well as land pollution. These are hydrocarbon-based chemicals which quickly evaporate in the air. In the presence of sunlight, they react with other air pollutants like sulphur or nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhausts to create peroxyacetyl nitrates, commonly known as ‘Photochemical Smog’. This seems similar to a thick brown haze and can hang on for days or weeks over urban cities.
- Food Procedures
The food industry uses a wide range of methods for the catering, training and packing of food products that discharge particulates into the atmosphere. Meat and fish processing plants generates volumes of liquid waste that leaves bacterial residues and molds, which pollute the air with germs. In addition, bulk material handling of grains and flour generate dust. Smoking and frying methods discharge soot into the air. All these methods of food processing are significant contributors to Air Pollution.
Alternative: The only alternative to all the pollution caused due to any factory or industry, is to evolve better technology and increased sensitization of people involved in the industry, towards adapting new methods to prevent pollution through avoidable sources.
Indoor Air Pollution
Pollution inside homes is called 'indoor air pollution'. Indoor air pollution is usually very low. However, many domestics objects and activities can increase it.
On average, adults and children spend 90% of their time in the home. Children can be exposed to many asthma triggers in their homes. The presence of uncontrolled environmental triggers causes irritation to the lungs and can lead to asthma, allergies and other health threatening problems.
Indoor pollutants are 1,000 times more likely to be inhaled as compared to outdoor pollutants. Domestic activities which put us near sources of indoor air pollutants are:
Asbestos is the most important cause of indoor air pollution. They are most commonly created in coatings, paints, building materials, and ceiling and floor tiles. Asbestos can be originated in a range of materials used frequently in the building construction and automotive industry. The usage of asbestos has been controlled to some extent since newer products do not hold asbestos. But, old home constructed extended for a long time, the risks for asbestos are much greater than that of a newer home.
Formaldehyde is another leading cause of indoor air pollution, which is found in paints, sealants, and wood floors.
Formaldehyde is a colourless gas with a pungent smell that irritates the eyes, nose and throat, found in several offices and houses coming from products such as glues, dyes, ironed clothes, carpets, glues, dyes, paints, cigarettes and markers.
Formaldehyde is also a building material used as components in the manufacturing of furniture, furnishings and cabinets and buildings.
- Tobacco Smoke
Tobacco smoke that comes from outdoor and indoor areas can also be an indoor air pollutant. Tobacco smoke pollution, or second hand smoke, comes from two places: smoke breathed out by the person who smokes, and smoke from the end of a burning cigarette.
Tobacco smoke pollution causes or exacerbates a wide range of unpleasant health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma. Tobacco smoke contains 5,000 toxins that make it the most toxic indoor pollutant. Nearly 200 known poisons and 43 compounds have proven to cause cancer. Tobacco smoke results in a wide range of unpleasant health effects, including asthma, respiratory infections and cancer. Cigarette smoke causes the greatest percentage of lung cancers.
Damp and moist environments both inside and outside homes may result in collection of contaminants such as mold, mildews, bacteria, pollen and dust mites which multiply in the warm and moderate - high humid levels.
Bacteria, molds, and mildews can be easily traced in air conditioning equipment, humidifier reservoirs, dehumidifier drip pans, shower heads, toilets, and ice machines. Key sites for a new and consistent growth of bacteria, molds, and mildews are water damaged carpets, ceiling panels, walls, and panelling.
High amounts of dust get accumulated on decorative items, carpets etc, used at homes, which is easily avoidable by not using such items at home.
Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, Chimneys
Majorly home-based heating objects such as unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces, gas stoves emit a high amount of nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Pollutants from fireplaces and woodstoves with no devoted outdoor air supply can be pulled back into the living space from the chimneys.
- Paints and Coatings
The paint contains high and low VOCs. VOCs vaporise as gases from certain liquids and solids at room temperature and then react in sunlight to assist to form ground-level ozone, an important component of ‘photochemical smog’.
- Religious Activities
Religious activities carried out inside the homes involves burning of candles, lamps, incense sticks and conducting hawans. All these majorly contribute to indoor air pollution.
Hair of household pets like cats and dogs also contribute to indoor air pollution. Hence, they should also be kept clean and well groomed. In case any of the family members are allergic to pet hair, pets should not be inside the house and the house should be cleaned more frequently.
Every Citizen’s Action Charter
- Maintain Healthy Lifestyle
- Say NO to Smoking & Crackers
- Say no Garbage/Trash/Crop Burning
- Reduce Dust Pollution and Vehicular Use
- Reduce Coal and Diesel Consumption