4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution (2024)

Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air, which can be harmful and impose significant health risks to the population, including increased chances of coronary and respiratory diseases, as well as preliminary deaths. Made up of chemicals and pollutant particles, air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime. Read on to learn about the major causes and effects of air pollution.

Sources of Air Pollution

1. Burning Fossil Fuels

The biggest contributors of air pollution are from industry sources and power plants to generate power, as well as fossil fuel motor vehicles. The continuous burning of fossil fuels releases air pollutants, emissions and chemicals into the air and atmosphere.

In 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that about 68 million tons of air pollution were emitted into the atmosphere in the US, contributing to the “formation of ozone and particles, the deposition of acids, and visibility impairment.”

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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed limits. Developing and low-income countries experienced the greatest impacts from outdoor air pollution, particularly in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.

Climate change has an interrelated relationship with the environment and air pollution. As more air pollutants and greenhouse gases are released, this alters the energy balance between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface, which leads to global warming. The global temperature increase in turns raises the production of allergenic air pollutants such as mold and extends pollen seasons.

2. Ozone and Smog

Ozone is a gas that when it forms air pollution and reaches too close to the ground, it significantly reduces visibility. We call this smog. This form of air pollution occurs when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides released from car exhausts and coal power plants. The ozone typically forms a protective layer in the atmosphere to protect the population from ultraviolet radiation (UV), but as it transforms into smog, it is harmful to human health and poses higher risks of respiratory illnesses like asthma and lung cancer.

3. Weather Conditions

Air pollution and poor air quality can be attributed to changing weather conditions. For example, dust storms in China would carry clouds of industrial pollutants and particulate pollution across the Gobi desert into neighbouring countries such as Korea and Japan during spring season. Likewise during periods of high air pressure, air becomes stagnant and pollutants are more concentrated over certain areas.

4. Heatwaves and Wildfires

Heatwaves not only lead to an increase of temperature, but are some of the causes and effects of air pollution. Hotter, stagnant air during a heat wave increases the concentration of particle pollutants. Extreme heat wave events also have higher risks of large-scale wildfires, which in turn, releases more carbon emissions, smog and pollutants into the air.

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Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution contributes to the death of 5 million every year and about 6% of the global population, according to Our World in Data. The lethal combination of outdoor air pollution and toxic emissions from burning fossil fuel has been one of the leading causes of chronic and often terminal health issues including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections.

The WHO estimates that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants. In 2017, close to 15% of population deaths in low income countries like South and East Asia are attributed to air pollution, while the higher income countries experience only about 2%.

The drastic difference in mortality numbers can be linked to legislations such as the Clean Air Act implemented by high-income countries like the US. Such legislations usually establishes national air quality standards and regulations on hazardous air pollutants. The UK in particular, saw a sharp 60% decline in air pollutant emissions between the 1970 and 2016.

The environmental effects of air pollution are also vast, ranging from acid rain to contributing to birth defects, reproductive failure, and diseases in wildlife animals. Agriculture is also a victim of air pollution as increased pollutants can affect crop and forest yields, reduce growthand increased plant susceptibility to disease from increased UV radiation caused by ozone depletion.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution has once again returned to the spotlight in relation to its role in transmitting virus molecules. Preliminary studies have identified a positive correlation between COVID-19-related mortalities and air pollution. China, being one of the most polluted countries in the world, can potentially link its high death toll during the pandemic to its poor air quality. Although, more research needs to be conducted to make any substantive correlation.

You might also like: History of Air Pollution: Have We Reached the Point of No Return?

Tagged: Air pollution causes and effects

4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution (2024)

FAQs

What are the 4 causes of air pollution? ›

Air pollution is caused by solid and liquid particles and certain gases that are suspended in the air. These particles and gases can come from car and truck exhaust, factories, dust, pollen, mold spores, volcanoes and wildfires. The solid and liquid particles suspended in our air are called aerosols.

What are 4 major effects of air pollution? ›

Air pollution also increases the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, and more severely affects people who are already ill. People's health risks from air pollution vary widely depending on age, location, underlying health, and other factors.

What are 10 effects of pollution? ›

Cardiovascular disease: Air pollution can increase the risk of both heart attacks and stroke. Lung cancer: In 2013, the World Health Organization determined that particle pollution can cause lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.

What is the cause and effect of pollution? ›

Emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to climate change and ozone-depleting substances create larger holes in the ozone layer. This type of pollution also increases the acidity of rain, which causes damage to buildings, land, fresh water and sea water, wildlife and plants.

What are 4 types of air pollution? ›

The common air pollutants are:
  • Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2. ...
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

What are the five main effects of air pollution? ›

Public health concerns include cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and reproductive, neurological, and immune system disorders. Research on air pollution and health effects continually advances.

What are the effects of air pollution Basic 4? ›

Air pollution affects all things. It is harmful to our health, and it impacts the environment by reducing visibility and blocking sunlight, causing acid rain, and harming forests, wildlife, and agriculture. Greenhouse gas pollution, the cause of climate change, affects the entire planet.

What are 4 symptoms of air pollution? ›

Symptoms
  • Eye irritation.
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Irritation and inflammation of the respiratory tract (coughing)
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity.
  • Aggravation of existing asthma, heart and lung conditions.

What are 4 facts on air pollution? ›

It hampers workforce productivity and damages overall economic activity:
  • $8.1 trillion in annual global health costs. Source: World Bank.
  • 6.1% reduction in global GDP. Source: World Bank.
  • 1.2 billion work days lost globally each year. ...
  • Every $1 spent on air pollution control yields an estimated $30 in economic benefits.

What are 4 negative effects of pollution? ›

In addition, long-term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer and damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems. In extreme cases, it can even cause death.

What are 5 things that cause pollution? ›

The major outdoor pollution sources include residential energy for cooking and heating, vehicles, power generation, agriculture/waste incineration, and industry.

What are 3 problems caused by pollution? ›

Pollution stunts economic growth, exacerbates poverty and inequality in both urban and rural areas, and significantly contributes to climate change. Poor people, who cannot afford to protect themselves from the negative impacts of pollution, end up suffering the most.

What are 3 causes of pollution? ›

What are the top 10 causes of Pollution?
  • Burning of Fossil Fuels – such as coal, oil, gasoline to produce energy for electricity or transportation.
  • Automobiles – gases emitted from vehicles.
  • Agricultural Activities – the insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers emit harmful chemicals.

What is air pollution in 100 words? ›

Air pollution occurs when dangerous particles, gases, and chemicals are released into the air. The pollutants of air can be found in vehicles, factories, power plants, and construction sites. Air pollution also causes smog, making it difficult to breathe or even see things as near as 100 feet.

What are the 3 leading causes of air pollution? ›

Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution.

What causes the four types of pollution? ›

Combustion processes, chemical production, and waste disposal contribute to air and water pollution. Many industrial wastes are disposed of in the nearby water bodies causing marine pollution.

What is air pollution for Basic 4? ›

What Is Air Pollution? Air pollution occurs when gases, dust, smoke, or odor get into the air and make it unclean. Air pollution is unsafe for humans and animals to breathe and for plants to live with. Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere, which is a layer of gases.

What are four ways air can be polluted? ›

Sources of Air Pollution
  • Burning Fossil Fuels. The biggest contributors of air pollution are from industry sources and power plants to generate power, as well as fossil fuel motor vehicles. ...
  • Ozone and Smog. ...
  • Weather Conditions. ...
  • Heatwaves and Wildfires.
Aug 6, 2021

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