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Air Pollution Control – Definition, Types, Causes and Effects

Last Updated : 15 May, 2024
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Air Pollution Control means using methods to lessen or stop the release of pollutants into the atmosphere that could endanger human or environmental health. One of the main areas of pollution control, along with wastewater treatment, solid waste management, and hazardous waste management, is the control of air pollution. Air pollution is the degradation of the atmosphere’s environment by compounds that are dangerous to the health of mankind and other creatures that live, or that interfere with the climate or materials.

Air Pollution Definition

Air pollution refers to the presence of harmful substances in the air, water, or soil that can adversely affect living organisms. It involves the introduction of toxic materials into the environment, posing risks to its components. Pollution can arise from both natural phenomena, like volcanic eruptions, and human activities. However, contemporary pollution is predominantly caused by human actions, surpassing natural sources. Factors such as the proliferation of vehicles and the continuous discharge of industrial waste into the air or water bodies are significant contributors to air pollution.

What is Air Pollution?

The release of compounds into the natural environment that is hazardous to both human health and the health of the planet as a whole is referred to as air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes close to seven million deaths worldwide each year. Currently, nine out of ten people breathe air that contains more contaminants than the WHO’s recommended levels, with those in low- and middle-income nations suffering the most.

Air-Pollution

Numerous pollution-related disorders, such as respiratory infections, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, and lung cancer, are at significantly increased risk due to air pollution. An increasing number of studies demonstrate that exposure to air pollution may be connected with cognitive impairment, lower intelligence levels, a greater likelihood of developing psychiatric illnesses such as depression, and poor birth outcomes. Though the adverse effects of poor air quality on human health are comprehensive, the cardiovascular and respiratory systems of the body are primarily affected.

Types of Air Pollutants

Any substance in the air that could be harmful to people or the ecology is referred to as an air pollutant. The substance may take the form of an aerosol (solid particles or liquid droplets dispersed and carried by a gas), liquid droplets, gases, or solid particles. A pollutant may be created by humans or by nature. Pollutants are divided into primary and secondary categories.

Primary Pollutants

Primary pollutants are typically created by processes like the eruption of volcanic ash. Other instances are sulfur dioxide emitted from factories or carbon monoxide gas from automobile exhausts.

Major primary pollutants that are released into the atmosphere by human activity:

  • Ammonia: Ammonia is primarily released by agricultural waste. Ammonia is a corrosive and dangerous substance that is widely used. Ammonia combines with sulfur and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere to produce secondary particles.
  • Carbon dioxide: CO2 has been referred to as “the worst climate pollutant” due to its function as a greenhouse gas. When compared to pre-industrial periods, CO2 now makes up around 410 parts per million (ppm) of the earth’s atmosphere, and burning fossil fuels releases billions of metric tons of CO2 every year.  The amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere has been rising quickly.
  • Carbon Monoxide: The combustion of fuel, such as natural gas, coal, or wood, produces carbon monoxide. The majority of carbon monoxide released into the atmosphere comes from vehicle exhaust. It causes an airborne smog-like formation that has been connected to numerous respiratory conditions as well as disruptions to the environment and to animals.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons: Emitted by-products that are currently off-limits; damaging to the ozone layer. These are the gases produced by appliances like air conditioners, freezers, aerosol sprays, and others.
  • Nitrogen Oxides: Nitrogen oxides, in particular nitrogen dioxide, are released during high-temperature combustion and are also created by electric discharge during thunderstorms. They may appear as a dome-shaped brown haze overhead or as a plume downwind of cities.

Secondary Pollutants

Secondary pollutants are not immediately released into the environment. Instead, they develop in the air as a result of interactions between basic pollutants. A well-known example of a secondary pollutant is ground-level ozone.

Included in secondary pollutants are:

  • Ground level Ozone: Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds combine to form ozone. It is a large-scale contaminant and part of the smog that is created by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Peroxyacetyl nitrate: Peroxyacetyl nitrate (C2H3NO5) is produced from Nitrogen oxides and Volatile Organic Compounds in a similar manner.
  • Photochemical smog: When a lot of coal is burned in one area, it produces a lot of smoke and sulfur dioxide, which is what causes smog. Modern smog is mostly created by industrial and automotive emissions, which are then combined with primary emissions to form photochemical smog when they are exposed to the sun’s UV rays in the atmosphere.

Causes of Air Pollution

To mitigate air pollution effectively, it’s crucial to grasp its underlying causes. The primary culprits include:

  1. Fossil Fuel Combustion: Burning fossil fuels like coal and petroleum in power plants and industries emits harmful gases such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, significantly contributing to air pollution.
  2. Automobile Emissions: The extensive use of automobiles releases harmful gases into the atmosphere, further exacerbating air pollution.
  3. Agricultural Practices: Agricultural activities emit ammonia, pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers into the air. Burning fields for new crop cycles also releases toxic pollutants, adding to air pollution.
  4. Industrial Operations: Industries emit a significant amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and other chemicals, deteriorating air quality. Petroleum refineries are notable contributors to air pollution with their emissions.
  5. Mining Activities: Mining operations release dust and chemicals into the air, contributing to significant air pollution and affecting the health of workers and nearby residents.
  6. Household Sources: Domestic activities such as using chemical paints and excessive use of air conditioners emit hazardous chemicals into the air, polluting the environment. Suspended Particle Matter (SPM), caused by dust and combustion, is another significant contributor to air pollution.

Effects of Air Pollution

  • Air Pollution Impact: Increasing air pollution adversely affects plants, animals, and humans.
  • Global Warming Connection: Air pollution contributes to global warming by emitting harmful gases, leading to rising temperatures, sea level elevation, ice melting, habitat loss, and impending crises without timely intervention.
  • Acid Rain Formation: Combustion of fossil fuels releases nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, which combine with water droplets to form acidic rain, posing threats to humans, animals, and agriculture.
  • Ozone Layer Depletion: Air pollution, particularly chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, degrades the ozone layer, allowing harmful UV rays to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere, potentially causing health issues and harming crops.
  • Mitigation Importance: Addressing air pollution is crucial to mitigate these adverse effects and safeguard ecosystems and human health.

Check: Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air Pollution Control

The following actions can be taken to reduce air pollution:

Reducing the Use of Vehicles

Vehicles should not be used for shorter distances. Instead, people should use public transportation to get from one location to another. Not only does this reduce pollutants, but it also saves energy.

Conservation of Energy

To create power, a lot of fossil fuels are used. As a result, we must remember to turn off electrical equipment when not in use. As a result, each of us may do our part to protect the environment. Utilizing energy-saving technology, such as CFLs, also significantly reduces pollutants.

Using Renewable Energy Sources

Utilizing geothermal, solar, and wind energy helps to reduce air pollution more significantly. As a move toward a cleaner environment, many nations, including India, have implemented the usage of these resources.

Additional measures to lower Air Pollution include

  • By decreasing and minimizing the usage of fire and fire-related items. Because industrial emissions are a major source of causing pollution, so this would be limited by controlling or treating them at the source. If the reactions of a given raw material produce a pollutant, for example, the raw materials can be replaced with less harmful ones.
  • Another method of reducing pollution is to use alternative fuels. CNG can be used for powered vehicles that are replacing petrol and diesel in many parts of India. These are commonly used by automobiles that do not have completely functional emissions.
  • Modifications can be done for already present equipment to reduce pollutant emissions is another technique to control air pollution generated by industries.
  • Controlling pollution at the source isn’t always possible. In that instance, process control equipment can be used to reduce pollution.
  • Diluting air pollutants is a very effective means of mitigating air pollution.
  • The final and most effective method of minimizing the negative impacts of air pollution is tree planting. A vast amount of contaminants in the air are reduced by plants and trees. Planting trees in places with high pollution levels will be quite effective.

Check: 500+ Words Essay on Air Pollution

Air Pollution Control – FAQs

What is air pollution control? 

Air Pollution Control means using methods to lessen or stop the release of pollutants into the atmosphere that could endanger human or environmental health.

What are Effective Methods for Controlling Air Pollution?

Effective methods for controlling air pollution include using renewable energy sources like solar and wind instead of fossil fuels, implementing strict emissions standards for vehicles and industrial plants, and utilizing air filtration systems in industrial processes and indoor environments.

How Do Catalytic Converters Reduce Air Pollution?

Catalytic converters reduce air pollution by converting harmful gases from vehicle exhausts, such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and hydrocarbons, into less harmful substances like carbon dioxide and water vapor through a process called catalytic oxidation.

What Role Does Government Regulation Play in Air Pollution Control?

Government regulation plays a crucial role in air pollution control by setting and enforcing air quality standards, monitoring pollution levels, and imposing restrictions on the amount of pollutants that vehicles and industries can emit.

Can Planting Trees Help Control Air Pollution?

Yes, planting trees can help control air pollution. Trees absorb pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, and release oxygen. They also trap particulate matter on their leaves and bark, helping to clean the air.

What is the Impact of Public Awareness on Air Pollution Control?

Public awareness impacts air pollution control significantly. Educated communities are more likely to support and comply with pollution reduction policies, participate in recycling and conservation activities, and use public transportation or carpool, all of which contribute to reduced air pollution.

What are the Benefits of Air Quality Monitoring?

Air quality monitoring benefits public health and safety by providing data that helps individuals avoid polluted areas and allows authorities to take timely action to reduce pollution levels. It also assists in evaluating the effectiveness of air pollution control strategies.

What is the best way to preserve air quality?

The greatest strategy to preserve air quality is to lower pollution emissions by switching to cleaner fuels and manufacturing methods. When pollutants are formed and before they can escape into the environment, they must be captured or contained by the proper air-cleaning equipment.

How can be CO2 levels reduced in the air?

Utilizing energy more effectively and reducing the combustion of fossil fuels by employing alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind, tidal, and solar power are the greatest ways to lower the amounts of carbon dioxide in the air.

How does renewable energy reduce air pollution?

By providing power or heat without combustion, for example, renewable energy sources contribute to improving the environment and human health. Therefore, the most efficient technologies for reducing air pollutant emissions include wind power, solar PV electricity, geothermal energy, heat pumps, and solar thermal energy.



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