What is air pollution?

We explain what air pollution is, what are its pollutants and causes. In addition, its consequences and how to avoid it.

  1. What is air pollution?

When we talk about air pollution or air pollution, we refer to the presence in the various strata of  air  that make up the Earth’s atmosphere, of  materials and forms of energy that are not part of its natural composition and that represent a potential source of damage and inconvenience to life, leading to unpredictable chemical reactions and inconveniences.

The atmosphere is a homogeneous mass of gases that we know as air, and that the  planet’s gravity holds its surface together, fulfilling defense functions against space events such as meteors, solar radiation (through the ozone layer) and cosmic rays, but also conserving heat, allowing the water cycle , circulating different gaseous elements, etc.

In it some chemical elements predominate over others, mainly nitrogen, oxygen (and ozone), argon, carbon dioxide and water vapor (hydrogen and oxygen). These elements can be adulterated with unpredictable results when they come into contact with gaseous substances resulting from industrial activities , volcanic catastrophes and other events that lead to air pollution.

Much of the responsibility for known air pollution is due to the presence of the human being . Not only because the industry and other daily activities release large amounts of harmful gases into the atmosphere , but also because it throws other toxic elements into the water, and this when fulfilling its natural cycle (evaporation, condensation and precipitation) spreads them in the air and in the earth.

In both cases it makes it much quicker than nature can compensate for its harmful effects.

  1. What are the air pollutants?

Air pollution
Carbon monoxide is particularly toxic and life-threatening.

The main people responsible for air pollution are, in general:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO )  and other greenhouse  gases , such as methane (CH4).
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) , particularly toxic and harmful to life.
  • Sulfur oxides ( SO ) and nitrogen ( NO ) , which when they reach the atmosphere combine with water vapor and produce sulfuric acid, generating the so-called acid rains.
  • CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) , gases that were widely used in aerosols or as refrigerants, destroyed the balance of the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
  • Ozone (O ) , which although naturally found in a specific stratum of the atmosphere, by increasing its presence in other strata, decomposes against solar radiation and releases huge amounts of energy, heating the atmosphere artificially.
  1. Causes of air pollution

Although phenomena such as the eruption of volcanoes or the fall of meteorites (due to dust removal) can have a massive polluting effect on the atmosphere, we must recognize that they are not such recurring events in the current geological time of our planet, so their responsibility in air pollution it is not as much as we human beings have.

Since the Industrial Revolution,  humanity has industrially transformed materials and disposed of their waste in water and air, thus contributing to the adulteration of the content of the Earth’s atmosphere. Heavy industries, fossil fuel burning power plants and automobile traffic are a huge source of environmental pollution.

For example, the use of aerosols with CFCs, for example, caused serious damage to the ozone layer in the atmosphere during the late 20th century, and the tragedy of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor threw thousands of radioactive particles into the air that the wind dragged towards nearby rural populations, destroying the quality of air, water and soil.

  1. Consequences of air pollution

Air pollution
Contaminated air deteriorates the health of people, animals and plants.

The breakdown of the chemical and energy balance of the atmosphere has the following possible consequences:

  • Breathing problems . Contaminated air can deteriorate the health of people and animals, and even plants, by containing carcinogenic or poisonous substances.
  • Rains  to cidas . Certain chemical elements react in the atmosphere with water vapor and form corrosive acids or mixtures, which then fall to the earth with rain.
  • Deterioration  of water . Air pollution affects water, as it evaporates and precipitates and comes into contact with air pollutants.
  • Damage to  the ozone layer . In the upper layers of the atmosphere is the ozone layer that protects us from the direct impact of the sun’s rays. Certain gases react with it and “pierce” the protective layer.
  • l e fect greenhouse . The presence of certain heavy gases in the atmosphere constitutes an artificial chemical barrier, which prevents a portion of the earth’s heat from radiating into space, causing the global temperature to rise.
  1. How to avoid air pollution?

Some simple measures to reduce environmental pollution would be:

  • Use filters in chimneys and conduct a responsible industrial activity.
  • Promote  alternative energies to the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Eliminate the use of products with CFC.
  • Using gasoline without lead without polluting additives.

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