Air pollution is the contamination of air by adding impurites mainy toxic gases. It is important to realise that when air is polluted the effects in turn can affect both land and or water.

Where do the toxic gases come from?

Many of these toxic gases such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide originate from human activities and in industrialised countries. Human activities contribute more gases than natural phenomenons such as volcanoes. Gases produced by super eruptions cannot compare to those produced by humans. Countries along the Middle East and Asia such as India, China, Pakistan, Egypt and many others have high air pollution rates.
Read India’sAir Pollution

Humans can directly or indirectly pollute air

Direct Causes

    • Industrial gases
    • Vehicular emissions: It has been suggested that immobile vehicles release more pollutants than when they’re moving.
    • Burning fossil fuels
    • Mining dust
    • Nuclear/ Bomb explosions e.g. nuclear blast at Chernobyl, Ukraine 1986
    • Rocket launches

    • Radioactivities
    • Agricultural pesticides e.g. Ethyl dibromide (banned)
    • Burning dump/garbage
    • Burning trees
    • Biomass Burning e.g. India’s cakes made of hay, grass and cattle dung used for cooking. 165 million tonnes of particulates from biomass burning are released into the air annually.
    • Smoking release 10 times more fine particulate matter into the air than vehicles alone

Indirect causes

  • Deforestation results in unabsorbed carbon dioxide in the air
  • Dumping domestic garbage resulting in unpleasant smells and odours
  • Using excess fertilisers

Although humans play a major role in air pollution, natural phenomenons such as volcanic eruptions also play a significant role. Super eruptions, e.g. Mt Pinatubo (Philippines 1991), Mt Tambora (Mt Tambora 1815) release large amounts of ash and gases into the atmosphere. But humans still produce more gases than volcanic eruptions.

Effects of air pollution

Acid rain

When gases such as sulphur dioxide mixes with rain water, sulphuric acid is produced. This acid water causes more damage to plants, soil, corrodes buildings and degrades water quality.

Global Warming

Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane and many others into the air is enhancing the greenhouse trapping more and more outgoing radiation which intensely warms up the globe

Chronic Diseases and disabilities

Air pollution has become one major cause of deaths in countries such as India. People are exposed to tonnes of toxic gases which result in lung problems, respiratory failures, birth defects and mutations, for example the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which occurred on April 26 1986 caused cancers, respiratory failures and birth defects in the following years. In India, 2010, 620 000 deaths (Wikipedia) were caused by poor air quality. Many children in India have lung and respiratory problems and most people die prematurely. These early deaths are resulting in low life expectancies in India


Smog is a mixture of fog and gases which can decrease visibility and cause respiratory problems. A more lethal smog called photochemical smog which is a mixture of particulates and sunlight.

Abnormal Rainfalls

Particulates in air act as condensation nuclei which can result in high unusual rainfalls.

Mitigation and Prevention

While humans are the most polluters of air, they’re the ones who can lessen or prevent it.

Introducing clean source of energy

By eliminating dirty energy sources such as biomass and coal burning with clean pure sources such as solar or wind we can greatly increase air quality by more than 50%.

Carbon sequestration

This involves burying carbon dioxide underground so that it is not exposed to air

Filtering harmful gases

Filtering pollutive gases such as carbon dioxide from air using zeolites.

Adding lime

Lime reacts with carbon dioxide forming calcium carbonate

Carbon tax

Introducing tax on emissions and banning road unworthy cars can greatly reduce gas emissions.

Catalytic converters

Inserting catalytic converters on exhausts converts extreme dirty gases into somewhat safe gases e.g. nitrogen oxides into nitrogen and oxygen.

Some countries have shown improved air quality by applying some of the aforementioned practices. China has significantly reduced its pollution levels by introducing clean energy sources and closing pollutive factories. In India, some cities have shown improvements than others. Electrical cars are increasing in the UK.

However, barriers still remain which hinders air quality improvement. Most LEDCs cannot afford solar or wind power due to lack of funds. Cold temperatures in some developed countries hinders solar implementation. Lack of knowledge and ignorance in some countries, particularly LEDCs, impedes air quality improvement. More developing nations are industrialising daily which makes air pollution reduction impossible.

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