In the 20th century, we started to become more aware about air pollution and its major impacts on the world and the environment. The official definition of air pollution is when there is a presence in the air or an introduction into the air of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects like chemicals.
Today, people are taking action on the sources that are causing our air to be filled with bad pollutants.
I have always been very interested in this problem because it can affect our everyday lives. Things like transportation or even factories can risk people of cancer or even just bad health in general. In this research paper I will be analyzing some major problems that are contributing to our poor air quality and also using the lessons and activities we learned in class to elaborate on more examples.
Some major problems that are emitting these toxic chemicals into our air are poor disposal of waste, burning fossil fuels, factories, and automobiles. Only around 34% of people recycle and that’s an extremely low number when it comes to the outcomes these are causing. When people are using everyday items like paper, aluminum, glass, and cardboard, they could be recycling to help reuse the materials and stop the gases caused from breaking down these materials. Recycling is a really easy way to help stop air pollution from increasing.
Another way people can stop these problems are using other sources of energy. Companies are using fossil fuels and burning them, which are sending tons of horrible substances into our air just for energy. People can use more efficient options like solar panels, wind turbines, or even using methods of hydroelectricity or thermal energy. In Unit 3, the presentation project called “Three Gorges Dam” showed us that countries are taking action in trying to create more efficient ways to produce clean energy. We also found in our research that this new dam also produces a lot of water pollution. Technology like these have pros and cons like making the materials and things you need for the dam can cause air pollution in the factories where they are produced. A pro about the “Three Gorges Dam” is that this is creating energy using hydroelectricity, which is saving us from burning coal which then causes more air pollution. Overall, this dam is a success and a useful tool to help the decrease air pollution. The last cause of air pollution is when you are sitting on the Ben Franklin Bridge8 in rush hour traffic and your car and the other hundreds of cars are producing big puffs of exhaust out the back of their car. What is in that exhaust is nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and tons of other chemicals that are floating up into your air and polluting it.
When it comes to air pollution, the abiotic and biotic factors that are interacting with each other are humans and plants and also some things in photosynthesis. Humans are the biotic factors that are negatively affecting air pollution and the plants and trees are the biotic factors that are positively affecting it by making the air fresher and cleaner. When we talk about the biotic factors in this, we are referring to very necessary things to make photosynthesis happen which are sunlight, water, soil, and carbon dioxide. Without the process of photosynthesis, plants would not be able to glucose which makes them grow and produce oxygen to emit into the air. In Unit 2, we did a lab called “Food Web and Energy Transfer”, where we looked at food chains and made charts about how each thing on the chain affected the other things around it. We learned that just removing one specie can affect the whole food chain in drastic ways. Pollution that gets into things like soil, sediments, water, and air then gets into the food web by polluting the plants or animals that come in contact with these things. For example, a fish may be consumed by a bird or by another animal and the pollution gets transferred through the food chains until it eventually reaches humans. These dangerous chemicals that are floating through our environment’s air is starting to harm all of us and our health. To conclude, air pollution is slowly making its ways through the food chains and making serious affects and changes on this.
When you think about air pollution, you may wonder how scientists are able to study it and how to check for chemicals. Using our new technology that keeps advancing over time, scientists are able to collect certain samples of air and do certain tests for chemicals. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences or NIEHS helped launch off a project called the “My Air, My Health Challenge”. This was a year-long competition that tech innovators made and developed a personal, portable air pollution sensor that would measure both air pollution and the physiological responses of the individual being exposed to the air they were breathing. After a year, all the data from each participant was collected and used to study and create new solutions. This was just one example of how scientists can collect air samples in different areas around the world. When it comes to biology class, there isn’t much we can do to study this, but in Unit 1, we did a lab called “Soil Community Survey”. We each took a sample of soil from our backyards and sifted through each section with forceps and tweezers, finding different things like insects, leaves, and even some rocks. Doing this lab didn’t show us a direct study of air pollution, but it did show us how many little things that are living in soil. When the air pollution goes into the soil, it is now affecting all the other biotic factors and like I stated in the paragraph “Abiotic and Biotic Factors”, this will now change the whole food chain.
Bad health isn’t the only effect of air pollution, acid rain is another serious outcome. Acid rain is something that caused by a chemical reaction that begins with air pollution when compounds like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air. These toxins rise very high into the atmosphere, where they mix and react with the water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form more acidic pollutants, as known as acid rain. Acid rain does critical damage on our environment like polluting lakes, streams, or marshes. When the water becomes more acidic, the pH decreases more and more causing some animals to die off. The more extreme of the amount of acid rain, the more damage it will have on the ecosystem’s water. Acid rain is not only messing up the water, it is also messing up plants, like trees. It removes the minerals and nutrients from the soil that trees need to grow. In Unit 3, we did a lab called “Acid Rain and pH in living systems”, but there was one activity where we measured the pH after every drop of vinegar being added to the ammonia. Ammonia is a very strong base, and the vinegar is a strong acid. After each drop of vinegar, we watched the pH go from around an 11 to eventually hit 7 after adding vinegar drops. We concluded that when mixing an acid to a source, it can drastically change the pH. To tie this together, when acid rain is mixing with the lakes or streams, it can very easily mess up the pH balance. So as you can see, pollution is not only just causing acid rain, it’s also ruining sea animal’s homes and stopping plants from growing and going through the process of photosynthesis.
Pollution doesn’t seem like such a big problem to most, but after doing all this research and seeing the effects, we know now to take more action. Knowing that this is one of the biggest problems caused by human activities, we can change our ways when it comes to recycling or even leaving our car on for too long. When it comes to pollution problems, it affects all of us in different ways, so everyone who contributes, is slowly making our world a better place.