In our society today, air pollution is a significant factor in our health. Since the beginning of the industrialization era, we have made a better place to live for ourselves. The primary problem with the industrial revolution is that we have also created some harmful effects. Air pollution is one of the most harmful attributes that we have created, and now we have to correct this problem. In the past ten years, we have been working hard to clean up the air which we have polluted.
We have reduced the number of pollutants in the air that is causing acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer, but it is still not enough. Some of how we have decreased the air pollutants are through the use of cleaner car emissions, engines, and consumer products. Acid rain has been one of the worst effects that we have created due to the pollutants, which we have been disseminating into the air. The pollutants, which have been rising into the atmosphere are creating harmful effects and giving us health problems.
Acid rain is created from the burning of coal and fossil fuels that rise into the atmosphere and mix with the moisture (rainwater) which is dispersed from the sky. It has higher acidic levels than normal, due to the exhaust from cars, power plants, and also factories.
When these pollutants reach M. Dettmer / 2 the atmosphere, the fumes mix with the moisture and create harmful sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides. These toxic gases mix with oxygen and moisture to form nitric and sulfuric acid.
It then falls back down to earth when it rains. The effects that it has on us are our “life cycles, soil, plants, animals and building materials” (the United States Environmental Protection Agency acid rain). Ozone depletion has also been a major issue for many years. According to The Environmental Protection Agency, fact sheet number four, they describe the ozone layer as the following. Ozone is a form of molecular oxygen that consists of three oxygen atoms linked together. Ozone in the upper atmosphere (the ozone layer”) occurs naturally and protects life on earth by filtering out ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But ozone at ground level is a noxious pollutant. It is the major component of smog and presents this country’s most intractable urban air quality problem. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Fact sheet #4) Pollutant such as combusted gasoline, which we are emitting into the air, is slowly depleting the ozone layer. Since we are damaging the ozone layer, it is beginning to become weak, thus giving us health problems such as skin and lung cancer. Both young and old people are starting to suffer from severe health problems. The following quote is the description of problems which is given by the Environmental Protection Agency. M. Dettmer / 3 0zone is a severe irritant. It is responsible for the choking, coughing, and stinging eyes associated with smog. Ozone damages lung tissue aggravates the respiratory disease and makes people more susceptible to respiratory infections. Children are especially vulnerable to ozone’s harmful effects, as are adults with existing diseases. But even otherwise healthy individuals may experience impaired health from breathing ozone-polluted air. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/fact sheet #4)
In the last five to ten years, California has been working feverishly on cleaning up the air. Although California has the cleanest air in thirty years, we are far from being done correcting the air pollution situation. Cars and light trucks that have been manufactured in the last few years have been polluting the air much less due to smog control devices (California Air Resource Board). Passenger cars and light trucks are the main contributors to air pollution. The state of California has now implemented a law for the sale of new cars. If the vehicle does not pass the emissions standard, it can not be sold. The standards which the car manufacturers must abide by are as follows. “The current federal certification standards for exhaust emissions from cars are 0.25 M. Dettmer / 4 gram per mile HC, 0.4 gram per mile NOx, and 3.4 grams per mile CO” (National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory / Fact Sheet #11). New cars that are currently being manufactured emit 60 – 90% fewer toxins in the air than ever before. However, the word that is commonly known to us as smog, is the main pollutant that is going into the air. The California Air Resource Board defines smog as Smog: A combination of smoke, ozone, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and other chemically reactive compounds which, under certain conditions of weather and sunlight, may result in a murky brown haze that causes adverse health effects. The primary source of smog in California is motor vehicles (Audrey). The hydrocarbons emitted from cars consist of carbon monoxide. This colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas is a product of incomplete burning of fuel from a vehicle’s engine.
Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, inhibits the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen to organs. People who inhale consistent amounts of this gas can experience chest pains, damage visual perception, and also hinder the ability to perform complex tasks. Carbon monoxide gas can also make the healthiest person ill. In a report from the Environmental Protection Agency, they state that, Dettmer / 5.
Nationwide, two-thirds of the carbon monoxide emissions come from transportation sources, with the largest contribution coming from highway motor vehicles. In urban areas, the motor vehicle contribution to carbon monoxide pollution can exceed 90 percent. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/fact sheet #3)Consumer products (aerosols) have also played a major role in contaminating our air. Items such as hair sprays, cleaning agents, and also engine degreasing products. The Air Resource Board has done extensive research on these items. They state; The Consumer Products Program is an important part of ARB’s overall effort to reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from the use of consumer products in homes and institutions. “Consumer product” means a chemically formulated product used by household and institutional consumers, including, but not limited to, detergents; cleaning compounds; polishes; floor finishes; cosmetics; personal care products; home, lawn, and garden products; disinfectants; sanitizers, aerosol paints; and automotive specialty products; but does not include other paint products, furniture coatings, or architectural coatings. M. Dettmer / 6 (California Air Resources Board / Consumer Products Program)
Consumer products make up quite a high percentage of pollution. The research done by the Air resource Board states “Consumer Products emit about 260 tons per day of VOCs in California alone. These emissions represent approximately 15% of the total VOCs emitted by all stationary sources in California” (Beddow). This information clearly states that many of us are still purchasing products without looking at the label first. Consumers should always try and be conscious about what they purchase and how it may affect the rest of the global population. Most products now being consumed have the logo that states “no CFCs” or “ozone friendly.” The California Air Resource Board has put a plan together to reduce the number of non-ozone-friendly products by 85% by the year 2010. In conclusion, people (consumers) need to work a little bit harder to preserve the planet on which we dwell. Organizations trying to implement rules and regulations should not be the only people attempting to save the planet. Saving the environment is a joint effort and we have to work together to make things happen. The next time you need to fill up your car at a gas station, think about how much you drive. Is it necessary? Can I do all of my errands at once? If you go to a store to buy some cleaning agents, remember to think logically about the effects it has on where you live. Examine the labels and make sure that the substances are ozone friendly and are regulated by the EPA. M. Dettmer / 7.