Air Pollution: The Everyday Uphill Battle to Breathe Air pollution is quite a common ordeal in our everyday lives. From the simplest of circumstances to the most horrific, air pollution can absolutely mean chemical, biological and physical contamination.
Many pollutants build up rapidly indoors, resulting in higher levels than usually found outside. Indoor air pollution can be caused by smoke, fire places, dust and mold. These pollutants can cause a variety of health problems and can even be fatal at high levels.
Asbestos, lead and radon are particularly dangerous indoor pollutants that can actually cause brain damage, but also cancer. According to the World Health Organization, about 4.3 million people die each year from indoor air pollution. In less developed countries, the burning of wood, charcoal, dung, crop residues, and other fuels can have a damaging effect on health. This is especially true if they are burned in an open fire indoors. Indoor air pollution is the world’s most serious air pollution problem.
There are two forms of pollutant smog: industrial smog and photochemical smog.
Industrial smog is a mix of sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid and other solid particles. This type of smog is still a problem in heavily populated parts of China. Indoor air pollution is caused by many household cleaning items, mold, pesticides, improper ventilation for cooking and heating, radon, and tobacco smoke. Indoor pollution has negative effects on the quality of air that we breathe; it can cause respiratory issues and even cancer. Photochemical smog is the chemical reaction of sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere, which leaves airborne particles and ground-level ozone.
Photochemical smog causes problems in cities with heavy traffic. Industrial smog also occurs when copious amounts of coal are burned in power plants and factories. Another dangerous consequence of the haphazard effect of smog is the issue of Nitrous oxide. A greenhouse gas called Nitrous oxide is emitted from fertilizers and animal wastes and is produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Nitrogen oxides can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. It can cause problems in humans that have asthma or bronchitis, can suppress plant growth, and reduce visibility when they are converted to nitric acid and nitrate salts.
The U.S. Congress passed the Clean Air Acts in 1970, 1977, and 1990. Essentially, they established air pollution regulations for key pollutants. It is one of the United States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws, and one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world. Some ways to minimize indoor air pollution is making sure indoor areas are properly ventilated, using natural cleaning supplies and pesticides, using a dehumidifier in your home, not smoking indoors, and by opening windows and doors regularly. The World Health Organization purports that indoor air pollution can be dramatically reduced by switching from solid fuels such as biomass or coal to cleaner and more efficient fuels, along with technologies such as solar power, and producer gas.