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Assessment of the Ecological Problem Arising From Air Pollutants

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INTRODUCTION

Clean air is the foremost requirement to sustain healthy lives of humankind and those supporting ecosystems which in return affect the human being. The air is composed of 99.9% of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Humans are dependent to air. We breathe about 35 lbs. of air per day as compared with the consumption of 3 to 5 lbs. of water and 1 ½ lbs. of dry food.

One of the problems we are facing today is air pollution. Air pollution is a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air. Car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen and mold spores may be suspended as particle. Some air pollutants are poisonous. Inhaling them increase the chance you’ll have health problems. People with heart or lung diseases, older adults and children are at great risk from air pollution. Air pollution isn’t just outside- the air inside the buildings can also be polluted and affect your health.

In this research paper, we are going to discuss what is air pollution, the cause of air pollution. And also the solution and how we can prevent air pollution.

What is Air pollution?

Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural environment, into the atmosphere. Prior to industrialization, the ecosystem was able to take care of any discrepancies in the air through wind, rain and other acts of nature. However, since industrialization, humans have added more pollutants into the atmosphere than the ecosystem could deal with them.

The atmosphere is a complex dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has been long recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth’s ecosystems.

Overview of Emissions

Emission is the term used to describe the gases and particles which are put in the air or emitted by various sources. Pollution discarded into atmosphere by residential, commercial, and industrial facilities. Technically an emission is anything that’s been released out into the open. But more often it refers to gases being released into the air, like greenhouse gasses or emissions from power plants and factories. What are emissions? Where do they come from?

National Trends

The amounts and types of emissions change every year. These changes are caused by changes in the nation’s economy, industrial activity, technology improvements, traffic, and by many other factors. Air pollution regulations and emission controls also have an effect. The National Air Pollutant Emission Trends report summarizes long-term trends in emissions of air pollutants and gives in-depth analysis of emissions for the current year. The report also discusses emission evaluation and prediction methodologies.

Criteria Pollutants

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mainly concerned with emissions which are or could be harmful to people. EPA calls this set of principal air pollutants, criteria pollutants. The criteria pollutants are carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), nitrogen dioxide(NO2), ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). There are also a large number of compounds which have been determined to be hazardous which are called air toxics.

Sources

There are many sources of emissions. These have been grouped into four categories: point, mobile, biogenic, and area.

Point sources include things like factories and electric power plants. Mobile sources include cars and trucks, of course, but also lawn mowers, airplanes and anything else that moves and puts pollution into the air.

Rules and Regulations

In 1970 The United States Congress passed Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments (the CAA was passed in 1963) which set into motion a nationwide effort to improve the country’s air quality. Since then additional laws and regulations have been added including the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

One of the goals of the Act was to set and achieve NAAQS in every state by 1975 in order to address the public health and welfare risks posed by certain widespread air pollutants. The setting of these pollutant standards was coupled with directing the states to develop state implementation plans (SIPs), applicable to appropriate industrial sources in the state, in order to achieve these standards. The Act was amended in 1977 and 1990 primarily to set new goals (dates) for achieving attainment of NAAQS since many areas of the country had failed to meet the deadlines.

Section 112 of the Clean Air Act addresses emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Prior to 1990, CAA established a risk-based program under which only a few standards were developed. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments revised Section 112 to first require issuance of technology-based standards for major sources and certain area sources. “Major sources” are defined as a stationary source or group of stationary sources that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants. An “area source” is any stationary source that is not a major source.

For major sources, Section 112 requires that EPA establish emission standards that require the maximum degree of reduction in emissions of hazardous air pollutants. These emission standards are commonly referred to as “maximum achievable control technology” or “MACT” standards. Eight years after the technology-based MACT standards are issued for a source category, EPA is required to review those standards to determine whether any residual risk exists for that source category and, if necessary, revise the standards to address such risk.

Philippines Clean Air Act of 1999

The Philippines Clean Air Act of 1999 (Republic Act No. 8749) outlines the government’s measures to reduce air pollution and incorporative environmental protection into its development plans. It relies heavily on the polluter pays principle and other market-based instruments to promote self-regulation among the population. It sets emissions standards for all motor vehicles and issues pollutant limitations for industry. Emissions limit values are laid down by The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines ‘Implementing Rules and Regulations for Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999’. These rules and regulation shall apply to all industrial emissions and other establishments which are potential sources of air pollution.

The Pollutant Standards Index

The Pollutant Standards Index, or PSI, is a type of air quality index, which is a number used to indicate the level of pollutants in air. Initially PSI was based on five air pollutants, but since 1 April 2014 it has also included fine particulate matter (PM2.5).In addition to the PSI derived by averaging data collected for the past 24 hours, Singapore also publishes a 3h-PSI based on PM2.5 concentrations for the past 3 hours. 1-hr PM2.5 concentrations are also published every hour. Besides Singapore, some other countries also use air quality indices. However, the calculations used to derive their air quality indices may differ. Different countries also use different names for their indices such as Air Quality Health Index, Air Pollution Index and Pollutant Standards Index.

Criteria of Pollutants

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common air pollutants. These commonly found air pollutants (also known as “criteria pollutants”) are found all over the United States. They are particle pollution (often referred to as particulate matter), photochemical oxidants and ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead. These pollutants can harm your health and the environment, and cause property damage. EPA calls these pollutants “criteria” air pollutants because it sets NAAQS for them based on the human health-based and/or environmentally-based criteria (characterizations of the scientific information).

The set of standards based on human health for protection of public health is called primary standards. Another set of standards intended to prevent environmental and property damage for protection of public welfare is called secondary standards. Where a criteria pollutant is actually a group of pollutants (e.g., nitrogen oxides), the standards are set for key or indicator pollutants within the group (e.g., nitrogen dioxide).

Ozone

Ozone is a gas that is formed when nitrogen oxides react with a group of air pollutants known as ‘reactive organic substances’ in the presence of sunlight.

Particulate Matter

Airborne particles are sometimes referred to as ‘particulate matter’ or ‘PM’. They include dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Some particles are large enough or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke, while others are so small they can only be detected individually with a microscope.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a gas and is found in air. High levels of carbon monoxide are poisonous to humans and, unfortunately, it cannot be detected by humans as it has no taste or smell and cannot be seen.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is a nasty-smelling gas. Some nitrogen dioxide is formed naturally in the atmosphere by lightning and some is produced by plants, soil and water. However, only about 1% of the total amount of nitrogen dioxide found in our cities’ air is formed this way.

Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide is a gas. It is invisible and has a nasty, sharp smell. It reacts easily with other substances to form harmful compounds, such as sulfuric acid, sulfurous acid and sulfate particles.

Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that is found in the Earth’s crust. Lead can be released into soil, air and water through soil erosion, volcanic eruptions, sea spray and bushfires. The natural concentration of lead in the air is less than 0.1 microgram per cubic meter.

Air Toxics

Air toxics are sometimes referred to as ‘hazardous air pollutants’. Air toxics as gaseous, aerosol or particulate pollutants that are present in the air in low concentrations with characteristics such as toxicity or persistence so as to be a hazard to human, plant or animal life.

Biological Pollutants

Are another class of pollutants. They arise from sources such as microbiological contamination, e.g molds, the skin of animals and humans and the remains and dropping of pests such as cockroaches. Biological pollutants can be airborne and can have a significant impact on indoor air quality.

Air Pollution in Mega Cities

The proportion of the global population living in urban areas has been increasing steadily over the last several decades, with the largest recent increases occurring in low-income and middle-income countries. Much of this urbanization is taking place in urban areas with 1–5 million inhabitants, but mega-cities, with populations of 10 million or more, contribute importantly to this trend and face unique challenges related to human health. Globally, air pollution is the most important environmental health risk, and levels of particulate matter (PM) and most other health damaging pollutants are higher in urban than rural areas due to the concentration of major emissions sources. The large number of pollution sources concentrated in an area with dense housing, traffic and industry may result in high pollution levels, especially if the pollution control lags behind the city growth.

The specific concern with air pollution in the large cities of the world has been reflected by numerous monitoring campaigns and reports published for the past few decades. With the increasing evidence on health effects of air pollution, especially of airborne particulate matter, measured as mass concentration of particles less than 10 (or 2.5) micrometres (PM10 or PM2.5), more recent air quality assessments have provided better and more relevant information on the magnitude and severity of the urban air pollution problem in developing countries. Based on these data, and supported by an econometric model enabling estimation of PM2.5 levels in all cities with populations greater than 100,000 people, the first estimate of the global burden of disease attributable to urban air pollution was produced in 2004. This analysis estimated 800,000 premature deaths per year attributable to particulate matter, with more than two-thirds of this burden occurring in the rapidly developing economies of Asia. The assessments of air pollution status and health impacts were followed by more detailed analysis of pollution sources and distribution, as well as activities to reduce pollution in the mega-cities. They noted that the lessons learned in developed countries curbing their pollution problems may bring progress in other mega-cities of the world.

http://energytopicstrends.blogspot.com/2014/11/air-pollution-in-todays-megacities.html

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-sSC5EXT_uhI/VGgjWWfUEVI/AAAAAAAABm8/fnlCOSglSBQ/s1600/Capture.PNG

The growing trend of human civilization moving away from rural areas to urban areas in order to have a better life raises the importance of making sure the current and future megacities of the world have the cleanest air possible.

7 Steps to Stop Air Pollution

In today’s complex world, with hazardous chemicals in everything we buy, e-waste filling our landfills and the exponential increase in gasoline-burning automobiles on the highways, the idea of being able to reduce air pollution is not easy to imagine. More than just smog, air quality is linked to everything, from childhood asthma to global warming. Turning a blind eye to the problem of air pollution not only risks our own health but the health of the planet for generations to come. There is still time, however, to make a difference. With these seven steps, you can start right away to improve the air quality in your home and in your community. And that makes everyone breathe a little easier.

Step 1: Understand Where Air Pollution Comes From

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are six major causes of air pollution in the United States. These are ground-level ozone, particulate matter, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.

While most people have heard of carbon monoxide, lead and particulate matter, they might be surprised to learn that the primary source of air pollution today is ground-level ozone. Unlike the natural ozone layer that surrounds the earth and helps regulate temperature by shielding it from the sun’s harmful rays, ground-level ozone occurs when nitrogen oxides mix with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The chemical reaction that follows emits ground-level ozone that can lead to numerous health problems. Upper respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema are all related to ground-level ozone.

So where does this chemical reaction occur? Anywhere you have gasoline vapors, car exhaust fumes, a large storage of chemical agents, and factory or utility plant emissions. Reduce these key elements and you can reduce the amount of ground-level ozone you are exposed to.

Step 2: Reduce Your Use of Automobiles

Automobiles do more than just contribute to ground-level ozone. The making of gasoline requires the burning of coal and oil which causes an increase in sulfur dioxides, another of the six leading causes of air pollution. The EPA says petroleum refineries are key producers of sulfur dioxides and the more time spent behind the wheel of a car means more air pollution for everyone to breathe.

While it may not be possible to completely eliminate your use of automobiles, try consolidating errands and shopping to keep from making multiple trips to the same location. If you live near a commuter railway, make a commitment to take the train at least one day a week to work. Looking for a new set of wheels? Why not buy a hybrid. These great vehicles combine electric and fuel energy to get better mileage and many produce nearly zero emissions.

Step 3: Plant More Plants

NASA recently discovered that many household plants, like the Gerbera Daisy, Peace Lily and English Ivy are instrumental in removing carbon monoxide from the air. Operating much like the human liver, these common indoor plants actually filter harmful chemicals and dangerous compounds from the air, absorbing the toxins through tiny pores in their leaves and “digesting” the pollution through their stems, roots and out through the soil.

Using these natural air filters in your home or office can greatly reduce the amount of indoor air pollution and help eliminate recurring colds and respiratory problems. According to the NASA study, other helpful varieties for clean air are the bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen and any of the Dracaena trees.

Step 4: Go Solar

Electricity might seem a green way to heat your home, but the VOCs generated by electrical utility plants are among the highest in all forms of manufacturing. Nitrogen oxides are also a byproduct of electrical utilities and as we learned in Step 1, combining the two can lead to deadly increases in ground-level ozone. Utility companies produce more sulfur dioxides than petroleum plants and the amount of other resources necessary to operate the plants make electric utilities a less-than optimum choice when looking to “power” your home.

Today’s solar panels are unique in both design and installation. Whereas previous generation panels were large and unsightly perched above your roof, modern versions are colorful, install directly into the roof tiles and can usually generate enough electricity to power your home, heat your hot water and have enough left over to sell back to the utility company.

Step 5: Get the Lead Out

The dangers of lead-based paint have been known since roughly the 1970s, however, recent environmental issues surrounding imported toys have caused everyone to rethink the use of lead in common household products. Leaded fuels were phased out after the 1990 Amendment to the federal Clean Air Act, making trash-burning, battery storage, and utility-leaching the major sources of household lead pollution.

Have your gas and electric appliances checked to make sure there are no leaks in the lines or shorts in the wiring. Never burn trash or use your fireplace to get rid of excess garbage. If you have old batteries lying around, call your County Department of Environmental Health and ask where you can legally dispose of them. Most importantly, check the label on painted items such as furniture, decorator items and children’s toys. If you are unsure if the item contains lead-based paint, contact the manufacturer and ask. If they are unable to tell you, return the item for a refund or get rid of it altogether.

Step 6: Never Dust Again

Well, not really. But be careful about the kind of dust you stir up. Much of the thick brown haze you see over large urban areas is a combination of dust from construction sites, smoke from factories and the emissions from cars mixed together. While you might not be able to control the number of cars on the road or the types of factories that operate, you can watch your yard for dry patches and do your part to eliminate dust.

This is especially important if you use a lot of chemical fertilizers or other treatments on your patch of ground because those chemicals will mix with others once airborne and could cause even greater health problems.

If you have a large non-landscaped area of your yard, make sure it stays damp and is not allowed to completely dry out, creating dust. If you are not ready to plant, sprinkle the area with water every few days to keep the dust in check. Better yet, cover with plastic sheeting to keep the ground from drying out while generating your own solar watering system at the same time.

Step 7: Get Cozy

Since electrical plants contribute to both carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, the burning of coal and petroleum generates ground-level ozone and sulfur dioxides, and the use of gas-powered heating systems can raise interior carbon monoxide levels to dangerous levels. Instead of turning on the heat, why not put on a sweater? Put another blanket on your bed during colder winter months. Keep cozy sweatshirts and plush chenille throws near the sofa for those evenings in front of the television. Snuggle next to someone to keep warm.

Simple changes can make a huge difference in the amount of air pollution you are exposed to. Start small and build on your successes. Pretty soon, we will all be breathing a sigh of relief.

Conclusion

Air pollution increases rapidly due to globalization and rapid increase of population. It is time for us to act to prevent pollution. It is the responsibility of everyone to protect our environment. Let us fulfill our responsibilities in environmental protection, creating a quality ecological environment and sharing wonderful green living together.

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