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Pollution

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This is a term paper on pollution. Pollution is defined as a human activity that entails the release of harmful environmental contaminants or substances. All substances however beneficial, they are termed as pollutants if they bring negative effects afterwards. However, to determine if something is a pollutant, it will depend on the context of our argument. Some substances are pollutants in certain environment and not on others. Pollution can be classified into two forms: local pollution and global pollution. There are different types of pollution: Air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, noise pollution, thermal pollution, radio active pollution and visual pollution. Pollutants can be man-made, natural, primary or secondary. Different pollutants contribute to variant pollutions. Pollution causes harm, discomfort, disorder, death or instability in an ecosystem where living things exist. Industries are the major source of pollutants. The effects of pollution can extended from one generation to another depending on the strength and life of the pollutant. Notable is the fact that one type of pollution can lead to another pollution; Air pollution can dissolve in rain and return to the earth as water pollution in form of acid rain. With the increasing population and technology, pollution is on the increase and its effects becoming dire with time. This has led to the awakening of governments and organizations, organized conferences and sacrifices to curb this ill trend. This term paper will inform on a detailed cover about air pollution. It will look into different causes of air pollution and the types of pollution caused by the pollutants. It will also analyze the effects of air pollution (pollutants) to human health and to the natural environment at large. The term paper will hence forth discuss the available solutions to and the different methods of preventing, controlling or terminating air pollution.

Air pollution is defined as the contamination of the air by harmful gases and minute particles (solid and liquid) in concentrations that endanger the life of humans, other living things and the environment. It is the most rampant form of pollution in the universe. Gases are the dominant pollutants of the air and include: Carbon dioxide which is one of the main air pollutants. Living things exhale carbon dioxide. The excess of it in the atmosphere is harmful when emitted from other sources like combusted fuels and deforestation; Carbon monoxide from burning appliances like fireplaces and woodstoves; Sulfur dioxide from burning fossils and petroleum refineries. Nitrogen dioxide gas is also harmful when it combines with sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere also becomes a pollutant; Nitrogen dioxide from power plants in the major cities and the burning fuels. Radioactive fallout from nuclear energy dispersed also causes air pollution. Fertilizer dust from fertilizers, toxic fumes from new carpet, toxic fumes from paint and emissions from mills and plants contribute significantly to air pollution. Pesticides, insecticides and herbicides are air pollutants. The general combustion engines and petroleum refineries release hydrocarbons that amount to air pollution. Methane gas, benzene, toluene and other aromatic compounds pollute the air upon being released to the atmosphere. Odors from garbage and sewage amount to air pollution.

Ammonia from agricultural processes, toxic metals such as lead and copper also lead to air pollution when dispersed to the atmosphere. We also have some secondary air pollutants like the particulate matter which is derived from volcanoes or dust storms, the photochemical oxidants like the ozone and the eye-stinging peroxyacetylnitrate (Infoplease, 2010). Natural air pollutants include; dust from areas with no ground cover, smoke from firewood, ash particles from volcanic eruptions, radon, pollen, and mold spores. However, it is factual that there are more air pollutants depending on time and place. The outlined pollutants will yield different effects on the environment depending on their concentration.

It is generally known that the atmosphere supports life and hence air pollution endangers the life of the whole ecosystem. The World Health Organization confirms that over two million people die as a result of factors related to air pollution. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases. Its release and concentration in the atmosphere contributes to global warming. This has persisted over the years leading to increased temperatures on the earth by about 3 degrees and the rise of sea levels by at least 25 meters. This has further led to climatic changes and hence its effects like minimal rains, low crop yields and unpredictable weather patterns. Sulfur dioxide is very corrosive, irritates the eyes and posses a pungent odor. Due to the increased use of fossil fuels all over the world, Sulfur is becoming dominant in air pollution and has led to diseases like lung cancer and chronic asthma. When sulfur oxides are exposed to nitrogen dioxide, they bring forth acid rain which contaminates the fresh water lakes and streams hence destroying aquatic life and drinking water. Acid rain also has adverse effects on forests and other vegetation, soil, and building materials. Sulfur dioxide also forms smog. Sulfur dioxide disrupts cell metabolism, contributes to the loss and damage of leaves, reduced growth and may even lead to devastation of forests (ThinkQuest, 2010). Sulfur released to the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions reflects light and keeps the sunlight out causing the earth to cool and in the same way lets more sunlight through , hence warming the earth. This will in away render to the effect of global warming.

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Methane is also a greenhouse gas and hence causes global warming. Global warming relatively causes the melting of glaziers, global occurrence of extreme weather events like: increased frequency, intensity and duration of floods, droughts and tornadoes. It has also led to increased annual power of hurricanes, thunders and lightening (Timeforchange, 2004). Nitrogen dioxide is characterized by a sharp, biting odor .Nitrogen dioxide gas destroys organic matter and depending on the levels of concentration, it may lead to damaged lung tissue, increased vulnerability to respiratory  diseases, infant and cardiovascular death, chronic diseases.  It also forms the smog and contributes to the formation of ozone. Smog has adverse effects like deaths- the London smog of 1952 killed 4,000 people. The gas is equally very poisonous and can therefore lead to death. Carbon monoxide is very poisonous and hence can easily kill if released on an enclosed room. The exposure to carbon monoxide leads to toxicity of the hearty and central nervous system, loss of vision, abdominal pains, fatigue and decreased muscular coordination, headaches ,dizziness, visual acuity nausea and unconsciousness.  Under extreme exposure, carbon monoxide leads to death.

The ozone occurs naturally in the troposphere and forms part of the smog. Ozone burns the lungs and renders the breathing to become rapid, painful and shallow. It also leads to the tightening of the chest, coughing, burning nose, fatigue, asthma and cancer. On plants, it covers the flat area of a leaf with brown spots hence hindering photosynthesis. Ammonia on the hand is pungent and hazardous. It denotes an unnatural green appearance with a drying out tissue. On applying nitrate fertilizers to the farms, gaseous ammonia is released and on breathing it in large amounts, it can lead to death. It causes pulmonary edema, chronic lung disease, throat swellings, skin burns, dermatis, nose and throat irritations among other effects. Benzene which is an aromatic compound can lead to rapid heart rate, headaches, Leukemia, anemia, and high exposure will lead to death. Airborne particles like dust and smoke will lead to stuffy noses, sore throats, cough, colds, burning eyes, lung disease, chest discomfort or pain, Infant death and reduced lung function in animals. They also block the leaves stomata and hence hindering photosynthesis and respiration. Limestone dust raises the soil pH of acids and that of neutral habitats hence leading to the loss of plant and animal species. Conclusively, the dust particles also increase the leaf temperature, reduce the tree growth and reduce the pollen growth. All these reduce the vegetation and leads to poor food production. Flower farms and vegetable crops suffer largely from exhausts gases from industries. Persistent organic pollutants are usually resistant to environment degradation hence contaminates the environment.

Other gases released from the industries reduce the levels of visibility and hence hindering air travels. Air pollution effects extend to the economic arena. A lot of money is used to treat and prevent the diseases accrued from air pollution- California uses about $ 28 billion to this effect (Tropical- Rainforest-Animals, 2010). Huge sums of money have been used globally to repair buildings damaged by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods which result from air pollution. A lot of money has also been used in organizing seminars and conferences addressing climate changes. Floods, droughts and other harsh weather conditions caused by air pollution have resulted to low food productions and hence governments have used finances to feed their citizens. Similarly some valuable time has been wasted in travel time as a result of reduced visibility. Air pollution has considerably led to many deaths- approximately 50,000 people annually in the US (ThinkQuest, 2010).

However, air pollution has been considerably addressed by governments and organizations in an effort to curb or control it. To this effect, many methods have been proposed and others approved to prevent, control or curb air pollution. In the US, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to establish and enforce air pollution standards. It was also mandated to set emission standards for new factories. The success of the Act has been limited in reducing the quantities of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead in the air. The US has equally introduced pollution allowances to reward pollution reductions. The proposal to raise electricity and gasoline costs has reduced waste and in efficiency in coal-plants.  In addition, a UN Conference on Climate Change, held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, yielded an international agreement, Kyoto protocol, to combat global warming by sharply reducing emissions of industrial gases. The protocol is internationally binding, and came into force in 2005 when it was ratified (Infoplease, 2004). However, US bowed out of the protocol in 2001.

Walking, bicycling and mass transit reduces the amount of gases emitted to the atmosphere on using gasoline fuels. Proper recycling of newspapers, metals and plastics reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. The use of electronic precipitators that removes particles like (dust and smoke) flowing from a gas. This will reduce dust and smoke pollution. We should also put more effort in strengthening the ozone air standards to reduce the effects of ozone. The pollution – monitoring network should be reinforced to make sure that the set laws to curb air pollution are adhered to. Planting of trees will help in absorbing more carbon dioxide and hence reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The coal-fired plants should be cleaned up and use other environment friendly sources like electricity. Consequently, the numerous seminars which have been held in respect of educating people on the effects of air pollution and how willfully they can help in reducing those effects have borne fruits. The Kyoto protocol also binds the developed countries to compensate developing countries in terms of the carbon released from their industries. However it is good to note that individual efforts have also helped in solving air pollution problems.

According to UN statistics, the world's most polluted cities include Australia, America, the UK, China and India. These are obviously the most industrious nations in the world. It is also evident enough that these countries are not doing enough to control this type of pollution. As observed earlier, air pollution effects are transferable from the location of emission to unrelated location. Hence nations emitting huge concentrations of harmful gases should take responsibility of air pollution. Stronger laws should be enacted to enforce this. It is also factual that one form of pollution can be advanced to another like in the case of acid rain which is transferred from air pollution to water pollution. The different types of substances we dispose may be pollutants in one way or another and hence we should think of recycling more than disposing. Gaseous emissions from industries and machines contribute more to air pollution and hence should be reduced by using other forms of energy apart from coal and gasoline. Though the responsibility of pollution control lies with the governments, individual will and efforts can do more to control air pollution. Air pollution is the most rampant form of pollution. It thereby consumes a lot of resources in controlling it and its effects. The dire effects of air pollution necessitate the need to prevent it. Since the atmosphere supports life, we must curb air pollution to live.

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