Pollution is a well-known word to many younger generations. According to the EPA, Pollution is defined as the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects. If these substances naturally occur in the environment, they are considered “pollutants” when they exceed Earth’s natural levels. There are two types of pollution on the planet today:
Primary Pollutants: A pollutant that is emitted directly from its source.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx, NO)
- Nitric Oxide (NO)
- Sulfur Oxides (SOx)
- Sulfur Dioxide-SO2
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- Particulate Matter (dust and ash particles)
- Particles with the size between 4-10 parts per million (PPM) are harmful to humans.
Carbon Dioxide contributes to the greenhouse-effect on Earth.
Interesting fact: Contrary to belief, Carbon dioxide is not a primary pollutant or even considered a pollutant at all. Scientists deem CO2 not a pollutant because it does not affect the general welfare of people. However, there is a correlation with the levels of carbon dioxide and global temperature. When CO2 levels rise, the global temperature is said to increase. The CO2 levels on Earth naturally fluctuate, but with increased levels of industrialization, CO2 levels have been the highest on record. As a result of these high levels of carbon dioxide, global temperatures are reaching record highs as well. When global temperatures rise by only a few degrees, the Earth could experience extreme consequences such as a reduction in agriculture production, forest depletion, coastal flooding, extreme tropical storms, and health problems. So, although CO2 is not a pollutant, it still can contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect and global temperatures. Critics even say rising levels of CO2 can contribute to plant growth.
Secondary Pollutants: Pollutants that are not directly emitted as such, but forms when other pollutants (primary pollutants) react in the atmosphere.
- Acid Rain
L.A is one of the cities in the U.S known for high levels of smog.
What: Smog Issues
Where: Los Angeles, California
Smog is a hazy, yellowish or blackish fog formed mainly by a mixture of pollutants in the atmosphere which consists of fine particles and ground level ozone. Smog is known as a secondary pollutant. Secondary pollutants are formed when primary pollutants mix with the air.
The first ingredient to smog is particulate matter. Particulate matter is released into the air because of the combustion of fossil fuels, particularly coal. The second component to smog is the ground level ozone, also known as “bad’ ozone. Ground level ozone is created by the chemical reactions between oxidized nitrogen atoms (NOx compounds) and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) in the presence of sunlight. When all of these things occur and interact, smog is produced.
L.A is particularly vulnerable to smog conditions due to the large population of about 33 million people, non-stop traffic, terrain, and sunny climate. Due to the large population, there is a large amount of fuel combustion that is happening in a concentrated area. Along with this, California’s rocky terrain traps this pollution and forms a layer of ground-level ozone. Lastly, weather in L.A is mostly warm and muggy. When all of these factors come together, they contribute to the unhealthy levels of air pollution that effect the city of Los Angeles, California. During the hot summer months, smog is typically a common issue.
Breathing in smog can lead to a variety of health issues. Among these health issues, short and long-term respiratory problems can develop and people with asthma experience an increased chance for having an attack. According to an article written by The Los Angeles Times, the summer of 2016 was the worst year for smog since 2009.
What can you do to decrease pollution?
- Commute by mass transit or carpool
- Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle or hybrid
- Save energy in your house by turning off the lights, unplugging appliances when not in use and purchasing energy-efficient appliances.
- Buy energy-efficient appliances. The Energy Rating web site will help you select energy efficient appliances: www.energyrating.gov.au
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Things companies are implementing:
- Carbon catchers
- Carbon capture or sequestration is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and burying it underground. By doing this, the CO2 will not be able to enter the atmosphere.
- Bag Houses
- A bag house is an air pollution control device that removes particulates out of the air or gas released from commercial processes or combustion for electricity generation.
This is a bag house dust collector used in a commercial facility.
There are a variety of negative effects that can cause harm if we continue to emit the same levels of pollution. The U.S and China in particular are responsible for over 50 percent of the world’s emissions therefore, if we don’t try to correct these issues in the near future, the Earth and the people that inhabit it will experience severe consequences.