Vehicle emissions, fuel oils and natural gas to heat homes, by-products of manufacturing and power generation, particularly coal-fueled power plants, and fumes from chemical production are the primary sources of human-made air pollution.
Air pollution is caused by solid and liquid particles and certain gases that are suspended in the air. These particles and gases can come from car and truck exhaust, factories, dust, pollen, mold spores, volcanoes and wildfires. The solid and liquid particles suspended in our air are called aerosols.
As pollutants in the air cannot be seen with our naked eyes, we don’t realize the sources of the increasing pollution level. In order to understand the sources of air pollution, we need to first go through the basic causes of air pollution.
10 Common Air Pollution Causes
1. The Burning of Fossil Fuels
Manny time pollution is not natural, however. It comes from burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. When gasoline is burned to power cars and trucks, it produces carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas. The gas is harmful in high concentrations, or amounts. City traffic produces highly concentrated carbon monoxide.
Already the average global temperature has increased by 1C. Warming above 1.5°C risks further sea level rise, extreme weather, biodiversity loss and species extinction, as well as food scarcity, worsening health and poverty for millions of people worldwide.
Inhaling air induced with pollutants due to the burning of natural gas and fossil fuel reduces heart’s ability to pump enough oxygen causing one to suffer from respiratory illness.
2. Industrial Emission
Industrial activities emit several pollutants in the air that affects the air quality more than we can even imagine. Particulate matter 2.5 and 10, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrocarbons. That pollutants that are emitted from industries that use coal and wood as their primary energy source for the production of their goods.
These chemicals react with sunlight to produce smog, a thick fog or haze of air pollution. The smog is so thick in Linfen, China, that people can seldom see the sun. Smog can be brown or grayish blue, depending on which pollutants are in it.
Smog makes breathing difficult, especially for children and older adults. Some cities that suffer from extreme smog issue air pollution warnings. The government of Hong Kong, for example, will warn people not to go outside or engage in strenuous physical activity (such as running or swimming) when smog is very thick.
3. Indoor Air Pollution
Household cleaning products, painting supplies emit toxic chemicals in the air and cause air pollution. Have you ever noticed that once you paint the walls of your house, it creates some sort of smell that makes it literally impossible for you to breathe?
Suspended particulate matter popular by its acronym SPM, is another cause of pollution. Referring to the particles afloat in the air, SPM is usually caused by dust, combustion, etc.
Around seven million premature deaths caused every year due to the combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause, WHO says.
Climate change is not just increasing wildfire but also spiking air pollution. Burning stubble and farm residue is also a major contribution to wildfire. It causes increased PM2.5 in the air which collides with other harmful substances like chemical gas and pollen creating smog. Smog makes the air hazy and people find it difficult to breathe.
5. Microbial Decaying Process
Manufacturing, chemical, and textiles industries release a large number of carbon monoxides, hydrocarbons, chemicals, and organic compounds which contaminate our environment. Bacteria and fungi play a fundamental role in the biogeochemical cycles in nature.
They are the key indicators of abnormal environmental conditions. Decaying of these microorganisms present in the surroundings releases methane gas which is highly toxic. Breathing toxic gas like methane may lead to death.
There is no denying that vehicle pollution is the major causes to air pollution, especially in urban cities. When the car burns gasoline, it emits pollutants in the air which is as harmful as smoking 10 cigarettes a day.
Your vehicle emits carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter. When vehicle pollution is high in the atmosphere, it creates a hole in the ozone layer contributing to smog and causing various health issues.
7. Mining and drilling
Mining and drilling can also contribute to water pollution. Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a major contributor to pollution of rivers and streams near coal mines. Acid helps miners remove coal from the surrounding rocks.
The acid is washed into streams and rivers, where it reacts with rocks and sand. It releases chemical sulfur from the rocks and sand, creating some river rich in sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is toxic to plants, fish, and other aquatic organisms. Sulfuric acid is also toxic to people, making rivers polluted by AMD dangerous sources of water for drinking and hygiene.
8. Construction and Demolition
During the clean air act movement, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) registered the highest number of air pollution complaints in the Delhi NCR due to construction pollution and demolition activities.
With the rise of population in the city, construction and demolition is a part of the ever-going development phase of the national capital. Several construction sites and raw materials such as bricks and concrete cause haze and foul air which is hazardous for people especially, children and elderly citizens.
9. Agricultural Activities
A major causes of water pollution is fertilizer used in agriculture. Fertilizer is material added to soil to make plants grow larger and faster. Fertilizers usually contain large amounts of the elements nitrogen and phosphorus, which help plants grow. Rainwater washes fertilizer into streams and lakes. There, the nitrogen and phosphorus cause cyanobacteria to form harmful algal blooms.
Rain washes other pollutants into streams and lakes. It picks up animal waste from cattle ranches. Cars drip oil onto the street, and rain carries it into storm drains, which lead to waterways such as rivers and seas. Rain sometimes washes chemical pesticides off of plants and into streams. Pesticides can also seep into groundwater, the water beneath the surface of the Earth.
10. Garbage Waste
Trash is another causes of pollution. Around the world, paper, cans, glass jars, plastic products, and junked cars and appliances mar the landscape. Litter makes it difficult for plants and other producers in the food web to create nutrients. Animals can die if they mistakenly eat plastic.
Garbage often contains dangerous pollutants such as oils, chemicals, and ink. These pollutants can leech into the soil and harm plants, animals, and people.
Inefficient garbage collection systems contribute to land pollution. Often, the garbage is picked up and brought to a dump, or landfill. Garbage is buried in landfills. Sometimes, communities produce so much garbage that their landfills are filling up. They are running out of places to dump their trash.
A massive landfill near Quezon City, Philippines, was the site of a land pollution tragedy in 2000. Hundreds of people lived on the slopes of the Quezon City landfill. These people made their living from recycling and selling items found in the landfill. However, the landfill was not secure. Heavy rains caused a trash landslide, killing 218 people.