Q:

What pollutes the air?

A:

Quick Answer

The main causes of air pollution include the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons, emission from volcanic eruptions and toxic air pollutants emitted by vehicles. The amount of smog as well as the damaging effects on health and the environment indicate the severity of air pollution.

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Although it’s also produced through the breathing process, the vast amount of carbon dioxide responsible for air pollution comes from activities that include the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline. As of 2014, the amount of carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere by vehicles and power plants in the past 150 years has negatively contributed to global warming.

Methane comes from sources such as swamps and is a result of the digestion process in livestock. Chlorofluorocarbons had been used as refrigerants and aerosol propellants before they were banned on account of their harmful effect on the ozone layer.

The process of vehicle manufacturing, refueling and disposal creates two forms of air pollution: primary and secondary. Primary pollution affects the atmosphere directly, while secondary pollution functions through the interaction between different pollutants in the air. Particulate matter is a result of diesel exhaust and secondary pollution caused by hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxides. It consists of small particles of soot and metal that can severely impact a person’s health because they are able to penetrate deep into the lungs.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How is air pollution caused?

    A:

    The leading cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, but other pollutants, such as pollen, smoke from fires and the gases given off from organisms while they are decaying, also contribute. Air pollution is caused by both human activities and naturally occurring events.

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  • Q:

    Why is air pollution bad?

    A:

    Air pollution has several harmful effects on both the environment and human health. A common example of the negative effects of air pollution on the environment is in the form of acid rain. Many upper respiratory diseases such as asthma are exacerbated by air pollution.

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  • Q:

    How is air pollution measured?

    A:

    In the United States, the amount of air pollutants in the atmosphere can be directly measured by anyone using instruments such as the GASPer air quality monitor, area's immediate reading, or AIR device and sun photometer. Common examples of air pollution include smog, vehicular and power plant emissions and acid rain.

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  • Q:

    How does air pollution affect plants?

    A:

    Air pollution affects plants through various ways including acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone. Chemicals react with air to form compounds that cause harm to vegetation. Air pollutants, including sulfuric acid, mix with water droplets that form clouds. The resulting acidic rain is harmful to trees, fish, animals and other organisms.

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