What is Air Pollution?
As the world begins to slow down due to Coronavirus, I have read several reports which were claiming that air pollution appears to have decreased in urban areas across the world. The reports have stated that cities like Edinburgh are seeing up to 50% reduction in Nitrogen Dioxide in some parts. But what does this all mean?
Why are we seeing these reductions and is there going to be a long-term gain for the environment? I would love to hear your opinions on the articles being published and have a conversation with you over on my Instagram (Keane_on_Travel). To get the conversation started, I thought I could summarise my understanding of air pollution and get your feedback on it.
The first thing, what is air pollution?
· The presence of contaminants or pollutant substances in the air that interfere with human health or welfare, or produce other harmful environmental effects.” – United States Environmental Protection Agency (2007)
· No emissions, including odours, from the activities carried on at the site shall result in an impairment of, or an interference with amenities or the environment beyond the installation boundary or any other legitimate uses of the environment beyond the installation boundary” – Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control Licence, EPA (2013)
Where does air pollution come from?
There are 4 defined sources of air pollution: Point, Volume, Area and Indoor.
· Point source -This is the most common type of release and is characterised through a traditional stack or single vent. You can have a stationary or mobile point source. A chimney stack in industry is a great example of a stationary point source and a vehicle exhaust is an mobile point source.
· Volume source – This is a three- dimensional source of emission, examples include fugitive leaks and dust from a collapsed building.
· Area source –Release of pollutant over a wide area. The Chernobyl incident which occurred in 1989 in an example of area source pollution. The incident demonstrated visual area source example smoke and non- visual area source example radiation. A study found that radiation from Chernobyl travelled as far as UK where radiation was found in sheep meat. Another example is a landfill, no evidence of air pollution is visible however odour can be detected. Pollutant like Methane can be detected through specialised equipment but cannot be seen.
· Indoor pollution- Over 2 billion people are affected by indoor pollution per annum. Indoor pollution is result of incorrect ventilation systems that assist with the release of pollutants outdoors, examples include smoking indoors and the burning of wood and charcoal in order to cook food.
What are the types of Air pollutants?
There are two categories of pollutants:
· Primary pollutants, which are emitted directly from identifiable sources
· Secondary pollutants, which are produced in the atmosphere when certain chemical reactions take place among primary pollutants
What are the common pollutants hear about?
Pollutant & Type
Carbon Monoxide - Primary
Sulphur Dioxide - Primary
Nitrogen Dioxide - Primary
Hydrocarbons ( Also called VOC’s) - Primary and Secondary
Particulate Matter - Primary and Secondary
Note: Primary pollutants (gases) that are involved in the formation of secondary pollutants
What is the impact of air pollution?
Climate change, global warming and the effect on human health are particular issues for all governments around the world.
Human Health: Air pollution has a negative impact on the respiratory system of humans. The function of the lungs is to take in oxygen for the blood system and get rid of Carbon dioxide. The larger particles will get trapped in the nasal passage, however if smaller diameter they can get down into the alveoli.
Climate Change: Air Pollution is found to be linked to climate change, the significant change in the measures of climate lasting prolonged periods of time. This includes major change in temperature, rain and wind patterns
Global warming: This is a result of the greenhouse effect caused by the increase level of Carbon Dioxide and greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Scientists have seen an increase in temperature in the earths atmosphere.
Thanks so much for reading, I understand there is so much information out there around the environment and pollution that it can be a minefield to navigate. I hope that through Instagram we can establish a little community were we can openly discuss our environmental views and the impact eco- living has on overall sustainability. I would love to hear your thoughts, you can find me on Instagram (Keane_on_Travel) ,please feel free to DM me for the chats.
Keep it Green,