9 out of every 10 people in the world regularly breathe air that is considered to contain high levels of pollutants.
What are the causes of air pollution, though, and what can we do about it?
Let’s take a look.
1. Vehicle Exhaust Fumes
In city environments, the leading source of air pollution is vehicle exhaust fumes. This is because they release very high amounts of carbon monoxide. The largest pollutant in the U.S. is carbon monoxide.
In the US alone, there are millions of vehicles being operated every day.
While it might not seem like much, you can help by choosing to take other means of transportation when possible. Walking or biking are both great forms of exercise and don’t contribute to air pollution. Taking public transportation is making is so much less exhaust fumes are being released into the atmosphere.
It can feel silly to sacrifice your own comfort for what seems like an immeasurable dent in managing air pollution. Realistically, though, if more and more people were able to drive less, it could make a real difference.
2. Fossil Fuel-Based Power Plants
During the burning process of fossil fuels, chemicals such as sulfur dioxide are released. They travel straight into the atmosphere, react with water molecules, and create acid rain.
The air pollution from coal-fired power plants specifically has been linked with neurological problems, heart and lung ailments, cancer, and asthma, as well as other severe public health and environmental impacts.
This is why there is such an interest in exploring alternative sources of energy like nuclear, wind, and solar.
There is also a growing movement of individuals living in houses off-grid. This means that they produce their own power and don’t rely on the central power grid. While this can be a major lifestyle shift, it has become increasingly appealing to a number of people for a wide variety of reasons.
3. Exhaust from Industrial Factories and Plants
One of the most impactful ways that air pollution is caused by businesses is through factory exhaust. Industrial plants are operating tons of heavy machinery that is emitting pollutants out into the air. This is not just a problem in the U.S., but basically all across the world, anywhere where there is industry.
Carbon dioxide is released out into the atmosphere due to burning fossil fuels. More than 50% of the greenhouse gases are due to industry and electrical generating factories.
4. Agricultural and Construction Activities
When you think of farms, you probably think of a sweet, pastoral scene with some cows and some veggies.
In reality, industrial agriculture is big business, utlizing gas-guzzling and air polluting heavy machinery. Additionally, ammonia is often a byproduct of farming operations. Pesticides and fertilizers are also responsible for putting a lot of really gross chemicals in the atmosphere.
5. Natural Causes
It’s common for us to take the weight of air pollution entirely on our shoulders as humans. We expect that if we were just better, there wouldn’t be any pollution in the air.
Actually, though, mother nature plays a reasonably sized role in it herself. Forest fires, volcanoes, and dust storms across the world all contribute to the amount of air pollution in the environment.
Outdoor air pollution isn’t the only dangerous type of air pollution. You should also be concerned with indoor air pollution, particularly because you are much more in control of it.
Using household chemicals like bleach without appropriate ventilation is one of the most common sources of indoor air pollution.
There are other things commonly found in the house that are major causes of air pollution, especially when not disposed of appropriately. If you’re unsure how to dispose of any of the below, it’s best to contact a rubbish removal specialist that will do it for you. Some common household items that can cause indoor air pollution are:
- Asbestos, which is found in various older home construction and automotive industry materials
- Formaldehyde, which is a colorless gas that can be found in sealants, paints, carpets, upholstery, and wood floors
- Tobacco smoke, which can come from either outdoors or indoors
- Radon, which can be found under your home in building materials and bedrock
- Paints, varnishes, and certain household cleaning products
- Biological pollutants such as mold, mildew, viruses, bacteria, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, and other contaminants
- Perfumes, synthetic fragrances, deodorizers, and air fresheners
- Fumes from paraffin wax candles
- Gases and minute particles from office machines
- Glue, lacquer, paint, plywood, and other building materials
- Dry cleaned clothes, which contain highly toxic substances such as percholorethylene and trichloroethylene
- Household pesticides, which can be used to control insects, rodens, termites, microbes, fungi, and other pests
- Another thing that has historically had a large impact on air pollution is aersol cans. Though they no longer contain chlorofluorocarbons, it’s still important to know how to dispose of aerosol cans.
The Causes of Air Pollution: What You Can Do to Help
While there isn’t much you can do about the air pollution caused by businesses, reducing air pollution is possible at a personal level. Focusing on managing air pollution at the indoor level is much more obtainable than expecting to effect air pollution on a global scale.
That being said, many people find meaning in riding their bike or taking public transportation instead of driving their car. You can also turn off appliances and lights when you’re not using them to save electricity. Supporting businesses that use methods of production other than burning fossil fuel is another way to support the world you want to live in.
Did you find this article on the causes of air pollution helpful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more informative and interesting articles!