What is Air Pollution?

Due to Covid-19, several published reports are claiming air pollution has decreased as a result of the virus. Air pollution reduction is noticeable in urban areas across the world. The reports have stated that cities like Edinburgh are seeing up to a 50% reduction in Nitrogen Dioxide in some parts.

What is air pollution?

  • Air pollution is 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)
  • Air pollution is also defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within their authorized Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control Licences. The EPA have stated that 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”

Factory example of point source air pollution
Point source air pollution- A chimney stack in a factory

Where does air pollution come from?

There four defined sources of air pollution;Point, Volume, Area and Indoor

  • Point source– The most common type of release, characterised through a traditional stack or single vent. You can have a stationary or mobile point source. A chimney stack in the industry is a great example of a stationary point source and a vehicle exhaust is a 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 pollutants over a wide area. The Chernobyl incident which occurred in 1989 in an example of area source pollution. The incident demonstrated the visual area source example smoke and non- visual area source example radiation. After the horrendous event, a study in the UK found traces of radiation in sheep meats sourced from Scotland. Landfills are another form of source air pollution. At a landfill, you can detect odours and methane through the use of specialised equipment can be detected
  • Indoor pollution – This type of pollution affects over 2 billion people annually around the globe. Buildings having incorrect ventilation systems are the key cause of indoor air pollution. Smoking indoors and the burning of wood without a release point can have significant health effects.

What are the types of air pollutants?

Primary and Secondary are the two categories of air pollutants.

  • Primary pollutants are released directly from an identifiable source
  • Secondary pollutants are produced in the atmosphere when certain chemical reactions take place among primary pollutants

What are the common pollutants you hear about?

  • Pollutant& Type
  • Carbon Monoxide – Primary
  • Sulphur Dioxide- Primary
  • Ozone- Secondary
  • Nitrogen Dioxide – Primary
  • Hydrocarbons (Also called VOC’s) – Primary and Secondary
  • Particulate Matter – Primary and Secondary

Note:Secondary pollutants are formed from Primary pollutant (gases)

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. Larger particles of air pollution can get trapped in the nasal passage, however, when they are smaller in diameter they can travel down into the alveoli.
Climate Change: Studies have shown that air pollution has an effect on the significant change in the measures of climate lasting prolonged periods of time. This includes a major change in temperature, rain and wind patterns
Global warming: Scientists have seen an increase in temperature in the earth’s atmosphere, more commonly known as the Greenhouse effect, a result of Carbon Dioxide and greenhouse gas release.

Thanks for Reading

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. The Sustainability Strategy aims to build a community that feels free to openly discuss their environmental views. If you enjoyed the content and would like to get involved in the Sustainable growth conversation,  I would love to hear from you.  I would love to hear from you. You can find me on Facebook,  TwitterLinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Keep it Green,


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