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Air Pollution

Environmental Science

Composition of the Atmosphere


Primary Pollutants methane, ozone,
dust particles, microorganisms, and
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Causes of Primary Pollutants
factories, cars, wind and soil, volcanoes,
forest fires, pollen, decaying plants, salt
particles from the sea, and refrigerants.

Major Air Pollutants


Carbon oxides:
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly toxic gas that forms
during the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing
materials.
93% of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the troposphere occurs
as a result of the carbon cycle.
7% of CO2 in the troposphere occurs as a result of
human activities (mostly burning fossil fuels).
It is not regulated as a pollutant under the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Major Air Pollutants


Nitrogen oxides and nitric acid:
Nitrogen oxide (NO) forms
Nitrogen and oxygen gas in air react at the high-combustion
temperatures in automobile engines and coal-burning plants.
NO can also form from lightening and certain soil bacteria.
NO reacts with air to form NO 2.
NO2 reacts with water vapor in the air to form nitric acid
(HNO3) and nitrate salts (NO3-) which are components of
acid deposition.

Major Air Pollutants


Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and sulfuric acid:
About 1/3 of SO2 in the troposphere occurs
naturally through the sulfur cycle.
2/3 come from human sources, mostly combustion
(S+ O2 SO2) of sulfur-containing coal and from
oil refining and smelting of sulfide ores.
SO2 in the atmosphere can be converted to sulfuric
acid (H2SO4) and sulfate salts (SO42-) that return to
earth as a component of acid deposition.

Major Air Pollutants


Suspended particulate matter (SPM):
Consists of a variety of solid particles and liquid
droplets small and light enough to remain
suspended in the air.
The most harmful forms of SPM are fine particles
(PM-10, with an average diameter < 10
micrometers) and ultrafine particles (PM-2.5).
According to the EPA, SPM is responsible for
about 60,000 premature deaths a year in the U.S.

Major Air Pollutants


Ozone (O3):
Is a highly reactive gas that is a major
component of photochemical smog.
It can
Cause and aggravate respiratory illness.
Can aggravate heart disease.
Damage plants, rubber in tires, fabrics, and paints.

Major Air Pollutants


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs):
Most are hydrocarbons emitted by the leaves of many
plants and methane.
About two thirds of global methane emissions comes
from human sources.
Other VOCs include industrial solvents such as
trichlorethylene (TCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride.
Long-term exposure to benzene can cause cancer, blood
disorders, and immune system damage.

Major Air Pollutants


Radon (Rn):
Is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in
some types of soil and rock.
It can seep into homes and buildings sitting
above such deposits.

Secondary
Pollutants
Form when primary
pollutants react

Outdoor Air Pollution


Secondary pollutants

Harmful chemical formed when primary pollutants react with


one another or with the basic components of air.

Fig. 17-4 p. 421

URBAN OUTDOOR AIR


POLLUTION
Industrial smog: mixture of sulfur dioxide,
droplets of sulfuric acid, and a variety of
suspended solid particles emitted mostly by
burning coal.
In most developed countries where coal and heavy
oil is burned, industrial smog is not a problem due to
reasonably good pollution control or with tall
smokestacks that transfer the pollutant to rural areas.

Photochemical Reaction
any chemical reaction activated by light
Photochemical Smog
a mixture of primary and secondary
pollutants formed under the influence of
sunlight

Brown Air Smog


(N2 + O2
2NO)
(2NO + O2

high temps

2NO2)

NO2 (yellowish brown gas)

Industrial Smog
Gray Smog
Comes from
burning coal
Sulfur Dioxide
Sulfuric Acid
+ Particulates
Unburned Carbon
Fig. 17-8 p. 426

Sunlight plus Cars Equals


Photochemical Smog
Mexico City is one
of the many cities in
sunny, warm, dry
climates with many
motor vehicles that
suffer from
photochemical smog.

Figure 19-4

Factors Influencing Levels of


Outdoor Air Pollution
Outdoor air pollution can be reduced by:
settling out, precipitation, sea spray, winds, and
chemical reactions.

Outdoor air pollution can be increased by:


urban buildings (slow wind dispersal of pollutants)
mountains (promote temperature inversions)
high temperatures (promote photochemical
reactions).

Temperature Inversions

Cold, cloudy weather in a valley surrounded by


mountains can trap air pollutants (left).
Areas with sunny climate, light winds, mountains on
three sides and an ocean on the other (right) are
susceptible to inversions.
Figure 19-5

Descending warm air mass

Warmer air
Inversion layer

Inversion layer
Sea breeze
Increasing
altitude
Decreasing
temperature

Fig. 19-5, p. 447

ACID DEPOSITION
Sulfur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and
particulates can react in the atmosphere to
produce acidic chemicals

ACID DEPOSITION

Acid deposition consists of rain, snow, dust,


or gas with a pH lower than 5.6.
Figure 19-6

Wind
Transformation to
sulfuric acid
(H2SO4) and nitric
acid (HNO3)

Nitric oxide (NO)

Acid fog

Windborne ammonia gas and


particles of cultivated soil
partially neutralize acids and
form dry sulfate and nitrate
salts
Sulfur dioxide
(SO2) and NO

Dry acid deposition


(sulfur dioxide gas and
particles of sulfate and
nitrate salts)
Farm

Ocean

Lakes in deep
soil high in
limestone are
buffered

Wet acid depostion


(droplets of H2SO4
and HNO3 dissolved
in rain and snow)

Lakes in shallow
soil low in limestone
become acidic

Fig. 19-6, p. 448

ACID DEPOSITION

pH measurements in relation to major coal-burning


and industrial plants.
Figure 19-7

Acid Deposition and Humans

Respiratory diseases
Toxic metal leaching into drinking water
Decreased atmospheric visibility
Damage to structures, especially
containing limestone
Decreased productivity and profitability
of fisheries, forests, and farms

Acid Deposition and Aquatic Systems


Fish declines
pH <4.5

Undesirable
species
Aluminum
toxicity
Acid Shock
Sudden runoff

Acid Deposition, Plants, and Soil


Nutrient
leaching
Heavy metal
release
Weakens trees
Fig. 17-15 p. 432

ACID DEPOSITION

Figure 19-8

Emissions
SO2
Acid H O
2 2
deposition
PANs

NOx
O3
Others

Reduced
photosynthesis
and growth

Direct damage to
leaves & bark

Tree death

Soil
acidification

Leaching

Lake

Acids

of soil
nutrients

Groundwater

Susceptibility
to drought,
extreme cold,
insects,
mosses, &
disease
organisms

Release of
toxic metal
ions

Root
damage

Reduced nutrient
& water uptake

Solutions
Acid Deposition
Prevention
Reduce air pollution
by improving
energy efficiency

Cleanup
Add lime to
neutralize
acidified lakes

Reduce coal use


Increase natural
gas use
Increase use of
renewable energy
resources
Burn low-sulfur coal
Remove SO2
particulates & NOx
from smokestack
gases
Remove NOx from
motor vehicular
exhaust
Tax emissions of SO2

Add phosphate
fertilizer to
neutralize
acidified lakes

Air Quality is better in US; EPA


estimates since 1970
Particulate Matter (PM)- down 78%
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)- down 23%
Nitrogen Dioxide (Nox)- up 14%
Lead (Pb)- down 98%
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)- down 32%
Air quality is worse in developing countries:
Mexico City & Beijing: air exceeds WHO
standards 350 days/year

INDOOR AIR POLLUTION


Indoor air pollution usually is a greater threat to
human health than outdoor air pollution.
According to the EPA, the four most dangerous
indoor air pollutants in developed countries are:
Tobacco smoke.
Formaldehyde.
Radioactive radon-222 gas.
Very small fine and ultrafine particles.

Indoor Air Pollution


Sick Building Syndrome
Fig. 17-17
p. 434

Chloroform

Para-dichlorobenzene

Tetrachloroethylene

Formaldehyde

1, 1, 1Trichloroethane

Styrene

Nitrogen
Oxides

Benzo--pyrene

Particulates

Tobacco
Smoke

Asbestos
Carbon Monoxide

Radon-222

Methylene Chloride
Fig. 19-11, p. 453

INDOOR AIR POLLUTION


Household dust mites
that feed on human skin
and dust, live in
materials such as
bedding and furniture
fabrics.
Can cause asthma attacks
and allergic reactions in
some people.

Radon
Radon-222
Associated with
uranium (U-238)
and organic
material in rocks
2nd leading cause
of lung cancer
4 picocuries
EPA proposed
standard

Fig. 17-18
p. 436

HEALTH EFFECTS OF AIR


POLLUTION

Normal human lungs (left) and the lungs of a


person who died of emphysema (right).
Figure 19-15

Air Pollution is a Big Killer


Each year, air pollution prematurely kills
about 3 million people, mostly from indoor air
pollution in developing countries.
In the U.S., the EPA estimates that annual deaths
related to indoor and outdoor air pollution range
from 150,000 to 350,000.
According to the EPA, each year more than
125,000 Americans get cancer from breathing
diesel fumes.

Air Pollution is a Big Killer

Spatial distribution of premature deaths from


air pollution in the United States.
Figure 19-16

Solutions
Motor Vehicle Air Pollution
Prevention
Mass transit
Bicycles and
walking

Cleanup
Emission
control devices

Less polluting
engines
Less polluting fuels
Improve fuel efficiency

Car exhaust
inspections
twice a year

Get older, polluting


cars off the road
Give buyers large tax
write-offs or rebates for
buying low-polluting,
energy efficient
vehicles

Stricter
emission
standards
Fig. 19-19, p. 460

Using the Marketplace to Reduce


Outdoor Air Pollution
To help reduce SO2 emissions, the Clean Air Act
authorized an emission trading (cap-and-trade)
program.
Enables the 110 most polluting power plants to buy and
sell SO2 pollution rights.
Between 1990-2002, the emission trading system
reduced emissions.
In 2002, the EPA reported the cap-and-trade system
produced less emission reductions than were projected.

Solutions:
Reducing Outdoor Air Pollution
There are a of ways to prevent and control
air pollution from coal-burning facilities.
Electrostatic precipitator: are used to attract
negatively charged particles in a smokestack
into a collector.
Wet scrubber: fine mists of water vapor trap
particulates and convert them to a sludge that is
collected and disposed of usually in a landfill.

Solutions:
Reducing Outdoor Air Pollution
There are a # of ways to prevent and control
air pollution from motor vehicles.
Because of the Clean Air Act, a new car today in
the U.S. emits 75% less pollution than did pre1970 cars.
There is and increase in motor vehicle use in
developing countries and many have no pollution
control devices and burn leaded gasoline.

Indoor Air Pollution


Little effort has been devoted to reducing
indoor air pollution even though it poses a
much greater threat to human health than
outdoor air pollution.
Environmental and health scientists call for
us to focus on preventing air pollution
(especially indoor) in developing countries.

Solutions
Indoor Air Pollution
Prevention

Cover ceiling tiles & lining of AC


ducts to prevent release of mineral
fibers
Ban smoking or limit it to well
ventilated areas
Set stricter formaldehyde
emissions standards for carpet,
furniture, and building materials
Prevent radon infiltration
Use office machines in well
ventilated areas
Use less polluting substitutes for
harmful cleaning agents, paints,
and other products

Cleanup or
Dilution

Use adjustable fresh air


vents for work spaces
Increase intake of outside air
Change air more frequently
Circulate a buildings air
through rooftop green houses
Use exhaust hoods for stoves
and appliances burning
natural gas
Install efficient chimneys for
wood-burning stoves
Fig. 19-20, p. 461

Can US Air Pollution Laws


Be Improved.hmmm?
Continue to rely mostly on pollution cleanup
rather than prevention.
Fail to increase fuel-efficiency standards
for cars and light trucks.
Not adequately regulating emissions from
inefficient two-cycle gasoline engines.
Do little to reduce emissions of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The Next Steps


Integrating government policies for
energy and air pollution.
Improving energy efficiency.
Relying more on lower-polluting and
more climate-benign natural gas.
Increasing use of renewable energy.
Regulating the air quality for an entire
region or airshed with primary emphasis
on prevention.