Air Quality – Year 10 Geography – Darshil Shah

Air quality is the measure of how healthy the air around is. Air quality is affected by chemical, physical (e.g. particulate matter), or biological agents that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Spatial Perspectives Australia consistently ranks air pollution as a major environmental concern. The state of our air is an important factor in the quality of life in Australian cities. It affects the health of the community and directly influences the sustainability of our lifestyles and production methods. Air pollution occurs in the layer of the atmosphere closest to the ground called the troposphere. Gases such as sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, ozone and particles such as dust, smoke and odours can pollute this layer to cause local pollution. Pollutants are emitted to the air from various sources. These include the combustion of wood and fossil fuels (e.g. coal, petrol and diesel), emissions of hydrocarbons from oil and gas refining, odours from industrial processes or intensive agriculture, and dust associated with mining and land clearing. When these emissions are discharged pure, during periods of poor distribution, or under conditions contributing to to smog formation, poor air quality may result. Everywhere around the world, air quality is an issue. Whether it is in a scale of a city, the country or the world as whole. Australia has many hotspots where air quality isn’t always at its best and some where air quality always stays at its optimal. Many Australian hotspots (such as capital cities) are very near the coast and/or are surrounded by higher heights which seem to make things worse. The central part of Australia is not very much affected due to the vast regions it spread to. Each place is affected differently in Australia. It depends on the temperature, the sunlight, and the amount of pollution distributed. The size of air quality problems can vary. Sometimes similar air quality is experienced throughout the state. Essentially, in the small scale, the cities and people are affected but in the large scale, the wildlife and the ecosystems of Australia are affected. Causes Air quality where you live can vary depending on how much air pollution is emitted in your community, how much pollution is carried into your community on the wind, and by weather conditions. Ozone forms when two key pollutants, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) “cook in the sun.” These pollutants are precursors to ozone formation, meaning they must be present in the air for ozone to form. Particle pollution can be directly emitted (like smoke from a woodstove), but a lot of particles form when gases react in the air. NOx and sulfur dioxides (SO2) contribute to particle formation. These ozone and particle-forming pollutants come from a wide variety of sources, including mobile sources, power plants, and industries. Natural sources

contribute, too: wildfires and volcanoes contribute to particle pollution, while trees and other vegetation can contribute both to particle and ozone pollution. Weather plays a big role in the levels of ozone and particle pollution in your community. Sunlight and heat, for example, promote ozone formation. Light winds and temperature inversions both can keep pollution from dispersing. And depending on its direction, the wind can bring in more pollution – sometimes from hundreds of miles away. Geography can affect pollution levels too; mountain ranges, such as those in southern California, can prevent pollution from dispersing. Impact Air pollution can affect our health in many ways with both short-term and longterm effects. Different groups of individuals are affected by air pollution in different ways. Some individuals are much more sensitive to pollutants than are others. Young children and elderly people often suffer more from the effects of air pollution. People with health problems such as asthma, heart and lung disease may also suffer more when the air is polluted. The extent to which an individual is harmed by air pollution usually depends on the total exposure to the damaging

chemicals. Groups are also affected. They might not be greatly affected individually, but the group they are in is affected due to poor air quality. Factory workers work under extreme conditions and poor air quality can greatly affect their work and over a long period of time, their lives. Any group which operates indoors is directly targeted if the air quality inside is poor. Groups such as civilians (outdoors) can be affected by poor air quality as they spend their time outdoors which has most of the dangerous chemical conditions of poor air quality. Farmers’ crops are harder to grow when air quality is low and because of that, livestock and vegetation is more expensive throughout the country. The government loses economy, tourism and the environment as poor air quality can slow production, halt the tourism industry and disturb the ecosystems that Australia most heavily relies on. Even though the poor air quality is from

individual actions, industrial actions and natural actions, at the end of the day, poor air quality can affect many things not under our control. Reformist action usually ends up the government changing regulations to reduce emissions from factories due to the demand for better air quality. Tourism might be halted due to sensitive groups not touring and/or the concerned public choose to be safer. The environment is the biggest effected area. The government looks after the environment as much as it can, and the poor air quality can only make it worse. Management In many countries in the world, steps are being taken to stop the damage to our environment from air pollution. Everyone is doing something to contribute towards bad air quality. Individuals cause the largest amount of air pollution. This is why Individuals can make the biggest differences. We emit toxic gases from the exhaust in cars and we use energy which ultimately releases all the toxics in our air. All the little things if implemented throughout the country could improve at enormous levels. Individuals are being educated through the media and through educators for what can be done to ensure we breathe clean air now and in the future. Little things such as maintaining your vehicle, reducing energy use, walking short distances, replace wood fired heaters, public transport and ensuring everything else is kept at minimal. Businesses, Activist, and other groups who either want to cause or reduce air pollution have taken interest in the levels of air pollution and how it affects them and everyone else. Businesses (industries) have followed the government standard and ensured that their emissions meet the standard. More industries are using environment friendly chemicals and trying to locate the factories in remote areas which spread and dilute over the distances. Other major influences such as Greenpeace in Australia have helped spread the message across Australia. They protest on industrial movement and encourage the government and individuals to do more. Some Australian suburban communities have banned the use of wood fired heaters and SUV’s to help reduce the air pollution in the area and all across Australia. Government has been influenced by Individual and Groups to act on the poor air quality found across the country. They have hardened the regulations of emissions of factories, cars and other transportations. Action for air is a 25 year program which aims to cut Australia’s air pollution and have the most sustained level of air quality. This includes It includes methods for addressing air quality, such as standards for motor vehicle emissions and fuel quality, licensing systems for industry, the guideline of backyard burning, and measures to reduce emissions from domestic solid-fuel heaters. Department of Environmental and Climate Change have planned more schemes for the future which will ensure clean air nationally. Strategy Cleaner production Cleaner production is an overall approach to business management to reduce the use of energy, water and material resources and to minimise waste and pollution. It involves a shift in environmental protection from an 'end-of-pipe' approach where pollution is managed after it is created, to a 'front-of-process' approach where the creation of pollution is avoided or minimised at the source.

A part of this strategy is the Industry Partnering program. The $5 million Industry Partnership Program has provided matched funding for individual businesses, clusters of businesses and industry associations to improve environmental performance through cleaner production. Over 300 businesses have been directly involved in 42 projects funded through the Industry Partnership Program. Companies conducted projects which did things like: minimise waste at its source, reuse, recycle and reprocess waste, reduce the use of raw materials, energy and water, reduce the use of hazardous materials, redesign products, including the materials used to make them, to improve their later reuse and recovery, introduce or transfer new technology to manage waste and pollution, introduce other cleaner production initiatives which encourage measurement and management of waste, raw materials, water and energy. Each of the companies participating in the program has not only made significant economic savings but also improved their environmental performance - clearly a win for industry and the environment. For instance, in the 'Cleaner Production in Metals Manufacturing Project' the 10 participating companies achieved annual savings of $3 million following a one-off infrastructure investment of just $600,000. Environmental gains include the recycling of 3+ tonnes of raw materials, electricity savings in excess of 6.6 million KWh, gas savings of 1,950 GJ and a reduction of 6,884 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Industries all over Australia have adopted this strategy, which not only improves the environment, but reduces costs in the company. For example, the biggest heating company in Australia, Rheem, used this technique to cut out more than 10000 tonnes of toxics and environment damaging products. They saved over $1.29 million and now encourage every business, whether small or big, to take this programme into place. The success of the program has been exceptional with all businesses and has proven that it’s profitable both for the environment and the businesses economy. Bibliography http://www.lbl.gov/Education/ELSI/pollution-main.html http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/air/aq4kids/default.asp http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/index.html http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/cleaner_production/ippintro.htm http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/air/airwatch/perceptions.htm