You are on page 1of 50


Air & Noise Pollution

At the end of this lecture students should be able to:
1. Describe the five-layered structure of the atmosphere and the
% composition of gases within it.
2. List and describe the six major types of air pollutants,
distinguishing between primary and secondary air pollutants.

3. Explain the occurrence of urban smog and the impact of
topography and climate on it.
4. List indoor sources of air pollution.

5. Describe the effect of air pollution on the ecosystem through
acid deposition, global warming and ozone depletion.
6. Explain how air pollution can be mitigated.

- thin, gaseous envelope of air around Earth
- we live at the bottom of this sea of air

The atmosphere is divided into the:

- atmosphere’s inner layer
- contains most of Earth’s air
- N2 ( 78% ), O2 ( 21% ), CO2 ( 0.04% )
- weather occurs here
- temperature drops with an increase in altitude

- layer above troposphere
- temperature rises with altitude
- our global sunscreen

- one or more chemicals in high enough concentrations in the air


harm organisms or materials


alter climate

Excess heat and noise are also considered forms of air pollution.
Such chemicals or physical conditions are called air pollutants.

Primary Pollutant
- chemical, that occurs in a harmful concentration, added
directly to the air by natural events or human activities

Secondary Pollutant
- harmful chemical formed in atmosphere when a primary air
pollutant reacts with the normal air components or with other
air pollutants

eg. ozone, sulphur trioxide

1. Natural events
(eg, volcanic eruptions, dust storms)

2. Human activities
(eg, emissions from cars and smoke


Carbon Oxides
- eg, CO & CO2


Sulfur Oxides
- eg, sulfur dioxide (SO2), sulfur trioxide (SO3)


Nitrogen Oxides
- eg, nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous oxide


Volatile Organic Compounds
- eg, methane, propane, benzene, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)


Suspended Particles
- eg, solid particles (dust, asbestos, soot)
- eg, liquid droplets (pesticides, sulfuric acid)


Photochemical Oxidants
- eg, ozone, hydrogen peroxide


Radioactive Substances
- eg, radon-222, plutonium-239


Toxic Compounds
- eg, trace amounts of at least 600 toxic substances, 60 of
them are carcinogens


- originally a combination of smoke & fog
- now describes other mixtures in the atmosphere

Industrial Smog
- consists mainly of a mixture of sulfur dioxide, suspended
droplets of sulfuric acid and a variety of suspended solid
- found in cities that burn large amounts of coal and heavy
oil which contain sulfur impurities

Photochemical Smog
- mixture of primary & secondary pollutants

- formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen
react under the influence of sunlight.
Dominated by ozone
- found in almost all modern cities

* Areas with high average annual precipitation, help cleanse the
air of pollutants.

* Winds help sweep pollutants away and bring in fresh air.

* Hills & mountains reduce the flow of air in valleys below and
allow pollutant levels to build up at ground level.

* Buildings in cities slow wind speed & reduce dilution and
removal of pollutants.

* The process of hot air rising and cold air sinking causing

continual mixing of air, helps keep pollutants from reaching
dangerous levels near the ground.

- also called thermal inversion
- layer of dense, cool air trapped under a layer of stagnant, less
dense warm air

- in a prolonged inversion, air pollution in the trapped layer may
build up to harmful levels

- enhances harmful effects of urban heat islands and dust domes

- build-up of heat in the atmosphere above an urban area
- heat is produced by the large concentrations of cars, buildings,
factories and other heat-producing activities



Cigarette Smoke

- causes heart disease, lung & other cancers, bronchitis,
- avoidable
- most preventable major cause of death and suffering
among adults


Normal Lung

Happy Smoker?



Radioactive radon-222 gas

- produced when underground uranium in rock and soil
decays and enters homes through cracks, drains and hollow
concrete blocks
- colourless, odourless, tasteless
- naturally occurring radioactive gas



- sprayed on ceilings and walls for soundproofing,
fireproofing and insulation
- once used in brake linings
(replaced by aramid)
- can cause asbestiosis and cancers



- colourless, irritating gas
- found in fingernail hardener, plywood, particleboard,
paneling, drapes, upholstery, and fiberboard
- used in countertops, kitchen cabinets & 90% of US

- the falling of acids and acid-forming compounds from the
atmosphere to the earth’s surface

- commonly known as acid rain

- refers only to wet deposition of droplets of acids and acidforming compounds


natural precipitation is slightly acidic (pH 5.0-5.6)


acid rain can have a pH of 4.3 or 3 (as acidic as vinegar)

- contributes to human respiratory diseases
- damages foliage and weaken trees
- kills fishes (prevents eggs hatching below pH 5)
- damages statues, buildings, metals, & car finishes
- releases aluminium ions which damage tree roots

- natural effect that traps heat in the troposphere
- some of the heat flowing back toward space from Earth’s surface
is absorbed, by H2O vapour, CO2, O3 and other gases, then
radiated back toward Earth’s surface

- gases in the troposphere that cause the greenhouse effect
- include:
carbon dioxide

water vapour
nitrous oxide

- warming of atmosphere due to increases in the concentrations of
one or more greenhouse gases primarily as a result of human
activities, mainly:
burning of fossil fuels

use of CFCs

In recent decades certain greenhouse gases have increased in
carbon dioxide
nitrous oxide
CO2 contributes to ~ 55% of global warming.


- Global warming is expected to result in climate change. It is
possible that there will be:

- 2-3 degree centigrade rise in temperature by 2080

- Decreased rainfall between June and August
- Sea level rise 0.2-0.5 metres by 2090

- Increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes

- Warmer winters may result in less tourists
- Climatic conditions may change faster than some species could
adapt resulting in extinction

- Food-growing areas may change
- It is estimated that a 2 degree centigrade rise in temperature will
reduce output of some crops such as kidney beans by 14-20%.

- There may be longer periods of drought
- Increased temperatures will cause coral bleaching
Rising sea levels may:

- flood coastal settlements
- result in beach erosion
- raise the salinity of low lying areas reducing productivity

- more frequent and fiercer hurricanes
- disastrous for economic and social systems

- The ozone layer is a layer of gaseous ozone located in the

- The stratosphere contains O3 “good ozone”
- The ozone layer prevents 99% of harmful ultraviolet radiation
from reaching Earth’s surface

- It is being depleted by CFCs, halons and other chemicals

O3’s filtering action protects us from:


increased sunburn


skin & eye cancer




damage to our immune system


damage to aquatic and land organisms

- Chlorofluorocarbons
- used in air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosol spray cans,

cleaners for electronic parts, hospital sterilants, fumigants,
plastic foam

- ozone eaters
- halons

- increased cases of cancer & cataracts
- suppression of human immune system
- lowers crop yield
- degradation of materials
- reduction in phytoplankton

- any unwanted, disturbing or harmful sound that impairs or
interferes with hearing, causes stress, hampers concentration
and work efficiency or causes accidents

-permanent hearing loss
-migraine headaches
-muscle tension
-gastric (stress) ulcers
-psychological disorders (eg, increased aggression)

-enforce air & noise pollution laws
-use emission control devices
-ban or limit smoking to well-ventilated areas
-tax each unit of pollution produced
-use office machines in well-ventilated areas
-shift to less polluting energy sources
-increase intake of outdoor air
-car exhaust inspections