Sources of Air Pollution

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Transportation

Cars and trucks are a significant and diffuse source of air pollution, and their proximity to people at roadsides has a high impact on health.

Diesel engines produce soot and nitrogen oxides. Despite increasing regulations for car makers, many cars emit pollutants at levels significantly higher than these standards.

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Energy production

Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) and biomass to produce energy is a source of many different kinds of pollution including atmospheric particles (fly ash), mercury, metals and acid rain.

Efforts to control these are most effective when made at the source.

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Heating

Using stoves to heat homes and apartments is a large source of air pollution in some areas.

Examples include burning wood and coal in smaller, poorly regulated units.

Pollution includes soot, smoke and ash, carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons.

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Industry

Factory chimneys emit a wide range of pollution. Examples include petrochemical refineries, polymer production, painting and printing, food production, and heavy industry like the manufacture of steel and concrete.

This type of pollution is usually regulated at the source.

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Meteorology

Local meteorology often plays a critical role in air quality. Local topography can trap pollution, for example in a valley.

In the same way, temperature inversions can prevent circulation of air that would often ventilate pollution emitted at the surface.

Some cities are lucky to be ventilated by e.g. fresh air from the sea, whilst others suffer from being in basins or valleys.

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Mother Nature

Natural sources of air pollution include volcanoes and wildfires. Their large scale can result in high levels of air pollution for hundreds of miles.


Resources

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Scientific Texts

  • Chemistry and the Environment by S. E. Harnung and M. S. Johnson, Cambridge University Press 2012.

  • Air pollution and global warming: history, science, and solutions by M. Z. Jacobsen, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

  • Atmospheric chemistry and physics: from air pollution to climate change by J. H. Seinfeld and S. N. Pandis, John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

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