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Air Pollution. Image Source: Top News Singapore

Guide to Space

Causes Of Air Pollution

4 Dec , 2010 by


There are several main causes of air pollution, the vast majority of them can be attributed to man. This article will give you a definition of air pollution and list some of the top causes and how each one contributes to the contamination in the atmosphere.

Air pollution is the introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulates, and biological matter that cause harm to humans, other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment. Stratospheric ozone depletion(contributed to air pollution) has long been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth’s ecosystems. The Earth is capable of cleaning itself of a certain level of pollution, but man-made pollutant have become too numerous for the Earth’s natural mechanisms to remove. We are seeing the results of this overload in the form of acid rain, smog, and the variety of health problems that can be contributed to our environment.

One of the main causes of air pollution is manufacturing. This source of pollution spews particulate matter and chemicals into the atmosphere. The exhaust from a factory includes, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and dioxide, as well as volatile organic compounds and particulates. There is not an area of the Earth’s atmosphere or an ecosystem that has not been altered by the long term effects of the pollution created by manufacturing. Strides have been made to filter the material coming from manufacturing plants, but it may take the Earth millenia to completely recover from the damage already done.

As the list of causes of air pollution goes this next offender is number one. The burning of fossil fuels is a part of the everyday life of every human on the planet. We burn fossil fuels in our cars, fossil fuel is burned to extract fossil fuel from the Earth, and fossil fuel is used to process fossil fuel into its individual components. Every step of the way releases sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and particulates into the air. Each step in the process increases the number of asthma cases in the world, raises a person’s chance of having cancer, and increases the chance that your child will be born with congenital defects.

The Earth itself contributes to air pollution through volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and other natural process, but it is capable of recovering from those sources. As humans continue to industrialize with a dependence on fossil fuels, we continue to put our planet’s future in jeopardy and shorten the longevity of our species.

We have written many articles about air pollution for Universe Today. Here are some pictures of air pollution, and here’s an article about air pollution linked to growth of life in oceans.

If you’d like more info on air pollution, check out Visible Earth Homepage. And here’s a link to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.


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Jerry Coffey is a Registered Nurse and father of 5. He enjoys skydiving, astronomy, and time with his children.

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