Air Pollution

Air pollutants are substances in the atmosphere that affect our health. They include smoke, particles and gases from a variety of sources, both man-made and natural. People generate air pollution in many ways — through cars they drive, the stoves they cook on, and the fuel burned to produce heat and electricity. Air pollution from these sources may harm our hearts or lungs, and reduce our resistance to disease.


Carbon Monoxide

A colorless, odorless gas produced by motor vehicles, gas stoves, space heaters and other sources. Exposure to high amounts of carbon monoxide can cause death.

Gaseous Pollutants

Examples include ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. These come from power plants and vehicles,and formaldehyde from new carpeting in homes.


A decrease in visibility usually caused by ozone, particles, and other pollutants in the air. It makes the air look foggy.


Particles from motor vehicles, coal-fired power plants, incinerators, wood stoves, volcanoes, forest fires, and wind-blown dust may cause severe health problems.They lead to asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, and deaths.


Substances which fall from the sky. Besides normal rain and snow, this could include water combined with acid gases which can cause acid rain.  Acid rain can dissolve statues and kill some kinds of plants and animals.


A combination of smoke and fog. It is often present in cities during the warm summer months.


A source is the place pollution is coming from.  A point source is something that is easy to identify – such as a specific smokestack. An area source is one which includes many small point sources – such as cars traveling on a highway.


The movement of pollution from its source to distant locations by wind and other air currents.

Diseases from Air Pollution:
Air pollutants may cause diseases, especially those to the respiratory system. When certain air pollutants are breathed in, the airways to the lungs can become irritated. This is called bronchitis. Some air pollutants lead to asthma where chemicals in our bodies make the muscles around the airways to constrict. This makes the airways very small, thus causing wheezing, coughing, and general breathing difficulties. Continued exposure to air pollution may also cause a decrease in lung function. This is especially a problem in children whose lungs are still growing. If the lungs do not grow to their fullest size, when the children get older, they will not be able to exercise or do heavy work as well as they could.  Air pollutants may also affect other parts of our bodies.  If the chemicals get into the blood, they can be taken to all parts of the body, and may cause problems in other organs, such as the heart and brain. Some gases in large amounts may cause death.

What You Can Do?  Natural air pollution has always been around – volcanoes, forest fires, dust storms. But, in today’s society, air pollution also comes from many man-made sources. This is the pollution we need to reduce. Even though it is impossible to remove all air pollution, there is much you can do.
Turn off electrical equipment: Turn off lights, televisions, radios, and other electrical equipment when they are not being used. Power plants usually use coal, oil, gas, or nuclear energy to produce the electricity. If power plants use less fuel, fewer particles and gases are put into the air we breathe.
Wear sweaters indoors during the winter: Keeping the heat in your home at a lower temperature will also use less energy and cause less air pollution.
Walk or ride a bike whenever possible: If you have to go a long distance, ask your parents if you can take public transportation or ride with several people.
Do not smoke: Smoking causes gases and particles to get into the smokers lungs and cause disease, and also forms air pollution that affects others in the area. Try to get friends and family members who smoke to quit the habit.
Use fewer chemicals in your home: Chemicals you use in your house, including those from household cleaners, and art supplies, could cause air pollution levels to be greater inside than outside. Try to use fewer chemicals and more ventilation. Opening windows, even for short times in the winter will lower the indoor air pollution levels, but not increase heating costs by too much.
Call the Environmental Protection Agency: If you notice a company emitting excessive smoke into the air, contact your local EPA office and inform them.