Air Pollution: Effects and Solutions SCI/275 Air pollution is threatening our daily lives especially in urban areas. The Socha (2007) website brings out that the two main human contributors to air pollution is transportation and fuel combustion in stationary sources like homes, office buildings, and factories. According to Socha (2007), “Automobiles produce high levels of carbon monoxides (CO) and are a major source of hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Whereas fuel combustion in stationary sources is the dominant source of sulfur dioxide (SO2)” (Sources of Pollutants, para. ) According to a study done by Pervin, Gerdtham, and Lyttkens (2008), people face many health problems because of exposure to air pollutants. The greatest health issues that can occur are respiratory illnesses, difficulty and reduction of both heart and lung functions, and even a serious reduction in life expectancy and premature death. Air pollution has devastating effects on the more vulnerable members of our society (i. e. the aged, children, and anyone with existing health problems). Additionally, many recent health studies increasingly support the hypothesis that poor indoor environment, tobacco smoke, and combustion emissions not only cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but may also cause premature death” (Pervin, Gerdtham, & Lyttkens, 2008, para. 1). There are two main sources of air pollution, natural and human. Most natural air pollution is something that is not influenced by human interaction like volcanic activity, which we will discuss later in this paper. Other natural pollutants are influenced by human activity.
One example of this is the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). This gas is essential for the natural chemical breakdown of soil; however, the highest emissions are when fertilizers containing nitrogen are applied to farmland (Slanina, 2008). Air pollutants are divided into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary air pollutants are emitted, unchanged, directly into the air and secondary air pollutants are formed by chemical reactions from primary air pollutants. The major classes of air pollutants are particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon oxides, hydrocarbons, ozone (O3), and air toxics.
An example of natural air pollution would be a volcano. Volcanoes are full of natural gases that are toxic and pollute the air. According to U. S. Geological Survey (2010), “The most abundant gas typically released into the atmosphere from volcanic systems is water vapor (H2O), followed by carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Volcanoes also release smaller amounts of other gases, including hydrogen sulfide (H2S), hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen chloride (HCL), hydrogen fluoride (HF), and helium (He)” (Volcanic Gases and Their Effects, para. ). Many of these emissions are potentially hazardous to humans, animals, and plants. Sulfur dioxide can contribute to acid rain; sulfur aerosols from eruptions can lead to lower surface temperatures and can deplete the ozone layer. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air so it is likely to collect in the soil in surrounding areas (U. S. Geological Survey, 2010). Some serious consequences result from natural pollutants, however, volcano eruptions are spread out around the planet, and most are infrequent.
The planet was made to handle pollutants from natural sources. If nature were the only pollutant to the air and atmosphere, we wouldn’t find ourselves having the issues that we have now. This paper will focus on the dangers of air pollution in urban areas. This includes air pollution from automobiles and pollution from factories and other commercial manufacturing plants. Urban air pollution caused by traffic is so bad that it is estimated to be the cause of death to over 400,000 people a year. From an Awake!
Magazine writer in Spain (2007) “air contamination in Milan, Italy, is so bad that spending one day breathing the air of the city streets is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes” (p. 22). What have governments tried to do about the air pollution in urban areas caused by automobiles? One study in particular shows that in 1990 California proposed a phased introduction to low emission vehicles. The emission standards were: Transitional Low-Emission Vehicles (TLEV’s), Low Emission Vehicles (LEV’s), Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicles (ULEV’s) and Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV’s).
These standards were meant as stepping-stones from one to the other as technology progressed through the years. “The portion of the new regulations that dealt with ZEV’s (hereafter the ZEV mandate) required that 2% of all passenger cars and light trucks (less than 3750 lbs. loaded vehicle weight) sold in the state by every major car manufacturer must emit zero exhaust, beginning with the 1998 models. The percentage of zero emission vehicles was to increase to 5% in 2001 and to 10% in 2003” (Calef & Goble, 2007, pp. 6-7).
This was certainly an admirable and extremely necessary plan to reduce the air pollution in California, especially in the smog filled Los Angeles basin. Of course, though, an idea this technologically advanced would be met with a number of reactions. “Perceiving the appearance of EV’s as a direct threat to their monopoly on fuels for automobiles, the oil companies were bluntly hostile to the ZEV mandate while their major automakers were at best reluctant to reconfigure their industry around electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries.
On the other hand, electric utilities saw the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations as an opportunity to expand their markets and optimize the existing electricity generating capacity” (Calef & Goble, 2007, p. 10). Since these early stages of low to zero emission cars, we’ve come a long way as a country. Now, it’s not uncommon to see hybrid or fully electric cars on the streets. According to hybrid-car. org (2005), a hybrid car is “powered by two sources: an internal combustion engine, and an electric motor” (Hybrid Car Information and Resources, para. 1). The U.
S. government even offers tax write offs for anyone who purchases a new hybrid car. As far as the industrial pollution in urban areas, it is easy to find local examples of factories pumping pollution into the air and water. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (2011) website, factories in (____) County released 425,385 pounds of pollutants in 2009. While this is certainly not the worst example of industrial pollution, it in and of itself, is in no way good enough for the small area that these factories affect. The United States government implemented U. S.
Air Quality Management (AQM) in an attempt to curb the air pollution generated by industry. Some of the principles and characteristics of U. S. AQM are: •Ensure open access to information and transparency in decision-making. •Develop and sustain a well-trained workforce. •Facilitate training, networking, and technology transfer among air quality managers. •Integrate planning and coordination of efforts across jurisdictions (across federal, state, and local agencies). •Educate and encourage participation of stakeholders. •Balance of societal benefits and costs. •Apply innovative approaches, where possible. Fund research to improve the scientific basis for problem identification and effective AQM strategy development. (Cote, Samet, & Vandenberg, 2008, p. 73). While all of these attempts to reduce the problems associated with air pollution in urban areas are necessary steps, are they enough? How can we change the system and make it easier for Americans as a whole to contribute to making our air safe for us to breathe? What kind of sustainability plan can help to control the air pollution in urban areas? My idea is to start locally and then, when my local sustainability plan is functioning, to progress into larger areas.
My sustainability plan is as follows: Action ItemsAction StepsTimeline Research how much pollution is in County’s air and determine what the causes are. Review the EPA’s measurements of local pollutants in the air. Document the causes and effects of the pollution in the area. Talk to local environmental researchers and interview them for their opinions and document said interviews. 2-4 months Assemble my research into a presentation. Convert all documents and taped interviews into PowerPoint format to show to the County board. 3-4 weeks Have a meeting with County oard members, factory representatives, and auto dealership owners. Challenge factory representatives to meet higher air quality standards. Challenge auto dealership owners to provide extra incentives for car owners to trade in their vehicles for new low to zero emission automobiles. 2-4 months Petition local and state government representatives to continue incentive. Write to local aldermen and state senators and petition them to become more involved in industrial air quality management and vehicle exchanging. 3-6 months Re-evaluate initial research results.
Go back and check new air quality figures against the initial research, after programs and plans have been in place. 3-5 years The government needs to be made aware of the situation and assemble policies and laws to prevent factories from pumping dangerous pollutants into the air. Local government authorities should hire an independent pollution specialist to inspect factories and notify the factories if they are exceeding their per diem limit of pollution. Any companies found in violation of these policies should be immediately subjected to a hefty fine.
Fines will be used to fund the development and research of new ways to limit pollution from factories and vehicles. Governmental factories and plants would most definitely be included in this anti-pollution effort to ensure they are setting a good example for others. The government should use renewable resources where possible to generate power and ensure each of its plants is consistently hitting its targets. At the same time advertising campaigns should be set up to alert the nation to the hazards of air pollution.
This can be completed on the back of other health related campaigns in order to keep the costs down. All ages of people should be educated through popular forms of media about what air pollution can do to their health, crops, and the entire environment. They should be encouraged to purchase new hybrid or electric vehicles and report any factory violating the new policies, which will help to keep them in check. Workers who have been educated about the harm of air pollution will have more incentive to report offenders once they know of the damage it can cause to them and their families.
This plan has many challenges. A major challenge would stem from depending on the government for funding and support for this plan. While air pollution is a serious problem, there are already many government programs in place, so finding funds and time for another one may be low on a list of priorities. Another difficulty may arise with factory and dealership cooperation. Factories are usually more interested in their own production numbers and less interested in what it means for the environment.
Auto dealerships have to rely on the auto manufacturer to produce hybrid or electric vehicles, and while they are growing in popularity, the oil companies will always make attempts to stifle that technology. Urban air pollution is a serious problem that faces us today. It is a proven cause of many health problems and can even be a cause of death. Air pollution affects not only humans, but also animals and plants. We don’t know if our efforts will ever be enough to reverse the years and years of abuse that our planet has taken because of us, but we do know that by doing nothing we only make the problem worse.
Everyone needs to take a stand and make a small change to save our planet Earth; millions of small changes make up one huge solution. References Awake! Magazine writer in Spain. (2007). How to Cope With the Trials of Traffic. Awake! , ( ), 21-23. Calef, D. , & Goble, R. (2007). The allure of technology: How France and California promoted electric and hybrid vehicles to reduce urban air pollution. Policy Sciences, 40(1), pp. 1-34. doi:http://dx. doi. org/10. 1007/s11077-006-9022-7 Cote, I. , Samet, J. , & Vandenberg, J. J. (2008). U. S. ir quality management: local, regional and global approaches.. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part A, 71(1), p. 63-73. Retrieved from https://ehis. ebscohost. com/eds/detail? vid=11&hid=4&sid=b0873623-f12e-4b21-a6ca-b58825600721%40sessionmgr12&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=mnh&AN=18080896 hybrid-car. org. (2005). Hybrid car information. Retrieved from http://www. hybrid-car. org/ Pervin, T. , Gerdtham, U. , & Lyttkens, C. H. (2008). Societal costs of air pollution-related health hazards: A review of methods and results.. Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation,