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Jomar Paul Romero

341502503

English Communications in Environmental Issues


Spring 2016
Air Pollution What should we do about it?

It was said that you can live for three weeks without food, three days without water, but
without air you wont even last for three minutes. Air is not only important to us humans,
but also to other organisms that thrive here on Earth. Without air, everything will cease to
exist.
Air is a mixture of gases in the
atmosphere with the right
proportions of the contents that
the Earth needs to support life. It
is
apporximately
78.084%
Nitrogen,
20.946%
Oxygen,
0.934% Argon, 0.033% Carbon
Dioxide, 0.04% Water Vapor, and
0.003% Trace Elements (see
Figure 1).
Oxygen is what
humans and animals need to
continue their bodies metabolic
processes while Nitrogen plays an
Figure 1 Composition of Air.
Source: http://www.e-missions.net/ssa/CH4-breathingonthespacestation.htm essential part in the nutrient cycle.
Air composition also experience some momentary fluctuations in concentration of its
components due to some natural phenomena, particularly, due to violent volcanic eruptions,
lightning, bombardment by solar particles from corona (Wikipedia, n.d.), and smoke from
wildfires (National Geographic Society, n.d.). However, anthropogenic activities like smoke
emitted from vehicles, thermal power plants, factories that utilize fossil fuel, and even from
households; made significant impacts on the air quaility in recent years, and its effects are
being felt all across the world. The decrease in the air quality caused by pollutants from both
anthropogenic and natural causes is what we call air pollution (Conserve Energy Future, n.d.).
Certain chemical compounds and microparticles released from these different
sources of air pollution could cause harmful
effects to human health and environment.
CFCs 1 and HCFs 2 are responsible for the
thinning of the ozone layer, which lessens
our protection against UV rays, and could
result to more cases of skin cancer,
cataracts and impaired immune system
(Conserve
Energy
Future,
n.d.;
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive
Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
Department of Environmental Protection). Figure 2 Smog in Harbin, China. Source:
Prolonged exposure to Particulate Matter https://latimesphoto.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/la-chinaemitted to the atmosphere are said to be smog10.jpg
1
2

Chlorofluorocarbons.
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

the cause of different respiratory and cardiovascular infections which could lead to premature
death (US Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). Nitrogen oxides contribute to the
increasing trend of eutrophication and ground-level ozone (European Commission). Smog,
the most familiar form of air pollution (National Geographic, n.d.), also contains sulfur dioxide
and nitrogen oxide that causes acid rain that could cause acidification of lakes and rivers
(Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
Department of Environmental Protection), as well as building deterioration (Shaodong Xie,
2004). However, sulfur dioxide also increases the reflectivity of the atmosphere that causes
cooling of the Earth (National Geographic, n.d.). The cooling effects of sulfur dioxide however
is negated by the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the leading
cause of global warming. Global warming is the main driver of Climate Change which in turn
causes the melting of the ice caps, intensified floods and droughts (US Environmental
Protection Agency, n.d.; Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy &
Environmental Affairs Department of Environmental Protection). Several solutions to combat
air pollution and its effects are currently being implemented through intergovernmental and
private initiatives. The European Commission highlighted the importance of a cross-border
cooperation to mitigate air pollution (European Commission). Examples of intergovernmental
agreements to combat climate change and air pollution are the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol
and Paris Agreement in 1997 and 2015, respectively (United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change, n.d.).
The IPCC AR5 WG23 has cited some possible solutions that could help curb air pollution, both
global and local perspectives, such as: reduction of co-pollutants from household solid fuel
combustion, reduction of GHGs 4 and co-pollutants from industrial sources (power plants,
landfills, etc.) via more efficient generation or substitution of low carbon alternatives, energy
efficiency, better access to public transport and increase of active travel, healthy low
greenhouse gas emission diets, increase of urban green space, and carbon sequestration in
forest plantations via reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (Smith, 2014).
However, different challenges are still hindering the world to totally reduce air pollution.
Governments failure in implementing their own policies, as well as educating, informing, and
involving their people about air pollution are some of the main obstacles. In China for example,
there are existing regulations to control air pollution however, the government fell short on
enforcing these laws since most industries continue to emit pollutants while not meeting the
standards. Data needed to show the air pollutions long-term effects to human health like
cancer was also inaccessible (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2016).
Air pollution is definitely a major threat to humanity and the environment a threat that
humanity also caused. However, humanity also holds the key to solve air pollution.
Governments around the world already made policies to mitigate air pollution and its effects,
people are now aware how harmful air pollution is to health, and there are now existing
technologies to mitigate air pollution, yet these efforts are not enough. Active participation
of people and firm enforcement of environmental policies and technologies are the missing
pieces in reducing air pollution. We need each other to solve air pollution. No matter how
small our efforts are, it could still create a big impact for our society and environment.

3
4

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 5 Working Group 2.


Greenhouse Gases.

References
British Broadcasting Corporation. (2016). What is China doing to tackle its air pollution? Retrieved
2016, from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35351597
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Department of
Environmental Protection. (n.d.). Health & Environmental Effects of Air Pollution. Boston,
Massachusetts, USA. Retrieved 2016, from
http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dep/air/aq/health-and-env-effects-air-pollutions.pdf
Conserve Energy Future. (n.d.). Causes, Effects and Solutions of Air Pollution. Retrieved 2016, from
Conserve Energy Future: http://www.conserveenergyfuture.com/causes-effects-solutionsof-air-pollution.php
European Commission. (n.d.). Cleaner Air For All - Why is it important and what should we do?
doi:doi:10.2779/32219
National Geographic. (n.d.). Air Pollution Facts, Air Pollution Effects, Air Pollution Solutions, Air
Pollution Causes. Retrieved 2016, from National Geographic:
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/globalwarming/pollutionovervie
w/
National Geographic Society. (n.d.). Air Pollution. Retrieved 2016, from National Geographic Society:
http://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/air-pollution/
Shaodong Xie, L. Q. (2004). Investigation of the effects of acid rain on the determination of cement
concrete using accelerated tests established in laboratory. Atmospheric Environment, 38,
4457-4466. doi:doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2004.05.017
Smith, K. A.-L. (2014). Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits In: Climate Change 2014:
Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of
Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC. (C. V. Field, Ed.) Cambridge and
New York, United Kingdom and United States of America: Cambridge University Press.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (n.d.). Kyoto Protocol. Retrieved 2016,
from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:
http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (n.d.). The Paris Agreement. Retrieved
2016, from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:
http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php
US Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Air Pollution: Current and Future Challenges | Overview
of the Clean Air Act and Air Pollution | US EPA. Retrieved 2016, from www.epa.gov:
https://www.epa.gov/cleanairactoverview/airpollutioncurrentandfuturechallenges
US Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Basics | Climate Change | US EPA. Retrieved 2016, from
US Environmental Protection Agency: https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Atmospheric Chemistry. Retrieved 2016, from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_chemistry