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Air Pollution

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Air Pollution Around the World
5 worst cities in world in terms of air pollution
(Beijing, Mexico City, Shanghai, Tehran &

Air quality is deteriorating rapidly in developing

countries (developing countries have older cars)

In Shenyang, China, residents see sunlight only

a few weeks each year !

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Case-In-Point Air Pollution in
Beijing and Mexico City

Beijing (left)
Mexico City (above)
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Atmosphere as a Resource

Atmospheric Composition
N2: 78.08%
O2: 20.95%
Ar: 0.93%
CO2: 0.04%
Ecosystem services
Blocks UV radiation
Moderates the climate
Redistributes water in the hydrologic cycle
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Outdoor Air Pollution
Air Pollution
- presence of chemicals in the atmosphere by natural
events or human activities in concentrations high
enough to be harmful

1. Primary Air Pollutant

Harmful substance that is emitted directly into the

2. Secondary Air Pollutant

Harmful substance formed in the atmosphere
when a primary air pollutant reacts with substances
normally found in the atmosphere or with other air
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Types of Outdoor Air Pollution

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Sources of Outdoor Air Pollution

Two main sources

1. transportation
2. industry

Intentional forest fires

may be also significant.

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Major Air Pollutants

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National Ambient Air Quality Standards
NAAQS established for six pollutants:
Sulfur Dioxide
Nitrogen Oxides
Particulate Matter
Carbon Monoxide
Experts say two other important pollutants should
be listed:
Volatile Organic Compounds
Carbon Dioxide

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Sources of Primary Air Pollutants

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Primary Air Pollutants
1. Carbon Monoxide
from incomplete combustion of organic materials
single largest source is the automobile
binds to hemoglobin in blood and makes the
hemoglobin less able to carry oxygen
most dangerous in enclosed spaces

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2. Nitrogen oxides

consist of NO and NO2 ( lumped as NOx)

automobile exhaust is primary source.

NOx is a precursor to acid rain and

photochemical smog (both secondary pollutants)

Nitrous oxide N2O is a greenhouse gas, emitted

from animal wastes and burning of fossil fuel

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3. Sulfur dioxide

Burning coal is primary anthropogenic source

Volcanoes and hot springs are natural sources

(Mt St Helens releases 50 to 250 tons/day when active)

SO2 is also a precursor to acid rain (a secondary


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4. Particulate matter

minute pieces of solid materials dispersed into the

atmosphere (<10 microns)

includes dust, soot or ash, asbestos, sulfuric acid


dangerous since they may contain materials with

toxic/carcinogenic effects

can accumulate in lungs and interfere with the

ability of lungs to exchange gases.

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5. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Hydrocarbons emitted by the leaves of many plants or

those released from landfills, oil and natural gas wells

Examples include isoprene, terpenes, methane and


Evaporated from automobile fuel or remnants of fuel

incompletely burned

Play an important role in the formation of photochemical


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Secondary Air Pollutants
Ozone (O3) , a component of photochemical smog

PANs (peroxyacetyl nitrate)

1. NO + VOC ----> NO2
2. NO2 + UV ----> NO + O

3. O + O2 ----> O3

4. NO2 + VOC ----> PAN , etc.

Note : Ozone is a pollutant in the troposphere,
but natural and beneficial in the stratosphere.
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Urban Air Pollution
photochemical smog - formed by chemical reactions
involving sunlight, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbons

Smoke + fog = smog
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Formation of Photochemical Smog

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Smog in Los Angeles 213524

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Ozone Depletion in Stratosphere

Ozone protects earth from UV radiation

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Ozone thinning/hole

First identified in 1985

over Antarctica

Caused by human-
produced halogenated
chemicals especially

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Effects of Ozone Depletion

Higher levels of UV-radiation

hitting the earth

Eye cataracts
Skin cancer (right)
Weakened immunity

May disrupt ecosystems

May damage crops and forests

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Recovery of Ozone Layer
Montreal Protocol (1987)
Reduction of CFCs
Started using HCFCs (greenhouse gas)

Phase out of all ozone destroying chemicals is underway


Satellite pictures in 2000 indicated that ozone layer was


Full recovery will not occur until 2050

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Acid Deposition

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Effects of Acid Deposition
respiratory diseases

decreased visibility

declining aquatic animal


decreased productivity of
fisheries and forests

damage to stone
structures & monuments
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Controlling Air Pollution
Smokestacks with electrostatic
precipitator (right)

Without Electrostatic With Electrostatic

precipitator precipitator
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Smokestacks with
scrubbers (right)

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The Clean Air Act

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Other Ways to Improve Air Quality

Reduce sulfur content in gasoline from its

current average of 330 ppm to 30 ppm

Require federal emission standards for all

passenger vehicles

Require emission testing for all vehicles

Switch to low-sulfur fuels

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Reducing Motor Vehicle
Air Pollution

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Reducing Indoor
Air Pollution

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