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Friday, 11 September 2015

The Rising Risk Of Air Pollution

The steadily rising levels of air pollution on a global scale is slowly starting to manifest it's detrimental effects on almost everyone who is situated near the vicinity of industrial areas, namely the big cities. Besides being an environmental problem that is clearly affecting the condition of the atmosphere and the incremental weather that is radically changing the seasons, it is also affecting the quality of life, all around us, particularly our health. There has been a reported rise in the statistics of people who are suffering from various forms of respiratory ailments which is related to the declining quality of the air that we breathe. The main cause is related to air pollution, which varies from heavily polluted areas such as industrial zones, which produce a staggering amount of particulates. Not only solid particulate residue that we tend to ingest through our lungs, but also a rise in the toxicity of the air that we breathe on a daily basis. 

This change has affected how people live in some of the most densely populated areas in the world, particularly in the big cities and surrounding urban areas. In the last decade or so, there has been a rise to the way houses, buildings and other structures are being integrated with air purification systems that siphon out harmful particulates of the air that is being vented from the outside environment. These air purification systems are integrated into existing HVAC (Heat Ventilation Air Conditioning) which capture airborne particulates and even toxic fumes that may pose a health problem for people. These air filters uses HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, which is also used in some of the best vacuum for pet hair, which can be seen here. The urgency for such necessity to install indoor air filtering systems could be attributed to the rise in children and adults alike who are suffering from airborne allergies that cause respiratory ailments.

It is very apparent that the change it made to our environment has also affected the way that our weather is changing. Some prevailing global conditions, particularly climate change, has given rise to global warming, the continued depletion of the ozone layer and acid rain. Climate change has now began to change the way or plants, particularly our food crops, on their natural ability to produce adequate yields, that is now falling short in complying with a growing population that needs to be fed on a daily basis. This can be manifested with certain food crops failing to produce in places which should be otherwise. Drought and the drying of once well irrigated regions of the planet is a sign that the climate is slowly making a turn for the worse if we will not act upon on our own initiative, to stop the effect of climate change due to our continued exploitation of the environment and the use of fossil fuels.

There are two kinds of ozone layers that can be found in our environment, one particular kind can be found on the ground level (the troposphere). This can sometimes be manifested as a major part of the formation of smog. This type of ozone gas should not be confused with the ozone that is protecting us from the harmful effects of ultra violet and other harmful forms of radiation that is coming from the sun (the stratosphere). Ozone is a natural form of gas and is formed by the combination of organic compounds that reacts when it is exposed to sunlight. Over the past century, this same ozone steadily became harmful due to the fact that it was now being mixed in with toxic inorganic compounds that are produced along with other pollutants in the air, that come from industrial facilities. One inorganic compound that is being produced by industrial plants is Nitrogen oxide, that is produced from burning gasoline, coal and other fossil fuels. Troposphere ozone can cause asthma attacks, sore throats, incoherent coughing and even breathing difficulties. Troposphere ozone can also affect plant growth, particularly food crops.

Carbon Monoxide:
Another harmful inorganic compound produced by burning fossil fuels is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is mostly produced by cars and other fuel combustion engines that run on fuels like gasoline, diesel and bunker fuels. It is a colorless and odorless gas which poses an imminent threat to our health on a daily basis. Carbon monoxide is the most abundant inorganic gases that society produces on a daily basis which can be credited to engines that do not efficiently burn spent fuel. This type of pollutant is not only limited to vehicles but is also produced by furnaces and heaters. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can be found in densely populated areas such as cities. Carbon monoxide poisoning causes dizziness and a sensation of lightheadedness at some point, as this effect is caused by carbon dioxide to displace oxygen in the lungs, causing headaches and asphyxiation which reduces the amount of oxygen being absorbed to the bloodstream, causing mental dysfunction. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can eventually cause death.

Nitrogen Dioxide:
Another pollutant caused by the use of fossil fuels is nitrogen dioxide which comes in the form of a reddish-drown gas. High quantities of nitrogen dioxide emit a strong smell, which mostly comes from power plants and vehicles. Nitrogen dioxide is formed in two separate ways, in which one aspect pertains to the nitrogen being released into the atmosphere by way of burning fuels and the other is when nitrogen reacts with oxygen in very high temperatures. Another detrimental effect of nitrogen dioxide comes in the form of acid rain, which can accelerate the corrosion of metals and even stone structures. Acid rain is formed when pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and other inorganic gaseous compounds find their way to an area where there are rainclouds, in which acid rain is produced as air pollutants get mixed with precipitation that fall along with the rain. Nitrogen dioxide also causes the onset of respiratory ailments.

Sulfur Dioxide:
Sulfur dioxide is probably one of the most damaging forms of inorganic pollutants that is abundant in our atmosphere. At low levels, it is odorless and colorless, but in high concentrations, is gives off a pungent smell that closely resembles rotting eggs. Sulfur dioxide is commonly produced from coal and oil burning power plants. It can also be produced as waste materials from chemical, oil and paper manufacturing facilities that uses sulfur as an additive to the manufacturing process. Sulfur also is one of the major contributors to the growing occurrence of acid rain, and is considered more damaging than nitrogen dioxide as high concentrations of sulfur dioxide is corrosive in it's gaseous form.

Lead has been one of the most earliest forms of metal that humans had been using since the time of society's early development. Unfortunately, it was only this early part of the century that we found out that it possesses toxic elements that could be absorbed by our bodies that could lead to poisoning. Lead is a blueish-gray material and is found in a number of different forms. For one, lead is a premium additive to most fuels used by internal combustion engines as it functions as a lubricant for the upper cylinders of the combustion chamber, prolonging the life of the car's pistons. Another purpose of lead as an additive is used as a catalyst for paint and other chemically formulated emulsions. Lead paint used for primers and even lead pipes that are used to deliver water into our homes, are just some of the ways that we ingest and absorb lead on a daily basis. For young children undergoing their developmental years, it was proven that lead can cause a decrease in the intelligence quotient (IQ) and can even cause kidney damage to some extent due to prolonged exposure.

Toxic Air Pollutants:
This form of pollutants are directly proportional to the amount of chemically induced toxins that we release to our environment through the use of dangerous chemicals that we use in regards to our manufacturing practices on a global industrial level. A fairly large amount of chemicals that we use include arsenic, asbestos, dioxin and benzene in which we use in processing some of the materials that we make such as plastics and other resins. Up to this day, we still use all of this aforementioned substances, especially now that we make a whole lot more of plastic materials that we use on almost all of the products that we manufacture. Everyday, we release a vast amount of these pollutants which adds up to the worsening condition of the air that we inhale.

Ozone Depleters:
These are the byproduct of our frequent use of aerosols which uses chlorofluorocarbons as a medium of delivering chemicals into the air. It is mostly found in deodorizers, fire extinguishers and spray cannisters. It is also found in cooling compounds such as freon gas, which is the main substance which makes it possible for air-conditioners to give out cool air. Particularly in air conditioning systems, chlorofluorocarbons are released when freon is reloaded into the air condition compressor, as most freon gases are let out prior to putting in a new one. Chlorofluorocarbons is the major cause of the thinning of our ozone layer which is found in the stratosphere, which protects us from the dangerous effects of ultraviolet light and other harmful forms of radiation coming from the sun. The thinning of the ozone layer can cause the penetration of harmful sunlight which can cause skin cancer, to say the least, as it can also radically change the way our weather reacts.

Greenhouse Gases:
Greenhouse gas is the product of all the pollutants that form a layer of gases that inhibits the accumulated amount of heat that our planet has absorbed from escaping our atmosphere, causing our global temperature to rise a quarter of a degree. The steady rise of global temperatures causes the polar icecaps of the Arctic and Antarctic to melt, causing fresh water and trapped methane from the ice and seabed to escape into the atmosphere. The methane that escapes is then reintroduced to the atmosphere which further adds to global warming, causing an abrupt change to the climate which causes abnormalities in the planet's weather system. Greenhouse gases shields the accumulated heat that the planet has stored during the day time from naturally being blown out to the upper parts of the atmosphere where it should be cooled down and dissipated, but at the same time, corroding the protective layers of the ozone layer, letting in more harmful radiation that causes heat to increase global temperature, therefore affecting the climate.

Despite the development of such filtering systems like that of the HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, there are some airborne particulates that are even smaller than 0.3 microns, which is the smallest grade that can be made for HEPA filters. There are even air borne matter that can be as small as 0.00005 microns which can easily go through HEPA filters. Airborne particulates are categorized in two types, one being the coarse particulates that comprises dust and other airborne debris which can easily be filtered out by HEPA filters. The other type of airborne particulates are those that are produced by burnt fuel which can not be filtered through conventional filtering systems. This type of ultra fine airborne particulates can be eliminated by ultraviolet radiation and heat detoxification which includes air being drawn through high temperatures which exceeds 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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