Air pollution is defined as one or more substances, in the presence of air, which alters the composition and balance of the atmosphere causing harmful effects on humans, animals, plants and the environment.
The effects of pollution can be divided into two main categories:
(a) effects on human and animal health
(b) effects on climate and the environment
Effects on human and animal health
Air pollution produces serious risks to health.
Their effects can occur with acute episodes of high concentrations of pollutants present for short periods, or chronic diseases caused by exposure to low concentrations of pollutants for long periods of time.
In developed countries the main causes of this type of pollution are nitrogen oxides (NOx), Sulphur oxides, VOCs and particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5). On top of this, bacteria and mould develop in our homes as well. These are responsible for numerous respiratory diseases and act as irritants. Bacteria, moulds, and other airborne agents such as spores can cause allergies such as asthma, as well as bringing on seasonal colds.
Air pollution has massive effects on the respiratory system, both in its upper section (nose, pharynx and larynx), and in the lower trachea, bronchi or pulmonary alveoli.
The substances in air pollution, nitrogen oxides and benzene, are carcinogens. Carcinogens are substances that are capable of causing cancer.
The heart and circulatory system may also be affected by pollution, either through the direct action of pollutants or, more frequently, as a result of respiratory damage.
Air pollution not only causes damage to human health, but can also damage the environment, buildings and historical landmarks.
Effects on climate and the environment
Air pollution has a heavy impact on climate and the environment. The infamous “greenhouse effect” is causing serious problems to our earth, as an increased greenhouse effect can lead to global warming and climate change. This effect is caused by the excessive production of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour.
These gases filter the radiation coming from the sun averting it from reaching the earth’s surface with life-threatening radiation.
The issue caused by the excessive amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the expected rise in the earth’s temperature.
This excessive increase in temperature can lead to climate change, with serious problems for the stability of living ecosystems, global warming problems, and extreme climatic phenomena.