Does air pollution affect water?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Does air pollution affect water?” Firstly, the article will address the basics of air pollution. Then, the article will mainly give detailed information on the association between air pollution and water. In addition, we will also outline the measures taken to reduce the impact of air pollution on water. In the end, the article will also give detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Does air pollution affect water?

Yes, air pollution affects water. Air pollution prominently deteriorates water resources on the Earth. Air pollution can alter the rainfall pattern and its intensity. Poor air quality can further affect the water cycle. Pollution mainly generated from the urban and industrial areas can affect the rainfall. The pollutants which majorly affect water are as follows:

  • Sulphur Oxides
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Particulate Matter

Let’s first see the basics of air pollution.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

What is Outdoor and Indoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called outdoor pollution. The examples of outdoor pollution are as follows:

  • Transportation
  • Combustion of fossil fuel
  •  Cooking activities
  • Energy generation and consumption
  • Agriculture
  •  Improper Solid Waste Management
  • Industries and factories
  • Household pollution
  • Celebrations
  • Construction and demolition

Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution. The examples of indoor pollution are as follows:

  • Household activities 
  • Perfumes and fresheners 
  • Cooking fuel/activities
  • Cigarette 
  • Radon 
  • Poor ventilation 
  • Uncleaned furniture 
  • Pets 
  • Asbestos

 There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution (happened due to natural events like dust storms) and anthropogenic pollution (happened due to human activities like combustion of fossil fuels).

Let’s see the connection between air pollution and water.

How does air pollution impact water?

Water is an essential asset of the Earth. Earth receives water mainly from the rains. Rains are necessary for the survival of unicellular to multicellular organisms on the Earth. Everyone needs water to drink and maintain the proper metabolism of the body. Around 71% of the earth surface is covered with water. Your body also contains approximately 60% of water.

Rains and snow are essential elements in the Earth’s water cycle. Without rains, the water bodies on the Earth wouldn’t get filled up, disrupting the water cycle. Besides, rains also help in agriculture and energy production.

In the United States, approximately 70% of the annual precipitation returns to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. The remaining 30% goes to the streams, lakes or oceans.

There is much scientific evidence proving that air pollution damages human health. Now, environmentalists worldwide claim that air pollution affects the water. This is because poor air quality affects the intensity of rainfall. Professor Meinrat O. Andreae, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, said that the rainfall concentration depends on the aerosol particles.

Cloud and rains form when warm, moist air rises from surface level and the water droplets condense on aerosol particles in the air. The aerosol particles are widely associated with air pollution and are often used in environmental engineering. In simpler words, aerosols are incredibly tiny particles either in solid or minute liquid droplets found suspended in the atmosphere. These aerosols often contain pollutants such as smoke and particulate matter. The aerosol composition is the deciding factor of the intensity of pollutants concentration.

Aerosols act like a sunscreen lotion applied to your body- it reduces the amount of solar energy reaching the ground surface. As a result, this reduces the quantity of water evaporating to form rain clouds. Also, aerosols are needed for the generation of clouds. However, the scientists observed that if so many aerosols were present in the atmosphere, they never reached the critical mass required to fall to Earth as rain. This also happens as inadequate water is shared between all the aerosol particles. In direct words, air pollution disturbs the proper mechanism of the water cycle, which leads to disruption in precipitation.

The effect of air pollution on the water is difficult to detect. You may notice some of the water bodies such as rivers, lakes or coastal areas may seem crystal clear, but, in reality, they still may be polluted and unsafe for consumption. This happens because of acid precipitation from rain, snow and particulate matter. Most of the time, such downpours get seeped through the soil and contaminated groundwaters. Contamination of groundwaters can lead to harmful impacts on human health after consumption.

Acid rains are undeniably one of the worst consequences of air pollution. Such types of showers can happen due to natural and man-made air pollution. They release hazardous pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

These toxic contaminants can easily dissolve in the water. When mixed with water, oxygen and other compounds to form the following:

  • Sulfurous oxide
  • Nitric acid
  • Sulfuric acid

These acids can quickly transfer by winds through the atmosphere to other regions. Thus, acid rains can also cause transboundary pollution.

The sources such as factories, combustion of fossil fuels for mobile sources such as cars and other vehicles emit sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides. Natural sources such as volcanic eruptions and vegetation rotting can also generate the same nasty stuff. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) states that the main reason is human-based air pollution.

Acid rain is a type of acid that appears in many forms, such as wet and dry deposition. In this blog, we will discover more about wet deposition. Wet deposition is commonly called acid rain itself. It deposition sulphuric and nitric acids are mixed with rains, fog, smog or hail. A wet deposition requires moisture for the process.

If you check rain polluted with air pollution, it generally has a PH between4.2 to 4.4. Distilled water found in the science labs is neutral, whereas seawater is alkaline; it has a PH value of 8.1. The PH scale is used to measure the acidity and alkalinity of any solutions. PH at 7.0 indicates that the answer is neutral. Any value lower than 7.0 is acidic, and greater than 7.0 is alkaline. In an ecosystem, components such as air, water and soil are intertwined. Therefore, there should be a proper balance to protect the living organisms of the environment.

As per US EPA, the impacts of acid rains are majorly seen in the aquatic ecosystem. Researchers claim that water bodies such as lakes, streams, and marshes are susceptible to acid rains. Moreover, various water bodies can suffer temporary yet impactful acidification. This occurs when acid precipitation in snow comes abruptly in contact with the water system during the spring season.

 These water bodies are homes to many fish, birds and wildlife animals. This sudden “acid shock” can prove dangerous to many aquatic organisms such as fish. The more intrusion of acid rains into the water bodies, releases more quantity of aluminium into the water. Prolonged exposure to such acid precipitation can cause the water bodies to become more acidic. Thus air pollution affects the water of the lakes and streams, which can clear off aquatic wildlife and vegetation. This happens as it cannot withstand the lower levels of Ph. You can observe such a scenario of many lakes around Sudbury, Ontario.

Let me also explain you in other words. Heavy acidic precipitations and snow melting can cause a phenomenon known as episodic precipitation. Lakes having a perfect balance of acidity levels can be changed due to melting snow or heavy shower. These additions cause acidic deposition and the inability of the soil to buffer it. These temporary levels of lower PH values can result in short-term stress on the ecosystem, and a variety of plant and animal species can get injured and may face death. Acid rains also disrupt the nitrogen cycle essential of the ecosystem. As acid rains contain nitric acid and it creates nitrogen pollution. Such nitrogen pollution in the coastal waters is partly responsible for the declining fish and shellfish population.

However, some plants and animals can resist acidic waters and medium levels of aluminium. The ones sensitive to such alterations will lose the battle of survival. Animal enthusiasts found out that the young ones of most animal species are more vulnerable to the fluctuations than the adults. For instance, most fish eggs cannot hatch in the water, having Ph levels of 5. There are also cases where some adult fish were killed at low PH levels. Another example is that frogs have a crucial PH around 4.0, and frogs relish on mayflies. But, these mayflies are more vulnerable to the changes of the PH levels and may not survive PH below 5.5.

In addition, many researchers claim that all acidified water may not necessarily prove a threat to the water world. In support of the above instances, if any water body has inadequate nitrogen levels, such as coastal waterways and estuaries, it can rapidly increase plant and algal growth.

This happens due to acid precipitation formed from nitrogen oxides (NOx) release. This abundant growth within a water body is called ‘eutrophication’. Now, you might wonder that if such precipitation can increase plant growth, it’s a good thing. But, in reality, it’s not. Such a noticeable increase in plant growth can deteriorate water health. The decomposition of plants can deplete the water’s oxygen levels, which is needed by the organisms of the water bodies such as lakes and ponds.

But don’t worry, there are various measures taken by multiple environmental programs and governing bodies to lessen the effects of air pollution on water. Let’s see what steps are taken in the United States.

What measures are taken to reduce the impact of poor air quality on water?

EPA’s Acid Rain Program

Congress has already passed a law known as the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. This passed law emphasized that EPA should start the Acid Rain Program. The program notes to limit the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Reduction of pollution

Scientists have initiated to urge the use of coal that has less sulphur. Another method that researchers have suggested is to use the washing method on the coals to remove some sulphur. Such washing methods can be done using equipment known as scrubbers. Or else, the use of fossil fuels can be changed into the renewable energy sector.

Reduction of vehicular transport

As cars and other vehicles emit nitrogen and sulphur oxides, car manufacturers should reduce the number of nitrogen oxides and other pollutants produced by vehicles. Equipment known as catalytic convertor helps in reducing such pollutants. Newly built cars can also use natural gas and switch to electric fuels. EPA also gives guidelines.

Now, let’s see how you can individually reduce air pollution.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Does poor air quality make you tired?

Do Candles Clean the Air?

Effects of poor air quality on the environment

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Does air pollution affect water?” Firstly, the article addressed the basics of air pollution. Then, the article mainly gave detailed information on the association between air pollution and water. In addition, we also outlined the measures taken to reduce the impact of air pollution on water. In the end, the article also gave detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Does air pollution affect water?

How does pollution affect rain and water?

Air pollutants cause rainwater to be acidic. These contaminants can develop into toxic gases and combine heavy metals like Pb into rainwater.

Does pollution increase rain?

Environmental scientists around the globe have concluded that air pollution can decrease or increase rainfall; it depends on the local ecological conditions. Due to rising pollution levels, the intensity of rains rises at first, reaches a maximum peak, and finally falls off sharply at very high aerosol concentrations.

How does pollution affect the weather?

Air pollution affects the weather tremendously. The gaseous emissions are believed to have involved rainfall since the 1920s. Air contaminants can seed raindrop formation and change the rain cloud formation and rainfall pattern. In the United States, many cases of delaying rainfall have caused ferocious summer storms.

What happens to rain when the air contains pollutants?

Rainfall can benefit you; the rain can wash off common air pollutants such as pollens and allergens. This phenomenon is called Wet deposition.

What pollutants are in the rainwater?

The pollutants present in the rainwater are as follows:

  • Dust
  • Particles
  • Smoke
  • SOx
  • NOx

What are the effects of air pollution?

The effects of air pollution are as follows:

  • Damage to human health
  • Economic losses
  • Degradation of biodiversity and wildlife
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Fluctuating weather conditions
  • Greenhouse effects
  • Global warming

References

Aerosol pollution may affect rainfall patterns. Down To Earth. Available at: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/aerosol-pollution-may-affect-rainfall-pattern-5567 

Air pollution can prevent rainfall. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000314065455.htm

Air pollution ’causes more rain – but also less rain’. edie.net. Available at: https://www.edie.net/news/2/Air-pollution-causes-more-rain—but-also-less-rain/15279/ 

What is acid rain, and how is it formed? Sustainability for all. Available at: https://www.activesustainability.com/climate-change/what-is-acid-rain/?_adin=02021864894 

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