What are the 5 effects of air pollution?

In this blog post, we will discuss “What are5 effects of air pollution?” First, we will address the basics of air pollution. Then, the article will outline the effects of air pollution. In the end, the article will provide detailed solutions to lessen air pollution.

What are the 5 effects of air pollution?

Air pollution harms the environment severely. Air pollution can be so disastrous that its effect can raise a question on the world’s existence. The 5 effects of air pollution are as follows:

  • Depletion of Water Bodies and Land Surface
  • Loss of biodiversity and Food Insecurity
  •  Effect on Humans
  • Depletion of the Ozone layer
  • Meteorological Changes, Global warming and Climate change

Let’s 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).

Air pollution has shaken the balance of our ecosystem. Since the stone age, humankind has always strived hard to achieve stability and comfort in their life. Finally, we succeeded, which led to the industrial revolution, followed by urbanization and much-needed changes in the lifestyle.

However, in the process of progression, somewhere we left behind the great values of nature, we forgot the support and symbiotic existence of the environment. While human inventions, no doubt, have always helped us to save our lives, it has also given birth to much inevitable stuff. One such thing is air pollution.

Humans have tremendously exploited natural resources such as fossil fuels in the constant chase of becoming the best in every term and during the development of energy and manufacturing sectors. But, unfortunately, such combustion of fossil fuels for various purposes such as transport and energy releases lots of toxic gaseous and solid contaminants such as carbon monoxide, noxious gases and particulate matter. 

The ever-growing menace of air pollution has also created other challenges such as global warming, greenhouse effect and climate change. These challenges have affected the whole world greatly.

Let’s see the effects of air pollution.

The 5 effects of air pollution

Depletion of Water Bodies and Land Surface 

Air pollution causes harm to the water cycle. As a result, this results in the depletion of various natural resources. The two primary resources which get deteriorate are water bodies and land surfaces. Let’s know more about it below.

Acid precipitation

Air pollution can considerably affect the soil and water health of the Earth when the toxic pollutants develop into clouds and condense to form acid rain. Acid rains are also called acid precipitations. Acid precipitation is completely acidic. Acidic precipitation changes the soil’s pH level when it comes in contact with land surfaces and water bodies.

Even the warmer air alters the temperature of the soil, which changes the composition of the bacteria. The acidic deposition is of two types, namely, wet and dry. Acid rain is a wet type of acidic deposition that causes soil erosion and affects the ecosystem. In contrast, dry deposition occurs when small acid particles and gases such as sulphur dioxides and nitrogen dioxides fall on the Earth’s surface.

Soil degradation

 Now, acidic precipitation results in soil degradation. The soil acidic in nature decreases the ability to retain many nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K). The agricultural run-off or water on the soil gets absorbed and seeps through the soil. As a result, the aquifers or groundwaters are also gets affected.

Acidification

On the other hand, the acidic rain falling on the water bodies pose a significant threat to aquatic life. The constant fluctuations of water temperatures and the nutrient composition imbalances fish population and other wildlife depending on it.

The aquatic life in the oceans has been at significant risk due to air pollution. Corals, mangroves and seaweeds are degrading due to air pollution. In addition, fishes are dependent on these habitats for survival, posing a threat to their population.

Additionally, fishes are finding it difficult to breathe because of depleting oxygen supplies. World Meteorological Organisation says that around 90% of the greenhouse gases get trapped in the oceans.

Loss of biodiversity and Food Insecurity

If air pollution is not taken seriously by you and your friends or your elected political leader, it will cost you scenic beauties, biodiversity and natural resources. Your vast lush green natural grasslands or green rich forests might be replaced arid and barren lands. Unfortunately, it sounds depressing. But, here’s why I am telling you.

Flora and fauna are all dependent on natural resources such as water and soil to thrive on the Earth. However, as explained earlier, the unnecessary involvement of airborne pollutants in the water cycle and their accumulation in the ground and other natural resources leads to the depletion of their nutrients.

The animals and plants relying on these resources then come under a significant threat. The indirect and direct impact of air pollution affects plant growth and reduces the production of fruits and flowers. Herbivorous animals relying on the plants will not get a sufficient amount of greens to fulfil their stomach, which will lead to a decline in their population. Their declining rate will affect the primary, secondary and tertiary predators and the apex predators. As a result, air pollution affects the food web of an ecosystem. Besides, the lowering rate of insects is alarming as the insect-plant relationship is the backbone of nature.

 Insects are responsible for the creation of the biological foundation for all the terrestrial ecosystems. Insects balance the nutrient cycle of the environment. Some insects like earthworms and dung beetles aid to maintain soil structure and enhancing soil nourishment. Insects like honeybees also significantly play a role in increasing fruit and flower plants. Again, this is because of the pollination process. Thus, this helps in balancing the food chain.

On the other hand, some insects like ants help to keep your surroundings clean and odourless. In addition, these insects help in the decomposition process of plants and animals. Some insects are badass because they help keep control of the pests or nasty bugs that harm our environment. However, particulate matter (PM2.5) affects the antennae, wings and hind legs of pollinating insects like honeybees. Its inhalation also messes up with their brains which makes them confused and delays the pollination process. Such issues will burden the food security of the world.

More than humans, birds are most exposed to these toxic contaminants. Such exposure impacts their respiratory functions. Pollutants such as black carbon and soot can transform a beautiful bird into an ugly stained one. Also, amphibians such as frogs are vulnerable to herbicides and insecticides because of their skin permeability. Their skin absorbs such poison, and it transfers their vital organs such as the heart, lungs, gills and brain. Moreover, indoor air pollution causes danger to furry pets; they can get respiratory ailments and tumours.

Effect on Humans

Physical Health

Air pollution causes detrimental effects on human health. It can affect your body, from the hair on your head to nails on your toes. The pollutants, especially particulate matter (PM2.5), can deeply penetrate your lungs, and through them, they can be dissolved into the bloodstream. Such a dissolving process can make your blood oxygen-depleted and can result in various dangerous effects. While the short-term effects recover quickly and can be treatable, long-term effects take much more years. WHO has already declared particulate matter as a carcinogen. The impact on human health are:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

Mental Health

Air pollution has also taken a toll on mental well-being. Severe deterioration in air quality can result in damaged cognitive skills in children and adults. It can also lead to depression. In addition, the researchers in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural resources and Environment have studied that air pollution can also affect children’s academic performance. Neuroinflammatory studies have also suggested that pollutants such as ground-level ozone and PM2.5 can significantly damage the neurovascular unit of humans. One shocking outcome from research done in 2014 by Jackson showed that the Eastern winds of Israel, which generally carries a heavy concentration of particulate matter, can generate psychotic exacerbations of schizophrenia and suicide attempts in people who already had schizophrenia. Do you know that 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness every year?

Depletion of the Ozone layer

The ozone layer is exceptionally beneficial for the proper functioning of the Earth. The main job of the ozone is to protect the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UVB rays) from the Sun. Without the ozone layer, humans will acquire many dangerous skin diseases such as skin cancer, cataracts and compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, this ozone layer is vulnerable to hazardous air pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This chemical may be present you very nearby you, wonder how? This chemical is used as the refrigerant in your refrigerators, and it is made up of chlorine atoms. When the chlorine atoms are released into the atmosphere, they can destroy ozone. A single chlorine atom has the power to kill thousands of ozone molecules.  

Meteorological Changes, Global warming and Climate change

The high levels of particulate matter and ozone can cause the sky to be hazy and smoggy, creating less visibility. Sometimes, the high concentration of particulates can cause darkness and reduce the expected amount of sunlight to the Earth. Such less sunlight can affect the photosynthesis processes in the plants, leading to fewer crops productivity. Besides, hazy skies are also responsible for the alterations in the weather and climate.

The greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour and fluorinated gases are mainly produced from various human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels, industries, and the agricultural sector. These gases get trapped inside the Earth’s atmosphere and cause warm temperatures. In addition, these gases also fluctuate with the seasons and weather. Finally, global warming is boosted by the tremendous presence of gases.

Global warming and the greenhouse effect has led to another huge challenge known as Climate Change. Climate change is a worldwide challenge to the Earth’s climate because of the natural causes and human activity. Climate change has globally negatively impacted the climatic patterns. It also causes the north and south poles to melt rapidly, which increases the sea level. Such a rise in the sea level can pose a threat to coasts and island nations. Besides, climate change has caused more extreme meteorological changes such as intense heat waves, prolonged droughts, flash floods, wildfires and harsh winters.

Intense fluctuations in the weather and climate give rise to multiple diseases such as cholera, typhoid, etc.

Thus, our responsibility is to create awareness about air pollution and its effects amongst your friends and loved ones. After all, nobody wants to experience like those scientific fiction movies showing apocalypse. 

The effects, as mentioned above, may sound way too severe, but don’t get panic. We still have time to save our world. Even little effort can significantly contribute to the betterment of the environment. In the next section, I will provide you with detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

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

What are the 5 main pollutants?

What are the 7 criteria for air pollutants?

What are the 5 major pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act?

Conclusion

 In this blog post, we discussed “What are 5 effects of air pollution?” First, we addressed the basics of air pollution. Then, the article outlined the effects of air pollution. In the end, the article provided detailed solutions to lessen air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What are the 5 effects of air pollution?

Which pollutants causes chlorosis in plants?

Ozone causes chlorosis in plants. This is because ozone enters into leaves through stomata during typical gas exchange. As ozone is a strong oxidant, it causes several types of symptoms, including chlorosis and necrosis.

What are the five disastrous effects of air pollution?

The five disastrous effects of air pollution are:

  • Respiratory and heart ailments in human beings
  • Global Warming
  • Acid Rain
  • Depletion of the ozone layer
  • Food insecurity

What are the primary cause of air pollution and its effect on the environment?

The burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of air pollution. Combustion of fossil fuel is needed in the transportation sector, energy generation, and cooking activities. Such activities release a tremendous amount of carbon monoxide and other toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. These contaminants cause harm to human health, hampers flora and fauna growth, and create food insecurity.

How does air pollution affect global warming?

Air pollution also releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This contributes to the greenhouse effect. In addition, the carbon dioxide emitted traps a tremendous amount of heat into the atmosphere. This process results in global warming.

What effect does air pollution have on food crops and biodiversity?

Pollutants such as sulphur can result in excess acidification of the water bodies such as lakes and streams. This pollutant can also damage trees and fertile land. The atmospheric nitrogen can create an imbalance in biodiversity and can harm overall plant communities and aquatic life. Moreover, ozone can damage the tree leaves.

Why air pollution is a problem?

Air pollution is a problem because it harms crops, animals and plants simultaneously. Air pollution also contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer and can aggravate climate change. Some of the environmental effects of air pollution are smog, hazy skies and eutrophication.

Reference

Canada.ca. 2021. Air pollution: effects on soil and water – Canada.ca. [online] Available at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-pollution/quality-environment-economy/ecosystem/effects-soil-water.html 

Mackenzie, J. and Turrentine, J., 2021. Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know. [online] NRDC. Available at https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know

National Geographic Society. 2021. air pollution. [online] Available at https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/air-pollution/ 

Shi, Z., 2014. Why air pollution reduces crop yields. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/air-pollution-reduces-crop-yields/

Unece.org. 2021. Air pollution and food production | UNECE. [online] Available at https://unece.org/air-pollution-and-food-production 

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