With the great concern surrounding the destruction of the earth’s atmosphere dueto air pollution, the immediate and direct harm caused to the human body isoften over shadowed. While many are aware that our careless use of hazardouschemicals and fossil fuels may leave the planet uninhabitable in the future,most over look the fact that they are also cause real damage to our bodies atthis moment. Such pollutants cause damage to our respiratory system, leading tothe fluctuation of the life span of an individual depending on a number ofconditions. Amongst these conditions are the individuals specific geographiclocation, age, and life style. This paper is structured as a series of relevantquestions and answers to report on the description of these pollutants thereaffects on our bodies. In order to understand how air pollution affects ourbody, you must under stand exactly what this pollution is.
The pollutants thatharm our respiratory system are known as particulates. Particulates are thesmall solid particles that you can see through a ray of sunlight. They areproducts of incomplete combustion in engines (example: automobile engines), roaddust, and wood smoke. Billions of tons of coal and oil are consumed around theworld every year. When these fuels burn they produce smoke and other by-productsinto the atmosphere.
Although wind and rain occasionally wash away the smokegiven off by power plants and automobiles, much still remains. Particulatematter (soot, ash, and other solids), usually consist of unburned hydrocarbons,carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, various nitrogen oxides, ozone, and lead. Thesecompounds undergo a series of chemical reactions in the presence of sunlight,the result is smog (a term used to describe a noxious mixture of fog and smoke)The process by which these pollutants harm our bodies begins by simply taking abreath.
Particulates are present every where, in some areas they are as dense as100,000 per milliliter of air. The damage begins when the particulates areinhaled into the small air sacs of our lungs called alveoli. With densities suchas 100,000 per milliliter a single alveolus may receive 1,500 particulates perday. These particulates cause the inflammation of the alveoli. The inflammationcauses the body to produce agents in the blood that in crease clotting ability,which leads to the decreased functionality of the cardiovascular system,resulting in diseases and increased mortality. In the blood, carbon monoxideinterferes with the supply of oxygen to all tissues and organs, including thebrain and heart. Particulates accumulate on the mucous linings of the airwaysand lungs and impair their functioning.
Continued exposure to particulatesdamages the lungs and increases an individual’s chances of developing suchconditions as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. While you may see pollutantssuch as particulates, other harmful ones are not visible. Amongst the mostdangerous to our health are Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur dioxide,and Ozone. If you have ever been in an enclosed parking garage or a tunnel andfelt dizzy or light-headed then you have felt the effect of carbon monoxide(CO).This odorless, colorless, but poisonous gas is produced by the incompleteburning of fossil fuels, like gasoline or diesel fuel.
Carbon Monoxide comesfrom cars, trucks, gas furnaces and stoves, and some industrial processes. CO isalso a toxin in cigarettes. Carbon Monoxide combines with hemoglobin in the redblood cells, so body cells and tissues cannot get the oxygen they need. CarbonMonoxide attacks the immune system, especially affecting anyone with heartdisease, anemia, and emphysema and other lung diseases. Even when at lowconcentrations CO affects mental function, vision, and alertness.
Nitrogen Oxideis another pollutant that has been nicknamed a jet-age pollutant because it isonly apparent in highly advanced countries. Sources of this are fuel plant,cars, and trucks. At lower concentrations nitrogen oxides are a light brown gas.In high concentrations they are major sources of haze and smog.
They alsocombine with other compounds to help form ozone. Nitrogen Oxides cause eye andlung irritation, and lowers the resistance to respiratory illness, such as chestcolds, bronchitis, and influenza. For children and people with asthma, this gasis can cause death.
Nitrogen Oxides maybe the most dangerous of these pollutantsbecause it also makes nitric acid, when combine with water in rain, snow, fog,or mist. This then becomes the harmful acid rain. Sulfur Dioxide is a heavy,smelly, colorless gas which comes from industrial plants, petroleum refineries,paper mills, and chemical plants.
When combined with water it becomes sulfuricacid. Sulfuric acid dissolves marble, turns plants yellow, and eats away at ironand steel, you can imagine the possible damage to human tissue. It’s effect onpeople with asthma, heart disease, and emphysema is devastating. It is also amajor contribute to acid rain. There are numerous cases displaying the gravedanger of particulate air pollution.
One popular example occurred in London,England in the year 1952. In this case excessive deaths were caused as a resultof respiratory and cardiovascular problems in that year. The research at thattime revealed an association between particulate and sulphur dioxideconcentrations in the air and risk of respiratory disease and death. Theexcessive problems are thought to have been caused by “winter smogs”.Winter smogs were frequent problem during the 1940s through the 1950s when coalwas the main fuel for both domestic and commercial use. Winter smogs are causedby temperature inversions which trap particulates close to the ground.
The airand smoke trapped contained high concentrations of soot, sulphur dioxide, andother pollutants. This winter smog took the lives of over 3,500 people. Asimilar incident in the United States came about as a result of the same type oftemperature changes and smog. In 1948 six thousand people became drastically illand twenty died as a direct result of winter smog in Pennsylvania. More recentlyan even greater tragedy occurred. One of the great human and environmentaldisasters of the 1980s occurred on December 3, 1984, in Bhopal, India.
About 50tons of methyl isocyanate escaped into the air from a pesticide company owned bythe American corporation Union Carbide. Estimates of the death toll insurrounding neighborhoods were as high as 2,500. About 100,000 others wereinjured by the gas leak. Since the in industrial revolution city dwellers havealways been exposed to higher levels of particulate air pollution. As I havementioned, the fuels use in the urban factories release large amounts ofpollutants such as sulfur dioxide and soot. Another main factor is the heavy useif motor vehicles by the city population.
In the city, where many people andobjects occupy a small area the problem is amplified. Depending on the weatherconditions the threat can become even greater. Another major factor is theindividual. While sex does not matter age and health history do. It has beenproven that death or illness from air pollution is more likely in young people,old people, and people that smoke. Children are often more vulnerable to thosepollutants for two main reasons. The first being that because of their smallsize their heartbeats and metabolic rates are faster.
Therefore all reactionswithin their bodies including the harmful ones of pollutants (chiefly thereplacement of oxygen with carbon monoxide in the blood stream) take place at anaccelerated pace. The second is the relatively weak immune systems of youngchildren. Particulates that act as irritants take a greater toll on their stilldeveloping bodies. The same threats that air pollution pose to young peopleeffect older members of society.
Although their metabolic rates not high, theirimmune systems maybe equally as weak. An investigation conducted by the HelenDwight Reid Educational Foundation on the joint effects of air pollution andsmoking showed that smokers in Beijing, China suffered from greater problems intheir pulmonary artery functions. They also had a vital lung capacity decreaseof over 10%. It is apparent that our careless use of fossil fuels and chemicalsis destroying this planet. And it is now more than ever apparent that at thesame time we are destroying our bodies, proving that our pollution is not just aproblem that we can pass on to our children.Environment