You must have come across the problem of air pollution in Beijing, Delhi and Mumbai, and all the havoc it is causing. There are daily articles in the newspapers about the deteriorating Air Quality Index and its disastrous health effects. But how does the air get this much polluted? Why are some areas affected more and others less? Let us take a look at this topic of Air Pollution.
What is the most important component of air? Oxygen, right? Well, that is what we all think, however, in reality, all the various components of air are just as important as Oxygen.
In a broad sense, air pollution means the presence of chemicals or compounds (called pollutants) in the air which are not naturally occurring, and which lower the quality of air, and are harmful to all living things in the atmosphere. Air pollution is majorly caused due to the release of various chemicals into the atmosphere. Air pollution can be both man-made and naturally occurring.
In our current age of industrialisation and modernisation, the biggest source of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels. For example when we burn petrol or diesel or coal to run our cars, machines, trains, power plants etc. this releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, endangering all living things around.
There are two major types of air pollutants, gaseous compounds and compounds in solid form.
Air pollution can be caused by both man-made and natural causes, although the contribution by these natural causes is pretty negligible.
The main culprit of air pollution is the man-made sources of air pollution. The single most harmful source of air pollution is the unchecked burning of fossil fuels by mankind. Fossil fuels (non-renewable sources of energy such as crude oil, petrol, diesel, coal etc.) are used in almost every process of industrialization, manufacturing, transport and energy generation. In rural areas, a major source of pollution is the practice of unchecked crop burning. In moderation, this is actually a useful tool in farming but uncontrolled crop burning causes significant air pollution. Another source of man-made pollution is military resources such as nuclear arsenal and chemical weaponry.
There are a few natural sources of air pollution as well. such as forest fires, volcanic activity and methane discharged from cattle. However, the amount of air pollution caused by natural causes is minuscule when compared to the damage done by man-made causes.