In the category of air pollution, we can differentiate between various particles and toxic gases. Where do they come from, and is there a way to limit their emissions? We explain it below.
At first glance, the air pollution problem might seem easy to solve – switching to electric vehicles and renewable sources of energy and imposing stricter regulations on industrial emissions should be enough. Well, in theory, it is simple. However, mobilizing every sector is a challenging task that requires major investment. That is the main reason why so many countries struggle with this problem regardless of increasing accessibility to green energy and other solutions that can provide us with the cleaner air.
It doesn’t help that the sources of air pollution vary and can cause two distinct types of smog that require different approaches to combat. The first one, photochemical, appears in high temperatures, mostly because of exhaust fumes that cause a high concentration of nitrogen oxide. The second, sulfurous, is associated with burning coal and appears in the winter months.
The natural sources of air pollution
The sources of air pollution are mostly tied to human activity. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no natural ones. In fact, some natural phenomena can cause noticeable drops in air quality. These include:
- volcano eruptions – during them, large amounts of sulfur dioxide and ash is emitted into the air;
- desert dust – considered a type of particulate matter that can cause mucosa irritation and respiratory problems;
- animal digestion & melting of glaciers – both cause a release of methane to the atmosphere;
- wildfires – ashes from fires can cause heavy air pollution.
The anthropogenic sources of air pollution
There is no doubt that natural sources can contribute to air pollution. However, it is the anthropogenic ones that cause the majority of emissions. Contrary to the natural ones, these are constant, not occasional. Which sources of air pollution are the result of human activity?
Pollution with carbon oxides, nitrogen dioxides, and sulfur oxides
In this case, emissions are mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Public transport and power plants are the main contributors here. We can divide these sources into:
exhaust fumes – petrol vehicles release plenty of toxic gases after burning fossil fuels in their engines. The most dangerous include sulfur dioxides, ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon oxide, aldehydes, and hydrocarbons.
coal-burning – this activity causes sulfurous smog. The spectrum of toxic gases is similar to above. During the coal burning process, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are usually released into the air, as well as carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change.
Pollution with methane and ammonia
Here, the main culprits are the agricultural industry and waste storage. The first one is responsible for around 90% of emissions of methane and ammonia. Landfills are big emitters of methane, too.
Check air quality with Airly
Monitoring air pollution levels is a basic measure everyone can take. You can check them through our app or air pollution map that display real-time data on the concentration of toxic gases and particulate matter.