Thursday, March 6, 2014

Air Pollution and Biodiversity

Pollution affects our planet’s biodiversity through the air, the land, and the water. This article primarily focuses on air pollution, and its effects on our ecosystem.
            The pollutants found in the Earth’s air come from two sources: natural sources and anthropogenic sources. Anthropogenic sources make up the sources in which humans are involved. Motor vehicle exhausts, wood burning stoves, coal powered plants, metal refineries, and battery manufacturers are all examples of the sources of air pollutants found in the United States. The compounds that result from these sources are harmful to the well-being of both humans and the environment including animals and plant life. The most commonly found outdoor air pollutants are: carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground level ozone, and lead. Excess exposure to carbon dioxide may be responsible for severe headaches, heart attack, and fetal development abnormalities. Sulfur dioxide is responsible for eye irritation, coughing, and lung damage. Nitrogen dioxide can cause lung and other respiratory failures, and ground level ozone may cause asthma. Lastly, lead exposure has been linked to anemia, high blood pressure, kidney damage, and certain types of cancer.
            While it is obvious that these air pollutants have been proven to negatively affect the well-being of humans, they have also affected the environment. Acid rain is the process of precipitation falling through the air pollutants mentioned above. This process brings down the pollutants onto lakes, ponds, trees, and animals who cannot find shelter. Acid rain is dangerous, and can severely damage and threaten what it touches.

            Air pollution is not just found outside. It is commonly found indoors, even in residential homes. One of the most common forms of indoor air pollution is asbestos, which affects the lungs through the disruption of tiny fibers found in building insulation. Other indoor air pollutants include the carbon monoxide released from wood stoves and radon leaking from cracks in pipes. In addition, formaldehyde is found in tobacco smoke, cabinets, plywood, particle board, new carpet, and many curtains. Lastly, air pollutants coming from fungi found in molds is a common home issue.

            What is being done to combat this pollution issue? In the matters of indoor air pollution, many residences and commercial buildings have installed high quality ventilation systems, they are attempting to control entry of pollutant sources, and are installing air-cleaning devices. Steps to reduce pollution outdoors proves more difficult. While policies are being adopted in the political realm, much of the responsibility to protect our planet and ecosystem is placed on ourselves. What can you do to reduce your carbon footprint?

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