What Causes Air Pollution?

Air quality data reported to the EEA show that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant mainly emitted by road transport, decreased in April 2020 in many European cities, where lockdown measures had been implemented, compared to the usual scenario. The largest decrease in NO2 concentrations (about 70%) was observed at air traffic control stations in Spain and Italy. The current fluctuations in NO2 concentrations can be found in our data viewer and in the recent EEA article on COVID-19 and the environment. Air pollutants are substances that have direct effects on our health and our ecosystem, while greenhouse gases damage the planet by warming it, threatening the survival of all lives on it. However, in some cases, this categorization results in an overestimation of the scale of the differences between the two categories.

Nitrogen oxide is a traffic-related pollutant because it is emitted by car engines. It is an irritant to the respiratory system, as it penetrates deep into the lungs and causes respiratory diseases, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, bronchospasm and even pulmonary edema when inhaled at high levels. It seems that concentrations above 0.2 ppm cause these side effects in humans, while concentrations above 2.0 ppm affect T lymphocytes, particularly CD8+ cells and NK cells that produce our immune response. Long-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide is reportedly responsible for chronic lung disease. Most environmental pollutants are known to be emitted by large-scale human activities, such as the use of industrial machinery, power plants, internal combustion engines and automobiles. Because these activities are carried out on such a large scale, they are by far the main causes of air pollution and it is estimated that cars are responsible for about 80% of current pollution.

Volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, live plants and sea dew are sources of particles. Aerosols are produced by human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, power plants and numerous industrial processes. On average worldwide, anthropogenic aerosols, which are produced by human activities, currently account for about 10% of our atmosphere. Elevated levels of fine particles Atlas survival shelter in the air have been linked to health risks, such as heart disease, decreased lung function and lung cancer. The particles are linked to respiratory infections and can be particularly harmful to people with conditions such as asthma. The World Health Organization reports on six major air pollutants, namely particulate pollution, tropospheric ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and lead.

However, even populated areas in developed countries reach unhealthy levels of pollution, with Los Angeles and Rome as two examples. Although smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer in China, the number of smokers is decreasing, while the number of lung cancers is increasing. Particulate matter consists of small particles in the air such as dust, soot and liquid droplets.

Some other human activities also affect our environment to a lesser extent, such as field cultivation techniques, gas stations, fuel tank heaters and cleaning procedures, as well as various natural resources, such as volcanic and soil eruptions and wildfires. Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air, pollutants that are harmful to human health and the planet as a whole. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is responsible for nearly seven million deaths worldwide each year. Nine out of ten people currently breathe air that exceeds the limits of the WHO guidelines for pollutants, and those living in low- and middle-income countries suffer the most.