Written by Constanza Carabias, 15, Mexico
Air pollution is considered solid, liquid,
and gas particles that are suspended into our atmosphere. These are called aerosols and can come from car and truck exhaust, wildfires, factories, volcanoes, dust, pollen, etc. Air pollution occurs when all these different aerosols get trapped in our air on their own, or form chemical reactions when mixing in the air. Air pollution can also be caused through gases such as Ozone. Ozone is good when it’s high in the atmosphere because it can block out dangerous rays from the Sun, however, it can cause a negative effect when it is found closer to the ground since it is created through a mix of sunlight and chemicals. Ozone combined with other particles in the air creates a type of air pollution called Smog.
Air pollution is caused by four main sources which are: mobile sources, stationary sources, area sources, and natural sources. Mobile sources refer to the exhaust from transportation such as cars and buses, stationary sources refer to any industrial facilities or power-plants, area sources refer to pollution caused by agricultural areas and cities, and natural sources refer to air pollution caused by nature like volcanoes and wildfires. Mobile sources are responsible for more than half of the air pollution in the USA. Stationary sources are epicenters of air pollution because of how much pollution is generated in a single occasion. Area pollution isn’t a big problem on it’s own, but combined with the rest of the sources, it can become really dangerous, and natural sources aren’t an ongoing source of pollution which makes them less dangerous than the rest.
The consequences of air pollution can be divided into both health and environmental risks. Exposure to air pollution for long periods of time has been associated with numerous lung and heart problems which include: decreased lung function, asthma, heart attacks, cancer, irregular heartbeats, and can go as far as causing premature death. In terms of the environment, air pollution is one of the biggest causes for climate change since particles in aerosols affect the way Earth absorbs sunlight. Dark particles absorb heat while light particles reflect heat.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the primary source of pollution in the United States is the automobile. This makes sense because according to the US Department of State, 90% of households own a car and 85% of Americans get to work using a car, and a single car releases about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Air pollution has numerous negative side-effects on Americans, especially in individuals with health and lung conditions, adults living in urban areas, children/infants, and racial/ethnic minorities. Yes, air pollution can even be labeled as a racial issue considering how racial minorities on average have been exposed to higher levels of air pollution in segregated neighborhoods. Air pollution effects on the population can be, but are not limited to asthma, infant deaths, increase in hospitalization of older adults, heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, decreased lung function, cancer, and early death. 200,000 early deaths in the United States have been caused by combustion emissions each year and 19 million adults were diagnosed with asthma in 2017.
Creative and Eco-Friendly Solutions!
The Lungs of our City is a filtering device that captures extra small particles using positive ionization technology, which is different from the usual filtration techniques that we’re used to. We can put these devices in places where air pollution is the most common like parking garages, tunnels, bus and train stations, and bust streets. With this device we can improve the air quality of cities.
These algae curtains are not only a great way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere and get rid of that “dirty air”, but they are also a truly beautiful architectural feat that blends in well with any urban atmosphere. Designed by Claudia Posquero and Marco Poletto, the walls use microalgae that have been discovered to be able to suck more than two pounds of carbon dioxide from the air per day, while also pumping out oxygen. These curtains could provide shade in buildings and be used where trees have difficulty growing.