Air Pollution

Air pollution. Finland. rel=
Air pollution. Finland.
© WWF-Canon / Mauri Rautkari

Human activities release substances into the air, some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals. The most common type of air pollution is the release of particulate matter from burning fossil fuels like petroleum products and coal for energy.

Causes and effects of air pollution
Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapours. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain. The UK's National Air Quality Information Archive can tell you a lot more about this.

For more information on pollution, how it happens and what causes it, the National Resources Defence Council's Clean Air and Energy section is a good place to visit.

Indoor and outdoor air pollution
Even though most of us consider air pollution as something restricted to the outdoors, indoor activities like smoking and cooking can cause pollution, too. Here is an informative resource that takes up the issues of both types of pollution, and suggests classroom activities on these.

Effects of air pollution on your health
Air pollution can also have various health-related effects, both short and long term. Short-term effects include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Other symptoms can include headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions.

Long-term health effects can include chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves, liver or kidneys. Continual exposure to air pollution affects the lungs of growing children and may aggravate or complicate medical conditions in the elderly. The US Centre for Disease control can tell you more about air pollution and respiratory health.

What can you do about it?
Air pollution affects the health of our atmosphere and our evironment. It disturbs the natural balance of gases in the atmosphere, having serious ecological implications. As pollution gets worse, it becomes even more important that we take drastic measures very soon. To find out about how the air around us getting more and more polluted and what we can do about it, visit this web page.
Information is provided here solely to help broaden the environmental debate. We hope that it will help teachers in their efforts to educate pupils on various environmental issues. None of the information given is necessarily reflective of WWF's position, and WWF cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies.

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