There are several classes or types of air pollution that we’ll discuss in this chapter. Particulate, ozone and PAH are the most studied, but since most pollutants tend to be mixed with other ones, they all sort of bleed together.
Particulate matter consists of extremely small particles that are released into the air anytime something is burned. It can then be inhaled deep into the lungs, bringing with it a variety of contaminants that cause an assortment of health problems.
Ozone is a noxious gas that is created both naturally by the Earth and as a result of various industrial processes.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAH for short)
This is one of the most common forms of airborne pollution, and it is released by anything that burns fuel – coal, cigarettes, internal combustion engines, wild fires, even your BBQ grill. Most PAH pollutants come from either motor vehicle emissions or the burning of coal. PAHs get a lot of attention simply because they’re such a common byproduct of virtually everything we do in modern society.
Smog is produced by a reaction between sunlight and volatile organic compounds and nitrogen dioxide emissions that come from a variety of sources, everything from car exhaust to dry cleaning services. Since sunlight is a key ingredient, levels are highest during the midday and afternoon in the summer months.
The worst types of air pollution
The health effects of air pollution depend on how low it is to the ground. Ozone tends to stay close to the surface, so it can be especially destructive. Same with particulate matter. Weather conditions can also influence how air pollution is spread, sometimes trapping harmful pollutants close to the ground.
- The health effects of each of these air pollutants is discussed extensively in our e-book Toxic Childhood. It’s just $7.99, and all proceeds from your purchase go to help kids in need. Get your copy today!
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