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Air is extremely crucial to our life and survival. Air comprises various gases, majorly oxygen (20.95%), nitrogen (78.09%), carbon dioxide (0.039%), and other gases. We need oxygen to breathe, and plants need carbon dioxide to make their food by a process called photosynthesis.

You must be familiar with the term 'air pollution'. But what exactly is it? The altered level of atmospheric gases and introduction of baleful elements in the air like dust, harmful particles and other gases, industrial emissions, and smoke cause air pollution and thereby, disturb the balance of natural elements in the air. The unwanted particles or pollutants are very hazardous to human health and life on earth in general. Air pollution can be natural or man-made. There are a lot of factors which contribute to it.

Causes of Air Pollution
  • Combustion of fossil fuels pollutes the air. The three types of fossil fuels are coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are very essential in daily life and are used for the production of electricity, in households, transportation, in industries and other purposes. The combustion of these fuels generates a lot of carbon dioxide and water vapor. The excess level of carbon dioxide and water vapor is very harmful for the environment and leads to a change in atmospheric humidity.
  • Vehicles like cars, trucks, bus, air craft also cause air pollution. The emission of harmful gases like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, lead, and other oxides coming out of these vehicles are major contributors as well.
  • Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides further react with other gases in the atmosphere. This often results in acid rains.
  • Mining has a lot of adverse effects on the environment. The harmful gases and particles emitted during the mining operations also cause pollution.
  • The calamitous emissions of radioactive elements also contribute to it.
  • The release of harmful gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from volcanoes and other biological decays lead to air pollution, along with the discharge of other particulate matters from industries and mills.
  • Deforestation is extremely harmful as well.
We should also be aware that air pollution is not only present on roads and in industries, but also indoors; inside our homes. We need a healthy and conducive environment in our homes. But often due to the incomplete combustion of fuels (used for cooking and other purposes) and smoking of cigarettes, carbon monoxide is produced. Due to poor ventilation and air circulation, dust mites lead to indoor pollution.

Effects

You can already well estimate that there are no positive effects of air pollution. Now, let's see what they are and their effect on the environment and life on earth.
  • Isn't 'global warming' a familiar term? We have already discussed that an excessive amount of carbon dioxide is released into the air for the combustion of fuels by cars and other appliances causing air pollution. Carbon dioxide and methane are known as the green house gases. They form a cocoon in the atmosphere, trapping the heat. Thus, when a lot of green house gases are present in the air, heat is trapped leading to global warming.
  • Harmful oxides of nitrogen and sulfur emitted from burning fossil fuels, combine and react with water vapor, oxygen, and other gases of the atmosphere to form acid rain. Acid rain is very fatal to plant and human life, soil, water, and even buildings and monuments.
  • Air pollution can even lead to deadly diseases like emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, cancer, skin diseases, and heart complications.
  • Ozone layer depletion is another major cause of concern. The ozone layer surrounds our atmosphere and protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. A gas called Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) which is used in refrigerators, coolers, and air-conditioners leads to the depletion of ozone layer.
Thus, air pollution can indeed be termed as a silent killer. The excessive amount of air pollution is destroying our environment and making human and plant life vulnerable to irreparable damage.

Preventive Measures
  • As we all know that "Charity begins at home". The first thing we can do is, make sure to minimize the usage of fuels and electricity.
  • Make sure that your parents service their cars regularly. This helps in minimizing fuel consumption.
  • Let's "Go Green". You can plant trees wherever it's feasible to. More trees will absorb greater amount of carbon dioxide in the air.
  • Make use of public transport as far as possible.
  • For a conducive and healthy environment, you should try and lessen the use of objects which can lead to air pollution.
  • If you see people indulging in such activities, make sure you let them know about it, albeit politely.
"There's so much pollution in the air now, that if it weren't for our lungs there would be no place to put it all." ~ Robert Orben.

There are simple ways to save the environment and even minutest contributions can prove beneficial.