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Chapter 24: Air Pollution
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  1. Chapter 24: Air Pollution

  2. A Brief History of Air Pollution • The atmosphere has long been a sink for waste disposal. • Long history of recognition of the existence of atmospheric pollutants • Natural photochemical smog recognized in 1550 • Acid rain first described in 17th century • Word smog introduced in 1905 • Mixture of smoke and fog

  3. A Brief History of Air Pollution • Two events sparked research on air pollution and regulations to control air quality. • Donora fog in 1948 • London smog event in 1952 • Both cause by pollutants being trapped by weather events. Both killed numerous people. • Could happen again in cities like Beijing or Mexico City

  4. Stationary Source of Air Pollution • Stationary sources are those that have a relatively fixed location. • Point sources emit pollutants from one or more controllable sites. • Fugitive sources generate air pollutants from open areas exposed to wind processes. • Area sources are well defined areas within which are several sources of air pollutants.

  5. Point source

  6. Fugitive source

  7. Mobile Source of Air Pollution • Mobile source of air pollutants move from place to place while emitting pollutants. • Automobiles, trucks, buses, aircraft, ships, and trains.

  8. General Effects of Air Pollution • Affects many aspects of our environment • Visual qualities • Vegetation • Animals • Soil • Water quality • Natural and artificial structures • Human health

  9. General Effects of Air Pollution • Significant factor in human death rate for many large cities • Athens, Greece- # of deaths higher on bad air quality days • Hungary- 1 in 17 deaths contributed to air pollution • US- 300,000 deaths/year, health cost $50 billion • China- health cost $50 - $100 billion

  10. General Effects of Air Pollution • Affect human health in several ways • Toxic poisoning, cancer, birth defects, eye irritation, and irritation of respiratory system. • Increased susceptibility to viral infections, causing pneumonia and bronchitis. • Increased susceptibility to heart disease. • Aggravation of chronic diseases, such as asthma and emphysema.

  11. General Effects of Air Pollution • Many air pollutants have synergistic effects • Do greater damage to the lungs than a combination of the two pollutants would be expected to do based on their separate effects.

  12. Air Pollutants • 200 air pollutants recognized and assessed by US EP and listed in Clean Water Act • Six called critical pollutants

  13. Primary and Secondary Pollutants • Major air pollutants occur either in gaseous forms or as particulate matter. • Classified as primary or secondary • Primary pollutants- emitted directly into the air • Secondary pollutants- produced through reactions between primary pollutants and normal atmospheric compounds.

  14. Primary and Secondary Pollutants • In addition to human sources, our atmosphere contains many pollutants of natural origin. • Release of sulfur dioxide from volcanic eruptions. • Release of hydrogen sulfide from geysers and hot springs and from biological decay in bogs and marshes. • Release of ozone in the lower atmosphere as a result of unstable meteorological conditions. • Emission of a variety of particles from wildfires and • windstorms. • Natural hydrocarbon seeps.

  15. Criteria Pollutants • There are six criteria pollutants • Sulfur dioxide • Nitrogen oxides • Carbon monoxide • Ozone • Particulates • Lead

  16. Sulfur Dioxide • SO2 • Colorless odorless gas • Once emitted can be converted to sulfateSO4 • Removed from atmosphere by wet or dry deposition • Major human sources; coal power plants, industrial processes

  17. Sulfur Dioxide • Adverse effects depend on dose and concentration present • Injury or death to animals and plants • Corrosion of paint and metals • Important precursor to acid rain

  18. Nitrogen Oxides • Occur in many forms in the atmosphere but largely emitted in two forms: • Nitric oxide- NO • Nitrogen dioxide- NO2 • A yellow-brown to reddish-brown gas • May be converted to NO32- • Both subject to emissions regulation and contribute to smog • NO2 major contributor to acid rain

  19. Nitrogen Oxides • Nearly all NO2 emitted from human sources • Automobiles and power plants that burn fossil fuels • Environmental effects • Irritate eyes and mucous membranes • Suppress plant growth • However when convert to nitrate may promote plant growth

  20. Carbon Monoxide • CO is a colorless, odorless gas • Even at low concentrations is extremely toxic to humans • Binds to hemoglobin in blood. • 90% of CO in atmosphere comes from natural sources • 10% comes from fires, cars, and incomplete burning of organic compounds

  21. Ozone and Other Photochemical Oxidants • Photochemical oxidants result from atmospheric interactions of nitrogen dioxide and sunlight. • Most common is ozone- O3 • Colorless gas w/ slightly sweet odor • Very active chemically, oxidizes or burns • Beneficial in the upper atmosphere

  22. Ozone and Other Photochemical Oxidants • Because ozone is a secondary pollutant it is difficult to regulate. • Health standards often exceeded in urban areas • Effects include • Kills leaf tissue at high concentration • Damage eyes and respiratory system • Even young, healthy people may have breathing difficulty on polluted days

  23. Particulate Matter • PM10 is made up of particles less than 10μm in diameter • Present everywhere but high concentrations and/or specific types dangerous • Much particulate matter easily visible as smoke, soot, or dust • Includes airborne asbestos and heavy metals

  24. Particulate Matter • Of particular concern are very fine pollutants • PM 2.5- less than 2.5 μm in diameter • Easily inhaled into the lungs, then absorbed into the bloodstream • Ultrafine particles- <0.18 μm released by automobiles. • Related to heart disease

  25. Particulate Matter • When measured often referred to as total suspended particles (TSPs) • Tend to be highest in large cities in developing countries

  26. Particulate Matter • Recent studies estimate that 2 to 9% of human mortality in cites is associated w/ PM • Linked to both lung cancer and bronchitis • Especially hazardous to elderly and those w/ asthma • Dust can be deposited on plants • Interferes w/ absorption of CO2 and O2 and transpiration

  27. Particulate Matter • Block sunlight and may cause climate change. • Global dimming • Gradual reduction in the solar energy that reaches the surface of Earth • Cools the atmosphere • Lessens global warming

  28. Lead • Lead is constituent of auto batteries and used to be added to gasoline. • Lead in gas emitted into air w/ exhaust • Spread widely around world in soils and water along roadways • Once in soil can enter the food chain • Lead now removed from gas in US, CAN, EU • 98% reduction in emissions since 1970s

  29. Air Toxics • Among pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health problems. • Associated w/ long-term and short-term exposures • Gases, metals, and organic chemicals that are emitted in relatively small volumes • Cause respiratory, neurological, reproductive, or immune diseases

  30. Air Toxics • Standards have been set for more than 150 air toxics • E.g. hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine gases, benzene, methanol, ammonia • EPA estimates that the average risk for cancer from exposure to air toxics is about 1 in 21,000

  31. Hydrogen sulfide • Highly toxic corrosive gas easily identified by its rotten egg odor. • Produced from • Natural sources such as geysers, swamps, and bogs • Human sources such as industrial plants that produce petroleum or that smelt metals. • Effects of hydrogen sulfide include • Functional damage to plants • Health problems ranging from toxicity to death for humans and other animals.

  32. Hydrogen Fluoride • Extremely toxic gaseous pollutant • Released by some industrial activities • Such as production of aluminum, coal gasification, and burning of coal in power plants. • Even a small concentration (as low as 1 ppb) of HF may cause problems for plants and animals. • Potentially dangerous to grazing animals because forage plants can become toxic when exposed to this gas.

  33. Methyl Isocyanate • An ingredient of a common pesticide • known in the United States as Sevin. • Colorless gas • Causes severe irritation (burns on contact) to eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. • Breathing the gas in concentrations of only a few ppm causes violent coughing, swelling of the lungs, bleeding, and death. • Less exposure can cause a variety of problems, including loss of sight.

  34. Volatile Organic Compounds • Variety of organic compounds used as solvents in industrial processes • Dry cleaning, degreasing, and graphic arts. • Hydrocarbons • Comprise one group of VOCs. • Thousands of hydrocarbon compounds exist, including natural gas, or methane (CH4); butane (C4H10); and propane (C3H8).

  35. Volatile Organic Compounds • Some VOCs react w/ sunlight to produce photochemical smog • Globally 15% of hydrocarbons emissions are anthropogenic • In the US 50% • Primary human source automobiles

  36. Benzene • Additive in gasoline and an important industrial solvent. • Produced when gasoline and coal undergo incomplete combustion. • Also component of cigarette smoke • Major environmental source on and off road vehicles

  37. Arcolein • A volatile hydrocarbon that is extremely irritating to nose, eyes, and respiratory system. • Produced from • Manufacturing processes that involve combustion of petroleum fuels • Component of cigarette smoke

  38. Variability of Air Pollution • Problems vary in different regions of the country and the world. • LA pollution mainly from mobile sources • Ohio and Great Lakes point sources • Also varies w/ time of year • Smog a problem in summer when there is lots of sunshine • Particulates a problem in dry months

  39. Las Vegas: Particulates • Particulates a problem in arid regions • Where little vegetation is present and wind can easily pick up and transport fine dust. • Brown haze over Las Vegas partly due to naturally occurring PM 10 • 60% of the dust comes from new construction sites, dirt roads, and vacant land.

  40. Haze From Afar • Air quality concerns are not restricted to urban areas. • North slope of AK has an air pollution problem that originates from sources in EE and Eurasia. • Transported by the jet stream. • Significant as we try to understand global air pollution.

  41. Urban Air Pollution • Whether air pollution develops depends on topography and meteorological conditions • Determine the rate at which pollutants are transported away and converted to harmless compounds.

  42. Influences of Meteorology and Topography • Meteorological conditions determine whether air pollution is a nuisance or major health problem. • Primary adverse effect • Damage to green plants and aggravation of chronic disease • Usually low-level over long period of time • However major disaster have occurred