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Causes of Air Pollution

Air pollutants consist of gaseous pollutants, odours, and SPM, (suspended particulate matter) such as dust, fumes, mist, and smoke. The concentration of these in and near the urban areas causes severe pollution to the surroundings. The largest sources of human-created air pollution are energy generation, transportation, and industries that use a great deal of energy sources. Depending on their source and interactions with other components of the air, they can have different chemical compositions and health impacts.

Fires are another major source of air pollution and can lead to severe problems if the smoke is inhaled for a period of time. These fires can either be forest fires, oil well fires, burning of leaves in the backyard or as in the case of rural areas, large-scale burning of agricultural waste.

Other sources include industries and power plants located in these areas.

Air pollution may result from a variety of natural causes too. Dust storms in desert areas and smoke from forest fires and grass fires contribute to chemical and particulate pollution of the air.


Listed below are the major air pollutants and their sources.




Carbon monoxide (CO)

incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels;
combustion of natural and synthetic products such as cigarettes.

lowers the amount of oxygen that enters our blood
slow our reflexes and make us confused and sleepy.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

burning of coal, oil, and natural gases.

global warming

Chloroflorocarbons (CFC)

released mainly from air-conditioning systems and refrigeration.

in combination with other gases, leads to a reduction of the ozone layer


component of petrol, diesel, lead batteries, paints, hair dye products, etc.

nervous system damage;
digestive problems;
in some cases, cancer.


occur naturally in the upper layers of the atmosphere.

at the ground level, it is a pollutant with highly toxic effects;
makes our eyes itch, burn, and water;
lowers our resistance to colds and pneumonia.

Nitrogen oxide (Nox)

burning fuels including petrol, diesel, and coal.

causes smog and acid rain
can make children susceptible to respiratory diseases in winters.

particulatematter (SPM)

solids in the air in the form of smoke, dust, and vapour that can remain suspended for extended periods

reduces visibility; cause lung damage and respiratory problems

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

burning coal, mainly in thermal power plants;
some industrial processes, such as production of paper and smelting of metals

major contributor to smog and acid rain; can lead to lung diseases

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