The Harmful Effects of Air Pollution

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Air pollution
Air pollution (Image: "iHnDustRy." is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Jakob Montrasio (Jakob Montrasio) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Air pollution harms people, other animals, and the environment, causing both long-term and short-term effects. Use of fossil fuels in factories and transportation creates a great deal of air pollution, but pollution can also stem from indoor sources such as dust and smoking.

Short-Term Health Effects

Air pollution can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and it can lead to upper respiratory infections like bronchitis. Headaches and nausea can also occur. Pollution can cause asthma attacks as well.

Long-Term Health Effects

Air pollution can lead to chronic respiratory disease and lung cancer, in addition to heart disease and damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys.

Smog and Acid Rain

Smog and acid rain form from the release of toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides, which then undergo chemical reactions in the air, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Smog can have detrimental health effects, and acid rain can damage plants, soil, and bodies of water.

Agriculture and Forests

Air pollution can damage our crops and forests, contaminating and destroying the food supply. It also slows the growth of forests and even causes some trees to die, which in turn leaves more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the environment, according to the EPA.

Global Warming

Air pollution affects the whole earth ecosystem. Global warming, caused by carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere, traps heat in the earth's atmosphere, which can cause dramatic climate changes that shift the delicate balance of ecosystems around the world.

Ozone Depletion

A number of chemicals that have been released into the air, such as chloroflourocarbons, have caused depletion of the protective ozone layer, which causes harmful ultraviolet radiation to reach the earth, according to the EPA.

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