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Air Pollution: Causes and Effects

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Updated: 30 November, 2023

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Air Pollution Essay: Hook Examples

  • The Silent Killer: Delve into the invisible threat that surrounds us every day, affecting our health, environment, and future generations – air pollution.
  • Gasping for Breath: Paint a vivid picture of individuals struggling to breathe in polluted cities, highlighting the urgency of addressing this pressing issue.
  • Nature’s S.O.S: Explore how wildlife and ecosystems send distress signals through the impact of air pollution, underscoring the interconnectedness of all living beings.
  • The Economic Toll: Uncover the hidden costs of air pollution on healthcare, productivity, and quality of life, revealing the far-reaching consequences of our actions.
  • Clean Air, Clear Future: Imagine a world where we embrace cleaner technologies and sustainable practices, offering a vision of hope and change in the fight against air pollution.

Works Cited

  • Agarwal, A., & Agarwal, S. (2020). Air Pollution: Sources, Effects, and Control. CRC Press.
  • Cohen, A. J., Brauer, M., Burnett, R., Anderson, H. R., Frostad, J., Estep, K., … & Balakrishnan, K. (2017). Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution: an analysis of data from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015. The Lancet, 389(10082), 1907-1918.
  • Guttikunda, S. K., & Gurjar, B. R. (2012). Role of meteorology in seasonality of air pollution in megacity Delhi, India. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184(5), 3199-3211.
  • He, G., Ying, Q., Ma, Y., Cheng, L., Wang, Y., & Liu, Y. (2016). Health risks of air pollution in China: a special focus on particulate matter. Environmental Pollution, 211, 17-30.
  • Heyder, J., Gebhart, J., Rudolf, G., & Schiller, C. (1986). St deposition in the human respiratory tract as determined by cyclone techniques. Environmental Health Perspectives, 66, 149-159.
  • Khan, M. N., Islam, M. M., Siddiqui, M. N., & Islam, M. S. (2019). Sources and Impact of Air Pollution on Human Health. In Sustainable Environment and Transportation (pp. 307-334). Springer.
  • Kumar, P., Kumar, A., & Goyal, P. (2020). Air Pollution: Measurement, Modelling and Mitigation. CRC Press.
  • Lelieveld, J., Evans, J. S., Fnais, M., Giannadaki, D., & Pozzer, A. (2015). The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale. Nature, 525(7569), 367-371.

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essay cause and effect about air pollution

Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know

How smog, soot, greenhouse gases, and other top air pollutants are affecting the planet—and your health.

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What is air pollution?

What causes air pollution, effects of air pollution, air pollution in the united states, air pollution and environmental justice, controlling air pollution, how to help reduce air pollution, how to protect your health.

Air pollution  refers to the release of pollutants into the air—pollutants that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. According to the  World Health Organization (WHO) , each year, indoor and outdoor air pollution is responsible for nearly seven million deaths around the globe. Ninety-nine percent of human beings currently breathe air that exceeds the WHO’s guideline limits for pollutants, with those living in low- and middle-income countries suffering the most. In the United States, the  Clean Air Act , established in 1970, authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to safeguard public health by regulating the emissions of these harmful air pollutants.

“Most air pollution comes from energy use and production,” says  John Walke , director of the Clean Air team at NRDC. Driving a car on gasoline, heating a home with oil, running a power plant on  fracked gas : In each case, a fossil fuel is burned and harmful chemicals and gases are released into the air.

“We’ve made progress over the last 50 years in improving air quality in the United States, thanks to the Clean Air Act. But climate change will make it harder in the future to meet pollution standards, which are designed to  protect health ,” says Walke.

Air pollution is now the world’s fourth-largest risk factor for early death. According to the 2020  State of Global Air  report —which summarizes the latest scientific understanding of air pollution around the world—4.5 million deaths were linked to outdoor air pollution exposures in 2019, and another 2.2 million deaths were caused by indoor air pollution. The world’s most populous countries, China and India, continue to bear the highest burdens of disease.

“Despite improvements in reducing global average mortality rates from air pollution, this report also serves as a sobering reminder that the climate crisis threatens to worsen air pollution problems significantly,” explains  Vijay Limaye , senior scientist in NRDC’s Science Office. Smog, for instance, is intensified by increased heat, forming when the weather is warmer and there’s more ultraviolet radiation. In addition, climate change increases the production of allergenic air pollutants, including mold (thanks to damp conditions caused by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to a longer pollen season). “Climate change–fueled droughts and dry conditions are also setting the stage for dangerous wildfires,” adds Limaye. “ Wildfire smoke can linger for days and pollute the air with particulate matter hundreds of miles downwind.”

The effects of air pollution on the human body vary, depending on the type of pollutant, the length and level of exposure, and other factors, including a person’s individual health risks and the cumulative impacts of multiple pollutants or stressors.

Smog and soot

These are the two most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog (sometimes referred to as ground-level ozone) occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot—a type of  particulate matter —is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens that are carried in the air. The sources of smog and soot are similar. “Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines, generally anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline, or natural gas,” Walke says.

Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs, especially those of children, senior citizens, and people who work or exercise outdoors. It’s even worse for people who have asthma or allergies; these extra pollutants can intensify their symptoms and trigger asthma attacks. The tiniest airborne particles in soot are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks, and even hasten death. In  2020, a report from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that COVID-19 mortality rates were higher in areas with more particulate matter pollution than in areas with even slightly less, showing a correlation between the virus’s deadliness and long-term exposure to air pollution. 

These findings also illuminate an important  environmental justice issue . Because highways and polluting facilities have historically been sited in or next to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, the negative effects of this pollution have been  disproportionately experienced by the people who live in these communities.

Hazardous air pollutants

A number of air pollutants pose severe health risks and can sometimes be fatal, even in small amounts. Almost 200 of them are regulated by law; some of the most common are mercury,  lead , dioxins, and benzene. “These are also most often emitted during gas or coal combustion, incineration, or—in the case of benzene—found in gasoline,” Walke says. Benzene, classified as a carcinogen by the EPA, can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation in the short term and blood disorders in the long term. Dioxins, more typically found in food but also present in small amounts in the air, is another carcinogen that can affect the liver in the short term and harm the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as reproductive functions.  Mercury  attacks the central nervous system. In large amounts, lead can damage children’s brains and kidneys, and even minimal exposure can affect children’s IQ and ability to learn.

Another category of toxic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are by-products of traffic exhaust and wildfire smoke. In large amounts, they have been linked to eye and lung irritation, blood and liver issues, and even cancer.  In one study , the children of mothers exposed to PAHs during pregnancy showed slower brain-processing speeds and more pronounced symptoms of ADHD.

Greenhouse gases

While these climate pollutants don’t have the direct or immediate impacts on the human body associated with other air pollutants, like smog or hazardous chemicals, they are still harmful to our health. By trapping the earth’s heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases lead to warmer temperatures, which in turn lead to the hallmarks of climate change: rising sea levels, more extreme weather, heat-related deaths, and the increased transmission of infectious diseases. In 2021, carbon dioxide accounted for roughly 79 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and methane made up more than 11 percent. “Carbon dioxide comes from combusting fossil fuels, and methane comes from natural and industrial sources, including large amounts that are released during oil and gas drilling,” Walke says. “We emit far larger amounts of carbon dioxide, but methane is significantly more potent, so it’s also very destructive.” 

Another class of greenhouse gases,  hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) , are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat. In October 2016, more than 140 countries signed the Kigali Agreement to reduce the use of these chemicals—which are found in air conditioners and refrigerators—and develop greener alternatives over time. (The United States officially signed onto the  Kigali Agreement in 2022.)

Pollen and mold

Mold and allergens from trees, weeds, and grass are also carried in the air, are exacerbated by climate change, and can be hazardous to health. Though they aren’t regulated, they can be considered a form of air pollution. “When homes, schools, or businesses get water damage, mold can grow and produce allergenic airborne pollutants,” says Kim Knowlton, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University and a former NRDC scientist. “ Mold exposure can precipitate asthma attacks  or an allergic response, and some molds can even produce toxins that would be dangerous for anyone to inhale.”

Pollen allergies are worsening  because of climate change . “Lab and field studies are showing that pollen-producing plants—especially ragweed—grow larger and produce more pollen when you increase the amount of carbon dioxide that they grow in,” Knowlton says. “Climate change also extends the pollen production season, and some studies are beginning to suggest that ragweed pollen itself might be becoming a more potent allergen.” If so, more people will suffer runny noses, fevers, itchy eyes, and other symptoms. “And for people with allergies and asthma, pollen peaks can precipitate asthma attacks, which are far more serious and can be life-threatening.”

essay cause and effect about air pollution

More than one in three U.S. residents—120 million people—live in counties with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the  2023  State of the Air  report by the American Lung Association (ALA). Since the annual report was first published, in 2000, its findings have shown how the Clean Air Act has been able to reduce harmful emissions from transportation, power plants, and manufacturing.

Recent findings, however, reflect how climate change–fueled wildfires and extreme heat are adding to the challenges of protecting public health. The latest report—which focuses on ozone, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution—also finds that people of color are 61 percent more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade in at least one of those categories, and three times more likely to live in a county that fails in all three.

In rankings for each of the three pollution categories covered by the ALA report, California cities occupy the top three slots (i.e., were highest in pollution), despite progress that the Golden State has made in reducing air pollution emissions in the past half century. At the other end of the spectrum, these cities consistently rank among the country’s best for air quality: Burlington, Vermont; Honolulu; and Wilmington, North Carolina. 

No one wants to live next door to an incinerator, oil refinery, port, toxic waste dump, or other polluting site. Yet millions of people around the world do, and this puts them at a much higher risk for respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological damage, cancer, and death. In the United States, people of color are 1.5 times more likely than whites to live in areas with poor air quality, according to the ALA.

Historically, racist zoning policies and discriminatory lending practices known as  redlining  have combined to keep polluting industries and car-choked highways away from white neighborhoods and have turned communities of color—especially low-income and working-class communities of color—into sacrifice zones, where residents are forced to breathe dirty air and suffer the many health problems associated with it. In addition to the increased health risks that come from living in such places, the polluted air can economically harm residents in the form of missed workdays and higher medical costs.

Environmental racism isn't limited to cities and industrial areas. Outdoor laborers, including the estimated three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States, are among the most vulnerable to air pollution—and they’re also among the least equipped, politically, to pressure employers and lawmakers to affirm their right to breathe clean air.

Recently,  cumulative impact mapping , which uses data on environmental conditions and demographics, has been able to show how some communities are overburdened with layers of issues, like high levels of poverty, unemployment, and pollution. Tools like the  Environmental Justice Screening Method  and the EPA’s  EJScreen  provide evidence of what many environmental justice communities have been explaining for decades: that we need land use and public health reforms to ensure that vulnerable areas are not overburdened and that the people who need resources the most are receiving them.

In the United States, the  Clean Air Act  has been a crucial tool for reducing air pollution since its passage in 1970, although fossil fuel interests aided by industry-friendly lawmakers have frequently attempted to  weaken its many protections. Ensuring that this bedrock environmental law remains intact and properly enforced will always be key to maintaining and improving our air quality.

But the best, most effective way to control air pollution is to speed up our transition to cleaner fuels and industrial processes. By switching over to renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar power), maximizing fuel efficiency in our vehicles, and replacing more and more of our gasoline-powered cars and trucks with electric versions, we'll be limiting air pollution at its source while also curbing the global warming that heightens so many of its worst health impacts.

And what about the economic costs of controlling air pollution? According to a report on the Clean Air Act commissioned by NRDC, the annual  benefits of cleaner air  are up to 32 times greater than the cost of clean air regulations. Those benefits include up to 370,000 avoided premature deaths, 189,000 fewer hospital admissions for cardiac and respiratory illnesses, and net economic benefits of up to $3.8 trillion for the U.S. economy every year.

“The less gasoline we burn, the better we’re doing to reduce air pollution and the harmful effects of climate change,” Walke explains. “Make good choices about transportation. When you can, ride a bike, walk, or take public transportation. For driving, choose a car that gets better miles per gallon of gas or  buy an electric car .” You can also investigate your power provider options—you may be able to request that your electricity be supplied by wind or solar. Buying your food locally cuts down on the fossil fuels burned in trucking or flying food in from across the world. And most important: “Support leaders who push for clean air and water and responsible steps on climate change,” Walke says.

  • “When you see in the news or hear on the weather report that pollution levels are high, it may be useful to limit the time when children go outside or you go for a jog,” Walke says. Generally, ozone levels tend to be lower in the morning.
  • If you exercise outside, stay as far as you can from heavily trafficked roads. Then shower and wash your clothes to remove fine particles.
  • The air may look clear, but that doesn’t mean it’s pollution free. Utilize tools like the EPA’s air pollution monitor,  AirNow , to get the latest conditions. If the air quality is bad, stay inside with the windows closed.
  • If you live or work in an area that’s prone to wildfires,  stay away from the harmful smoke  as much as you’re able. Consider keeping a small stock of masks to wear when conditions are poor. The most ideal masks for smoke particles will be labelled “NIOSH” (which stands for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and have either “N95” or “P100” printed on it.
  • If you’re using an air conditioner while outdoor pollution conditions are bad, use the recirculating setting to limit the amount of polluted air that gets inside. 

This story was originally published on November 1, 2016, and has been updated with new information and links.

This NRDC.org story is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the story was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the story cannot be edited (beyond simple things such as grammar); you can’t resell the story in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select stories individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our stories.

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Essay on Air Pollution for Students and Children

500+ words essay on air pollution.

Essay on Air Pollution – Earlier the air we breathe in use to be pure and fresh. But, due to increasing industrialization and concentration of poisonous gases in the environment the air is getting more and more toxic day by day. Also, these gases are the cause of many respiratory and other diseases . Moreover, the rapidly increasing human activities like the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation is the major cause of air pollution.

Essay on Air Pollution

How Air Gets Polluted?

The fossil fuel , firewood, and other things that we burn produce oxides of carbons which got released into the atmosphere. Earlier there happens to be a large number of trees which can easily filter the air we breathe in. But with the increase in demand for land, the people started cutting down of trees which caused deforestation. That ultimately reduced the filtering capacity of the tree.

Moreover, during the last few decades, the numbers of fossil fuel burning vehicle increased rapidly which increased the number of pollutants in the air .

Causes Of Air Pollution

Its causes include burning of fossil fuel and firewood, smoke released from factories , volcanic eruptions, forest fires, bombardment, asteroids, CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons), carbon oxides and many more.

Besides, there are some other air pollutants like industrial waste, agricultural waste, power plants, thermal nuclear plants, etc.

Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is also the cause of air pollution because air pollution produces the gases that greenhouse involves. Besides, it increases the temperature of earth surface so much that the polar caps are melting and most of the UV rays are easily penetrating the surface of the earth.

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Effects Of Air Pollution On Health

essay cause and effect about air pollution

Moreover, it increases the rate of aging of lungs, decreases lungs function, damage cells in the respiratory system.

Ways To Reduce Air Pollution

Although the level of air pollution has reached a critical point. But, there are still ways by which we can reduce the number of air pollutants from the air.

Reforestation- The quality of air can be improved by planting more and more trees as they clean and filter the air.

Policy for industries- Strict policy for industries related to the filter of gases should be introduced in the countries. So, we can minimize the toxins released from factories.

Use of eco-friendly fuel-  We have to adopt the usage of Eco-friendly fuels such as LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), bio-gas, and other eco-friendly fuels. So, we can reduce the amount of harmful toxic gases.

To sum it up, we can say that the air we breathe is getting more and more polluted day by day. The biggest contribution to the increase in air pollution is of fossil fuels which produce nitric and sulphuric oxides. But, humans have taken this problem seriously and are devotedly working to eradicate the problem that they have created.

Above all, many initiatives like plant trees, use of eco-friendly fuel are promoted worldwide.

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Essay on Air Pollution

Environmental changes are caused by the natural or artificial content of harmful pollutants and can cause instability, disturbance, or adverse effects on the ecosystem. Earth and its environment pose a more serious threat due to the increasing pollution of air, water, and soil. Environmental damage is caused by improper resource management or careless human activities. Therefore, any activity that violates the original nature of the environment and leads to degradation is called pollution. We need to understand the origin of these pollutants and find ways to control pollution. This can also be done by raising awareness of the effects of pollutants.

Air pollution is any physical, chemical, or biological change in the air. A certain percentage of the gas is present in the atmosphere. Increasing or decreasing the composition of these gasses is detrimental to survival. This imbalance in gas composition causes an increase in global temperature which is called global warming.

Introduction to air pollution 

The Earth and its environment are facing a serious threat by the increasing pollution of the air, water, and soil—the vital life support systems of the Earth. The damage to the environment is caused by improper management of resources or by careless human activity. Hence any activity that violates the original character of nature and leads to its degradation is called pollution. We need to understand the sources of these pollutants and find ways to control pollution. This can be also done by making people aware of the effects of pollutants. 

Air with 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, and 1% of all other gasses support life on Earth. Various processes take place to sustain the regular percentage of gasses and their composition in general. 

Atmospheric pollution can have natural sources, for example, volcanic eruptions. The gaseous by-products of man-made processes such as energy production, waste incineration, transport, deforestation and agriculture, are the major air pollutants.

Although air is made up of mostly Oxygen and Nitrogen, mankind, through pollution, has increased the levels of many trace gasses, and in some cases, released completely new gasses to the atmosphere. 

Air pollution can result in poor air quality, both in cities and in the countryside. Some air pollutants make people sick, causing breathing problems and increasing the likelihood of cancer. 

Some air pollutants are harmful to plants, animals, and the ecosystems in which they live. Statues, monuments, and buildings are being corroded by the air pollutants in the form of acid rain. It also damages crops and forests, and makes lakes and streams unsuitable for fish and other plant and animal life. 

Air pollution created by man-made resources is also changing the Earth’s atmosphere. It is causing the depletion of the ozone layer and letting in more harmful radiation from the Sun. The greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere prevents heat from escaping back into space and leads to a rise in global average temperatures. Global warming affects the average sea-level and increases the spread of tropical diseases.

Air pollution occurs when large amounts of gas and tiny particles are released into the air and the ecological balance is disturbed. Each year millions of tons of gasses and particulate matter are emitted into the air. 

Primary air pollutants are pollutants, which are directly released into the air. They are called SPM, i.e., Suspended Particulate Matter. For example, smoke, dust, ash, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, and radioactive compounds, etc.

Secondary Pollutants are pollutants, which are formed due to chemical interactions between the atmospheric components and primary pollutants. For example, Smog (i.e. Smoke and fog), ozone, etc.

Major gaseous air pollutants include Carbon Dioxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide, etc.

Natural sources are volcanic eruptions, forest fires, dust storms, etc. 

Man-made sources include gasses released from the automobiles, industries, burning of garbage and bricks kilns, etc.

Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air pollution has adverse effects on human health. 

Breathing polluted air puts you at higher risk of asthma.

When exposed to ground ozone for 6 to 7 hours, people suffer from respiratory inflammation.

Damages the immune system, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

A high level of air pollution has been associated with higher incidents of heart problems.

The toxic chemicals released into the air are affecting the flora and fauna immensely.

Preventive Measures to Reduce Air Pollution

We can prevent pollution by utilizing raw materials, water energy, and other resources more efficiently. When less harmful substances are substituted for hazardous ones, and when toxic substances are eliminated from the production process, human health can be protected and economic wellbeing can be strengthened. 

There are several measures that can be adopted by people to reduce pollution and to save the environment.


Promotion of public transport.

No smoking zone.

Restricted use of fossil fuels.

Saving energy.

Encouraging organic farming.

The government has put restrictions on the amount of fossil fuels that can be used as well as restrictions on how much carbon dioxide and other pollutants can be emitted. Although the government is attempting to save our environment from these harmful gasses, it is not sufficient. We as a society need to keep the environment clean by controlling the pollution of air.


FAQs on Air Pollution Essay

1. State the Causes of Air Pollution ?

The following are the causes of air pollution.

Vehicular pollution consisting of Carbon Monoxide causes pollution.

Emission of Nitrogen oxide by a large number of supersonic transport airplanes causes deterioration of the Ozone layer and also causes serious damage to the flora and fauna.

The release of Chlorofluorocarbons into the Stratosphere causes depletion of Ozone, which is a serious concern to animals, microscopic, and aquatic organisms.

Burning garbage causes smoke, which pollutes the atmosphere. This smoke contains harmful gases such as Carbon dioxide and Nitrogen oxides.

In India, brick kilns are used for many purposes and coal is used to burn the bricks. They give out huge quantities of Carbon dioxide and particulate matter such as smoke, dust that are very harmful to people working there and the areas surrounding it. 

Many cleansing agents release poisonous gases such as Ammonia and Chlorine into the atmosphere. 

Radioactive elements emit harmful rays into the air.

Decomposed animals and plants emit Methane and Ammonia gas into the air.

2. What Does Global Warming Mean?

Global warming is the gradual rising average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere due to the concentration of methane in certain toxic gasses such as carbon dioxide. This has a major impact on the world climate. The world is warming. The land and the sea are now warmer than they were at the beginning and temperatures are still rising. This rise in temperature is, in short, global warming. This temperature rise is man-made. The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere which capture solar heat and raise surface and air temperatures.

3. Name the Alternative Modes of Transport. In What Way Does it Help to Reduce Air Pollution?

Public transport could be an alternative mode of transport. Public transport like trains, buses and trams, can relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution from road transport. The use of public transport must be encouraged in order to develop a sustainable transport policy.

4. Mention other means of transportation! How can I help reduce air pollution?

Public transportation can be another mode of transportation. Public transport such as trains, buses and trams can reduce traffic congestion and reduce air pollution from road transport. The use of public transport and to develop sustainable transport policies should be encouraged. While one passenger vehicle has the convenience factor, other modes of transportation reduce travel costs, spend less time, reduce stress, improve health, and reduce energy consumption and parking. Other trips for work include walking/cycling, public transport, hybrid travel and transport.

5. What are the effects of pollution?

Excessive air pollution can increase the risk of heart attack, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Air pollution can also cause heart problems, asthma, and other lung problems. Due to the emission of greenhouse gases, the composition of the air in the air is disturbed. This causes an increase in global temperature. The damaging ozone layer due to air pollution does not prevent harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, which cause skin and eye problems in individuals. Air pollution has caused a number of respiratory and heart diseases among people. The incidence of lung cancer has increased in recent decades. Children living in contaminated areas are more likely to develop pneumonia and asthma. Many people die every year due to the direct or indirect effects of air pollution. When burning fossil fuels, harmful gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the air. Water droplets combine with these pollutants and become acidic and fall as acid rain, which harms human, animal and plant life.

6. What is the solution to air pollution?

Production of renewable fuels and clean energy. The basic solution to air pollution is to get away from fossil fuels and replace them with other energies such as solar, wind and geothermal. The government limits the amount of fossil fuel that can be used and how much carbon dioxide and other pollutants it can emit. While the government is trying to save our environment from this harmful gas, it is not enough. We as a society need to keep the environment clean by controlling air pollution. To more in detail about air pollution and its causes. To learn more about air pollution and its impact on the environment, visit the Vedantu website.

essay cause and effect about air pollution

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Essay on Air Pollution for Students: Check Samples of 100 Words to 250 Words

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Essay on Air Pollution for Students

Essay on Air Pollution : Invisible but insidious, air pollution silently infiltrates our lives, impacting health, the environment, and future generations. Through this blog, let’s explore its roots, repercussions, and remedies, which are essential in our quest for cleaner, healthier skies. Essay writing here becomes more crucial, to raise awareness about air pollution’s dire consequences and drive action for cleaner air.

This Blog Includes:

10-line essay on air pollution, what are the causes of air pollution, what are the effects of air pollution, essay on air pollution: how to tackle air pollution, essay on air pollution sample (100 words), essay on air pollution sample (250 words).

Must Read: Essay On Environment

Below mentioned is a 10-lined essay on air pollution:

  • Air pollution is caused by harmful substances known as pollutants.
  • The pollutant come from various sources, like vehicle gasses, forest fires, and other human activities.
  • The two of the biggest sources of air pollution are burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
  • Air pollution is harmful to humans because it can cause skin and respiratory diseases.
  • Air pollution is equally harmful to plants and animals.
  • Air pollution can also damage non-living things, such as ancient monuments constructed from marbles and limestone.
  • Air pollution leads to ozone layer depletion, climate change and global warming.
  • Air pollution can damage ecosystems in forests.
  • We must take effective steps to reduce air pollution.
  • We can reduce air pollution by planting more trees and burning less fossil fuels.

Air pollution is caused by various factors, including:

  • Industrial Emissions: Factories and manufacturing processes release pollutants like chemicals and particulate matter into the air.
  • Vehicle Emissions: Combustion engines in cars, trucks, and aeroplanes emit exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
  • Burning Fossil Fuels: The use of coal, oil, and natural gas for energy generation and heating releases pollutants and greenhouse gases.
  • Agricultural Activities: Pesticides and fertilizers release chemicals, while livestock emit methane.
  • Deforestation: Cutting down trees reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb pollutants.
  • Waste Disposal: Improper disposal of waste leads to the release of harmful substances into the air.
  • Natural Sources: Volcanic eruptions, dust storms, and wildfires can also contribute to air pollution.

Air pollution poses severe health and environmental risks. Short-term exposure can lead to respiratory issues, eye irritation, and exacerbation of pre-existing conditions. Long-term exposure is linked to chronic diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disorders. 

Additionally, air pollution harms ecosystems, causing acid rain, damaging vegetation, and polluting water bodies. It also contributes to climate change by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. Addressing air pollution is crucial to safeguard human health and protecting the planet’s ecosystems and climate.

Addressing air pollution is paramount for a healthier planet. By curbing emissions, adopting clean technologies, and fostering sustainable practices, we can safeguard our environment and public health. Here are some key points on how to tackle air pollution:

  • Reduce Vehicle Emissions:
  • Improve Industrial Practices
  • Increase Green Spaces
  • Monitor and Regulate
  • Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
  • Promote Renewable Energy
  • Encourage Sustainable Practices
  • Raise Public Awareness:
  • Reduce Open Burning:
  • International Cooperation:

Tackling air pollution requires a multi-faceted approach involving government policies, community engagement, and individual responsibility.

Must Read: Essay On Global Warming

Air pollution is a pressing environmental issue with far-reaching consequences. It occurs when harmful substances, such as particulate matter and toxic gases, contaminate the atmosphere. These pollutants result from various sources, including industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, and agricultural activities.

The consequences of air pollution are severe, impacting both human health and the environment. Prolonged exposure to polluted air can lead to respiratory diseases, cardiovascular issues, and even premature death. Additionally, air pollution harms ecosystems, leading to reduced crop yields and biodiversity loss.

Mitigating air pollution requires collective efforts, including stricter emission regulations, cleaner energy sources, and promoting public awareness. By addressing this issue, we can safeguard our health and preserve the environment for future generations.

Air pollution is a pressing global issue that affects the health and well-being of people and the environment. It occurs when harmful substances, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, are released into the atmosphere. This pollution can have dire consequences for both humans and the planet.

First and foremost, air pollution poses a significant threat to human health. Particulate matter and toxic gases can enter the respiratory system, leading to various respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. Long-term exposure to polluted air has also been linked to cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and premature death. Vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk.

Additionally, air pollution has adverse effects on the environment. It contributes to climate change by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to rising global temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events. Moreover, pollutants can harm ecosystems, contaminate water bodies, and damage crops, impacting food security.

The sources of air pollution are diverse, including industrial processes, transportation, agriculture, and energy production. To combat this problem, governments, industries, and individuals must take collective action. Implementing stricter emission standards for vehicles and industrial facilities, transitioning to cleaner energy sources, and promoting public transportation are essential steps in reducing air pollution.

In conclusion, air pollution is a critical issue that affects human health and the environment. Its detrimental effects on respiratory health and its contributions to climate change necessitate urgent action. By adopting sustainable practices and reducing emissions, we can mitigate the impact of air pollution and create a healthier and more sustainable future for all.

Related Reads:-     

Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials.

To prevent air pollution, reduce vehicle emissions by using public transport, carpooling, or opting for electric vehicles. Promote clean energy sources like wind and solar power. Implement strict industrial emissions standards. Encourage reforestation and green spaces. Educate the public about responsible waste disposal and advocate for clean energy policies.

We hope this blog gave you an idea about how to write and present an essay on air pollution that put forth your opinions. The skill of writing an essay comes in handy when appearing for standardized language tests. Thinking of taking one soon? Leverage Edu provides the best online test prep for the same via Leverage Live . Register today to know more!

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Air pollution.

Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. It also damages buildings.

Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Geography

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Morgan Stanley

Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. It also damages buildings. Pollutants in the air take many forms. They can be gases , solid particles, or liquid droplets. Sources of Air Pollution Pollution enters the Earth's atmosphere in many different ways. Most air pollution is created by people, taking the form of emissions from factories, cars, planes, or aerosol cans . Second-hand cigarette smoke is also considered air pollution. These man-made sources of pollution are called anthropogenic sources . Some types of air pollution, such as smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes , occur naturally. These are called natural sources . Air pollution is most common in large cities where emissions from many different sources are concentrated . Sometimes, mountains or tall buildings prevent air pollution from spreading out. This air pollution often appears as a cloud making the air murky. It is called smog . The word "smog" comes from combining the words "smoke" and " fog ." Large cities in poor and developing nations tend to have more air pollution than cities in developed nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , some of the worlds most polluted cities are Karachi, Pakistan; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Lima, Peru; and Cairo, Egypt. However, many developed nations also have air pollution problems. Los Angeles, California, is nicknamed Smog City. Indoor Air Pollution Air pollution is usually thought of as smoke from large factories or exhaust from vehicles. But there are many types of indoor air pollution as well. Heating a house by burning substances such as kerosene , wood, and coal can contaminate the air inside the house. Ash and smoke make breathing difficult, and they can stick to walls, food, and clothing. Naturally-occurring radon gas, a cancer -causing material, can also build up in homes. Radon is released through the surface of the Earth. Inexpensive systems installed by professionals can reduce radon levels. Some construction materials, including insulation , are also dangerous to people's health. In addition, ventilation , or air movement, in homes and rooms can lead to the spread of toxic mold . A single colony of mold may exist in a damp, cool place in a house, such as between walls. The mold's spores enter the air and spread throughout the house. People can become sick from breathing in the spores. Effects On Humans People experience a wide range of health effects from being exposed to air pollution. Effects can be broken down into short-term effects and long-term effects . Short-term effects, which are temporary , include illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis . They also include discomfort such as irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin. Air pollution can also cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea . Bad smells made by factories, garbage , or sewer systems are considered air pollution, too. These odors are less serious but still unpleasant . Long-term effects of air pollution can last for years or for an entire lifetime. They can even lead to a person's death. Long-term health effects from air pollution include heart disease , lung cancer, and respiratory diseases such as emphysema . Air pollution can also cause long-term damage to people's nerves , brain, kidneys , liver , and other organs. Some scientists suspect air pollutants cause birth defects . Nearly 2.5 million people die worldwide each year from the effects of outdoor or indoor air pollution. People react differently to different types of air pollution. Young children and older adults, whose immune systems tend to be weaker, are often more sensitive to pollution. Conditions such as asthma , heart disease, and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution. The length of exposure and amount and type of pollutants are also factors. Effects On The Environment Like people, animals, and plants, entire ecosystems can suffer effects from air pollution. Haze , like smog, is a visible type of air pollution that obscures shapes and colors. Hazy air pollution can even muffle sounds. Air pollution particles eventually fall back to Earth. Air pollution can directly contaminate the surface of bodies of water and soil . This can kill crops or reduce their yield . It can kill young trees and other plants. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide particles in the air, can create acid rain when they mix with water and oxygen in the atmosphere. These air pollutants come mostly from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles . When acid rain falls to Earth, it damages plants by changing soil composition ; degrades water quality in rivers, lakes and streams; damages crops; and can cause buildings and monuments to decay . Like humans, animals can suffer health effects from exposure to air pollution. Birth defects, diseases, and lower reproductive rates have all been attributed to air pollution. Global Warming Global warming is an environmental phenomenon caused by natural and anthropogenic air pollution. It refers to rising air and ocean temperatures around the world. This temperature rise is at least partially caused by an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat energy in the Earths atmosphere. (Usually, more of Earths heat escapes into space.) Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has had the biggest effect on global warming. Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels (coal, gasoline , and natural gas ). Humans have come to rely on fossil fuels to power cars and planes, heat homes, and run factories. Doing these things pollutes the air with carbon dioxide. Other greenhouse gases emitted by natural and artificial sources also include methane , nitrous oxide , and fluorinated gases. Methane is a major emission from coal plants and agricultural processes. Nitrous oxide is a common emission from industrial factories, agriculture, and the burning of fossil fuels in cars. Fluorinated gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons , are emitted by industry. Fluorinated gases are often used instead of gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs have been outlawed in many places because they deplete the ozone layer . Worldwide, many countries have taken steps to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. The Kyoto Protocol , first adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, is an agreement between 183 countries that they will work to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The United States has not signed that treaty . Regulation In addition to the international Kyoto Protocol, most developed nations have adopted laws to regulate emissions and reduce air pollution. In the United States, debate is under way about a system called cap and trade to limit emissions. This system would cap, or place a limit, on the amount of pollution a company is allowed. Companies that exceeded their cap would have to pay. Companies that polluted less than their cap could trade or sell their remaining pollution allowance to other companies. Cap and trade would essentially pay companies to limit pollution. In 2006 the World Health Organization issued new Air Quality Guidelines. The WHOs guidelines are tougher than most individual countries existing guidelines. The WHO guidelines aim to reduce air pollution-related deaths by 15 percent a year. Reduction Anybody can take steps to reduce air pollution. Millions of people every day make simple changes in their lives to do this. Taking public transportation instead of driving a car, or riding a bike instead of traveling in carbon dioxide-emitting vehicles are a couple of ways to reduce air pollution. Avoiding aerosol cans, recycling yard trimmings instead of burning them, and not smoking cigarettes are others.

Downwinders The United States conducted tests of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site in southern Nevada in the 1950s. These tests sent invisible radioactive particles into the atmosphere. These air pollution particles traveled with wind currents, eventually falling to Earth, sometimes hundreds of miles away in states including Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Washington. These areas were considered to be "downwind" from the Nevada Test Site. Decades later, people living in those downwind areascalled "downwinders"began developing cancer at above-normal rates. In 1990, the U.S. government passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. This law entitles some downwinders to payments of $50,000.

Greenhouse Gases There are five major greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere.

  • water vapor
  • carbon dioxide
  • nitrous oxide

London Smog What has come to be known as the London Smog of 1952, or the Great Smog of 1952, was a four-day incident that sickened 100,000 people and caused as many as 12,000 deaths. Very cold weather in December 1952 led residents of London, England, to burn more coal to keep warm. Smoke and other pollutants became trapped by a thick fog that settled over the city. The polluted fog became so thick that people could only see a few meters in front of them.

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essay cause and effect about air pollution

by Chris Woodford . Last updated: November 22, 2022.

Photo: Air pollution is obvious when it pours from a smokestack (chimney), but it's not always so easy to spot. This is an old photo of the kind of smoke that used to come from coal-fired power plants and, apart from soot (unburned carbon particles), its pollutants include sulfur dioxide and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Thanks to tougher pollution controls, modern power plants produce only a fraction as much pollution. Modern pollution made by traffic consists of gases like nitrogen dioxide and "particulates" (microscopic soot and dust fragments) that are largely invisible.

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is a gas (or a liquid or solid dispersed through ordinary air) released in a big enough quantity to harm the health of people or other animals, kill plants or stop them growing properly, damage or disrupt some other aspect of the environment (such as making buildings crumble), or cause some other kind of nuisance (reduced visibility, perhaps, or an unpleasant odor).

Natural air pollution

Photo: Forest fires are a completely natural cause of air pollution. We'll never be able to prevent them breaking out or stop the pollution they cause; our best hope is to manage forests, where we can, so fires don't spread. Ironically, that can mean deliberately burning areas of forest, as shown here, to create firebreaks. Forests are also deliberately burned to regenerate ecosystems. Photo by courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service .

Top-ten kinds of air pollution Photo: Flying molecules—if you could see air pollution close up, this is what it would look like. Image courtesy of US Department of Energy. Any gas could qualify as pollution if it reached a high enough concentration to do harm. Theoretically, that means there are dozens of different pollution gases. It's important to note that not all the things we think of as pollution are gases: some are aerosols (liquids or solids dispersed through gases). In practice, about ten different substances cause most concern: Sulfur dioxide : Coal, petroleum, and other fuels are often impure and contain sulfur as well as organic (carbon-based) compounds. When sulfur (spelled "sulphur" in some countries) burns with oxygen from the air, sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ) is produced. Coal-fired power plants are the world's biggest source of sulfur-dioxide air pollution, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and health problems that include lung disease. [5] Large amounts of sulfur dioxide are also produced by ships, which use dirtier diesel fuel than cars and trucks. [6] Carbon monoxide : This highly dangerous gas forms when fuels have too little oxygen to burn completely. It spews out in car exhausts and it can also build up to dangerous levels inside your home if you have a poorly maintained gas boiler , stove, or fuel-burning appliance. (Always fit a carbon monoxide detector if you burn fuels indoors.) [7] Carbon dioxide : This gas is central to everyday life and isn't normally considered a pollutant: we all produce it when we breathe out and plants such as crops and trees need to "breathe" it in to grow. However, carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse gas released by engines and power plants. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, it's been building up in Earth's atmosphere and contributing to the problem of global warming and climate change . [8] Nitrogen oxides : Nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) and nitrogen oxide (NO) are pollutants produced as an indirect result of combustion, when nitrogen and oxygen from the air react together. Nitrogen oxide pollution comes from vehicle engines and power plants, and plays an important role in the formation of acid rain, ozone and smog. Nitrogen oxides are also "indirect greenhouse gases" (they contribute to global warming by producing ozone, which is a greenhouse gas). [9] Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) : These carbon-based (organic) chemicals evaporate easily at ordinary temperatures and pressures, so they readily become gases. That's precisely why they're used as solvents in many different household chemicals such as paints , waxes, and varnishes. Unfortunately, they're also a form of air pollution: they're believed to have long-term (chronic) effects on people's health and they play a role in the formation of ozone and smog. VOCs are also released by tobacco smoke and wildfires. [10] Particulates : There are many different kinds of particulates, from black soot in diesel exhaust to dust and organic matter from the desert. Airborne liquid droplets from farm pollution also count as particulates. Particulates of different sizes are often referred to by the letters PM followed by a number, so PM 10 means soot particles of less than 10 microns (10 millionths of a meter or 10µm in diameter, roughly 10 times thinner than a thick human hair). The smaller ("finer") the particulates, the deeper they travel into our lungs and the more dangerous they are. PM 2.5 particulates are much more dangerous (they're less than 2.5 millionths of a meter or about 40 times thinner than a typical hair). In cities, most particulates come from traffic fumes. [11] Ozone : Also called trioxygen, this is a type of oxygen gas whose molecules are made from three oxygen atoms joined together (so it has the chemical formula O 3 ), instead of just the two atoms in conventional oxygen (O 2 ). In the stratosphere (upper atmosphere), a band of ozone ("the ozone layer") protects us by screening out harmful ultraviolet radiation (high-energy blue light) beaming down from the Sun. At ground level, it's a toxic pollutant that can damage health. It forms when sunlight strikes a cocktail of other pollution and is a key ingredient of smog (see box below). [12] Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) : Once thought to be harmless, these gases were widely used in refrigerators and aerosol cans until it was discovered that they damaged Earth's ozone layer. We discuss this in more detail down below. [13] Unburned hydrocarbons : Petroleum and other fuels are made of organic compounds based on chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms. When they burn properly, they're completely converted into harmless carbon dioxide and water ; when they burn incompletely, they can release carbon monoxide or float into the air in their unburned form, contributing to smog. Lead and heavy metals : Lead and other toxic "heavy metals" can be spread into the air either as toxic compounds or as aerosols (when solids or liquids are dispersed through gases and carried through the air by them) in such things as exhaust fumes and the fly ash (contaminated waste dust) from incinerator smokestacks. [14] What are the causes of air pollution?

Photo: Even in the age of electric cars, traffic remains a major cause of air pollution. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (NREL photo id#46361).

Photo: Brown smog lingers over Denver, Colorado. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (NREL photo id#56919).

Chart: Most of the world's major cities routinely exceed World Health Organization (WHO) air pollution guidelines, though progress is being made: you can see that the 2022 figures (green) show a marked improvement on the 2016 ones (orange) in almost every case. This chart compares annual mean PM 2.5 levels in 12 representative cities around the world with the recently revised (2021) WHO guideline value of 5μg per cubic meter (dotted line). PM 2.5 particulates are those smaller than 2.5 microns and believed to be most closely linked with adverse health effects. For more about this chart and the data sources used, see note [22] .

Photo: Smokestacks billowing pollution over Moscow, Russia in 1994. Factory pollution is much less of a problem than it used to be in the world's "richer" countries—partly because a lot of their industry has been exported to nations such as China, India, and Mexico. Photo by Roger Taylor courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) .

What effects does air pollution have?

Photo: Air pollution can cause a variety of lung diseases and other respiratory problems. This chest X ray shows a lung disease called emphysema in the patient's left lung. A variety of things can cause it, including smoking and exposure to air pollution. Photo courtesy of National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health.

" In 2016, 91% of the world population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met." World Health Organization , 2018

Photo: For many years, the stonework on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece has been blackened by particulates from traffic pollution, but other sources of pollution, such as wood-burning stoves, are increasingly significant. Photo by Michael M. Reddy courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey .

How air pollution works on different scales

Indoor air pollution.

Photo: Air freshener—or air polluter?

Further reading

Acid rain—a closer look.

Photo: Acid rain can turn lakes so acidic that fish no longer survive. Picture courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Public Affairs. Why does that matter? Pure water is neither acidic nor alkaline but completely neutral (we say it has an acidity level or pH of 7.0). Ordinary rainwater is a little bit more acidic than this with about the same acidity as bananas (roughly pH 5.5), but if rain falls through sulfur dioxide pollution it can turn much more acidic (with a pH of 4.5 or lower, which is the same acidity as orange or lemon juice). When acid rain accumulates in lakes or rivers, it gradually turns the entire water more acidic. That's a real problem because fish thrive only in water that is neutral or slightly acidic (typically with a pH of 6.5–7.0). Once the acidity drops below about pH 6.0, fish soon start to die—and if the pH drops to about 4.0 or less, all the fish will be killed. Acid rain has caused major problems in lakes throughout North America and Europe. It also causes the death of forests, reduces the fertility of soil, and damages buildings by eating away stonework (the marble on the US Capitol in Washington, DC has been eroded by acid-rain, for example). One of the biggest difficulties in tackling acid rain is that it can happen over very long distances. In one notable case, sulfur dioxide air pollution produced by power plants in the UK was blamed for causing acid rain that fell on Scandinavian countries such as Norway, producing widespread damage to forests and the deaths of thousands of fish in acidified lakes. The British government refused to acknowledge the problem and that was partly why the UK became known as the "dirty man of Europe" in the 1980s and 1990s. [18] Acid rain was a particular problem in the last 30–40 years of the 20th century. Thanks to the decline in coal-fired power plants, and the sulfur dioxide they spewed out, it's less of a problem for western countries today. But it's still a big issue in places like India, where coal remains a major source of energy. Global air pollution It's hard to imagine doing anything so dramatic and serious that it would damage our entire, enormous planet—but, remarkable though it may seem, we all do things like this everyday, contributing to problems such as global warming and the damage to the ozone layer (two separate issues that are often confused). Global warming Every time you ride in a car, turn on the lights, switch on your TV , take a shower, microwave a meal, or use energy that's come from burning a fossil fuel such as oil, coal, or natural gas, you're almost certainly adding to the problem of global warming and climate change: unless it's been produced in some environmentally friendly way, the energy you're using has most likely released carbon dioxide gas into the air. While it's not an obvious pollutant, carbon dioxide has gradually built up in the atmosphere, along with other chemicals known as greenhouse gases . Together, these gases act a bit like a blanket surrounding our planet that is slowly making the mean global temperature rise, causing the climate (the long-term pattern of our weather) to change, and producing a variety of different effects on the natural world, including rising sea levels. Read more in our main article about global warming and climate change . Ozone holes

How can we solve the problem of air pollution?

Photo: Pollution solution: an electrostatic smoke precipitator helps to prevent air pollution from this smokestack at the McNeil biomass power plant in Burlington, VT. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

What can you do to help reduce air pollution?

Photo: Buying organic food reduces the use of sprayed pesticides and other chemicals, so it helps to reduce air (as well as water) pollution.

If you liked this article...

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  • Climate change and global warming
  • Environmentalism (introduction)
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  • Organic food and farming
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Breathless by Chris Woodford paperback book cover rendered as dummy book.

  • Breathless: Why Air Pollution Matters—and How it Affects You by Chris Woodford. Icon, 2021. My new book explores the problem in much more depth than I've been able to go into here. You can also read a bonus chapter called Angels with dirty faces: How air pollution blackens our buildings and monuments .
  • The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution and How We Can Fight Back by Gary Fuller. Melville House, 2018.
  • Reducing Pollution and Waste by Jen Green. Raintree/Capstone, 2011. A 48-page introduction for ages 9–12. The emphasis here is on getting children to think about pollution: where it comes from, who makes it, and who should solve the problem.
  • Pollution Crisis by Russ Parker. Rosen, 2009. A 32-page guide for ages 8–10. It starts with a global survey of the problem; looks at air, water, and land pollution; then considers how we all need to be part of the solution.
  • Earth Matters by Lynn Dicks et al. Dorling Kindersley, 2008. This isn't specifically about pollution. Instead, it explores how a range of different environmental problems are testing life to the limit in the planet's major biomes (oceans, forests, and so on). I wrote the section of this book that covers the polar regions.
  • State of Global Air : One of the best sources of global air pollution data.
  • American Lung Association: State of the Air Report : A good source of data about the United States.
  • European Environment Agency: Air quality in Europe : A definitive overview of the situation in the European countries.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database : A spreadsheet of pollution data for most major cities in the world (a little out of date, but a new version is expected soon).
  • Our World in Data : Accessible guides to global data from Oxford University.
  • The New York Times Topics: Air Pollution
  • The Guardian: Pollution
  • Wired: Pollution
  • 'Invisible killer': fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, research finds by Oliver Milman. The Guardian, February 9, 2021. Pollution of various kinds causes something like one in five of all deaths.
  • Millions of masks distributed to students in 'gas chamber' Delhi : BBC News, 1 November 2019.
  • 90% of world's children are breathing toxic air, WHO study finds by Matthew Taylor. The Guardian, October 29, 2018. The air pollution affecting billions of children could continue to harm their health throughout their lives.
  • Pollution May Dim Thinking Skills, Study in China Suggests by Mike Ives. The New York Times, August 29, 2018. Long-term exposure to air pollution seems to cause a decline in cognitive skills.
  • Global pollution kills 9m a year and threatens 'survival of human societies' by Damian Carrington. The Guardian, October 19, 2017. Air, water, and land pollution kill millions, cost trillions, and threaten the very survival of humankind, a new study reveals.
  • India's Air Pollution Rivals China's as World's Deadliest by Geeta Anand. The New York Times, February 14, 2017. High levels of pollution could be killing 1.1 million Indians each year.
  • More Than 9 in 10 People Breathe Bad Air, WHO Study Says by Mike Ives. The New York Times, September 27, 2016. New WHO figures suggest the vast majority of us are compromising our health by breathing bad air.
  • Study Links 6.5 Million Deaths Each Year to Air Pollution by Stanley Reed. The New York Times, June 26, 2016. Air pollution deaths are far greater than previously supposed according to a new study by the International Energy Agency.
  • UK air pollution 'linked to 40,000 early deaths a year' by Michelle Roberts, BBC News, February 23, 2016. Diesel engines, cigarette smoke, and even air fresheners are among the causes of premature death from air pollution.
  • This Wearable Detects Pollution to Build Air Quality Maps in Real Time by Davey Alba. Wired, November 19, 2014. A wearable pollution gadget lets people track their exposure to air pollution through a smartphone app.
  • Air pollution and public health: emerging hazards and improved understanding of risk by Frank J. Kelly and Julia C. Fussell, Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 2015
  • Health effects of fine particulate air pollution: lines that connect by C.A. Pope and D.W. Dockery. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, 2006
  • Ambient and household air pollution: complex triggers of disease by Stephen A. Farmer et al, Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 2014

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4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution

4 Causes and Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air, which can be harmful and impose significant health risks to the population, including increased chances of coronary and respiratory diseases, as well as preliminary deaths. Made up of chemicals and pollutant particles, air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime . Read on to learn about the major causes and effects of air pollution. 

Sources of Air Pollution

1. burning fossil fuels.

The biggest contributors of air pollution are from industry sources and power plants to generate power, as well as fossil fuel motor vehicles. The continuous burning of fossil fuels releases air pollutants, emissions and chemicals into the air and atmosphere. 

In 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that about 68 million tons of air pollution were emitted into the atmosphere in the US, contributing to the “formation of ozone and particles, the deposition of acids, and visibility impairment.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed limits. Developing and low-income countries experienced the greatest impacts from outdoor air pollution, particularly in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. 

Climate change has an interrelated relationship with the environment and air pollution. As more air pollutants and greenhouse gases are released, this alters the energy balance between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface , which leads to global warming. The global temperature increase in turns raises the production of allergenic air pollutants such as mold and extends pollen seasons. 

2. Ozone and Smog

Ozone is a gas that when it forms air pollution and reaches too close to the ground, it significantly reduces visibility. We call this smog. This form of air pollution occurs when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides released from car exhausts and coal power plants. The ozone typically forms a protective layer in the atmosphere to protect the population from ultraviolet radiation (UV), but as it transforms into smog, it is harmful to human health and poses higher risks of respiratory illnesses like asthma and lung cancer. 

3. Weather Conditions

Air pollution and poor air quality can be attributed to changing weather conditions. For example, dust storms in China would carry clouds of industrial pollutants and particulate pollution across the Gobi desert into neighbouring countries such as Korea and Japan during spring season. Likewise during periods of high air pressure, air becomes stagnant and pollutants are more concentrated over certain areas. 

4. Heatwaves and Wildfires

Heatwaves not only lead to an increase of temperature, but are some of the causes and effects of air pollution. Hotter, stagnant air during a heat wave increases the concentration of particle pollutants. Extreme heat wave events also have higher risks of large-scale wildfires, which in turn, releases more carbon emissions, smog and pollutants into the air. 

You might also like: 15 Most Polluted Cities in the World

Effects of Air Pollution 

Air pollution contributes to the death of 5 million every year and about 6% of the global population, according to Our World in Data . The lethal combination of outdoor air pollution and toxic emissions from burning fossil fuel has been one of the leading causes of chronic and often terminal health issues including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections. 

The WHO estimates that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants. In 2017, close to 15% of population deaths in low income countries like South and East Asia are attributed to air pollution, while the higher income countries experience only about 2%. 

The drastic difference in mortality numbers can be linked to legislations such as the Clean Air Act implemented by high-income countries like the US. Such legislations usually establishes national air quality standards and regulations on hazardous air pollutants. The UK in particular, saw a sharp 60% decline in air pollutant emissions between the 1970 and 2016. 

The environmental effects of air pollution are also vast, ranging from acid rain to contributing to birth defects, reproductive failure, and diseases in wildlife animals. Agriculture is also a victim of air pollution as increased pollutants can affect crop and forest yields, reduce growth  and increased plant susceptibility to disease from increased UV radiation caused by ozone depletion.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution has once again returned to the spotlight in relation to its role in transmitting virus molecules. Preliminary studies have identified a positive correlation between COVID-19-related mortalities and air pollution. China, being one of the most polluted countries in the world, can potentially link its high death toll during the pandemic to its poor air quality. Although, more research needs to be conducted to make any substantive correlation.

You might also like: History of Air Pollution: Have We Reached the Point of No Return?

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Causes and Effects of Pollution

The environment people live in is affecting them, including health and lifestyle, and the nature around them, like plants, animals, water bodies, and the atmosphere. Environmental issues caused by humans using natural resources and treating nature with no respect have resulted in some negative changes. One of the most significant problems people are facing nowadays is pollution. It affects all the crucial elements for sustaining human life: water, air, and soil. The causes and effects of pollution are multiple and varied, and they should be examined closely to better understand this phenomenon.

General reasons for pollution include major emissions of carbon dioxide, as well as the chemicals produced as the result of the burning of fossil fuels. This happens because of different factories’ activity and their waste, which is being discharged into water, soil, and the atmosphere. Other than big manufacturing elements, pollution is caused by people individually. This involves emissions caused by cars, using much energy for different activities, and producing enormous amounts of waste, especially the types that are not decomposable or take hundreds of years to do so.

The first side of the environment impacted by pollution is the atmosphere. Air pollution can be defined as a combination of harmful gases or particles that accumulate in the air in unsafe quantities. The worsening air quality can result in multiple health issues, including “heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases” (“Ambient (outdoor) air pollution,” 2018, para. 1). As air quality is measured around the world, many deficiencies are detected, which directly influence human life.

According to the World Health Organization data, in 2016, about 91 percent of the population inhabited places with unsatisfactory air quality (as cited in “Ambient (outdoor) air pollution,” 2018). Therefore, air pollution is affecting not only those living in big urban areas but is also spreading around the whole planet.

Water covers the majority of the planet, so water pollution is also a crucial problem. Wastewater and emission of fertilizers into water bodies cause water pollution, which can make water harmful to human consumption. Other than becoming undrinkable, contaminated water will affect or even kill aquatic creatures and plants, as well as transfer to crops, making them just as dangerous. The United Nations World Water Development Report stated that over 80 percent of wastewater is discharged back into the environment, not being appropriately treated (2017). Thus, not only do the major water bodies become largely polluted but the effect is also transferred to soil.

As a significant part of the food for humans and domestic animals is grown, polluted soil can also cause complications. Soil pollution occurs when certain toxic chemicals are gathered in large amounts. Soil can be affected by harmful substances as a result of industrial waste emission into the ground, contaminated water interacting with it, or excessive amounts of pesticides or fertilizers being used. As a result, plants and crops become dangerous for human consumption and can cause multiple health problems.

Pollution is a global phenomenon, causing much damage to the planet and harming people and other living creatures. It can manifest in different forms, but its impact is hugely detrimental. Seeking solutions for this problem is now one of the main agendas for the whole of humankind, which can only be done with combined efforts of government structures and community and individual actions. Only by being aware of this situation and taking measures for improvement will people be able to protect their health and create better conditions for future generations.

Ambient (outdoor) air pollution . (2018). Web.

The United Nations world water development report 2017. (2017). Web.

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Air Pollution and Its Impact on Human Health

Common health problems associated with air pollution.

Indoor and outdoor air pollution causes several common health problems which according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (2009) are grouped according to the major pollutants. To begin with, carbon monoxide compromises the heart activities hence lethargy and fatigue. It also causes nausea, dizziness, and headaches and in large amounts may even lead to death. Nitrogen dioxide causes nasal and throat irritation and increases the risk of developing respiratory infections. Ozone causes irritation of the respiratory system leading to coughs, chest and throat pains. Particulates cause damage to respiratory tract tissues especially lung tissue leading to lung diseases. Sulfur dioxide is known to make worse existing lung diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Lead on the other hand causes damage to the brain and the nervous system with children being most susceptible (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 2009; California Air Resources Board 2007a). From these, it is evident that air pollution has adverse common effects on the respiratory system and to some extent other body parts.

Vulnerability of children to pollutants

The most common health problems in children associated with air pollution occurs in the respiratory system. This is due to the fact that children’s respiratory system is not fully developed therefore immature. This means that the structures are weak and are prone to damage at the slightest exposure to air pollutants. The children’s health study by the California air resources board reported that children are more vulnerable to effects of air pollutants as they are exposed to more air pollution than adults as they have higher respiratory rates and are normally outdoors (California Air Resources Board 2007b). Other factors may include the underdeveloped immune system in children that is not able to effectively and efficiently fight off the effects of air pollution on the body and large surface area to volume ratio that exposes a large surface area to air pollution.

Needs assessment process and the role of Health educator

Community needs assessment is a systematic process in which the health educator, the nurse and other health care professionals together with the members of the community determine the health problems & needs of the community & develop plans of action and implement those plans. In this case the needs assessment process will be in relation to air pollution. The first step is exploration which involves mapping out the community with the purpose of obtaining baseline information that help plan for the rest of the assessment process. The second is step is planning for assessment exercise where by the necessary resources are put into place and objective designed, in this case it will be; to assess health impacts of air pollution and how to combat these effects. The third step is recruitment and training of assistants, fourth step is pretesting and reworking of the tool as it helps to detect faults and shortcomings after which corrections are made. The fifth step is execution of the assessment which basically involves actual going to the community and engaging the community into discussions and giving them the assessment tools so that they can feel it with relevant information. The sixth step is critical analysis of the findings and recommendations. The collected data is analyzed and then findings and recommendations are drawn. One of fundamental recommendation that will be made is to initiate Health Education and Promotion to combat the effects of air pollution. Health education/promotion empowers an individual with the much needed and relevant information that can be of great assistance in management of his/her health and other related issues. The health education and promotion will involve sources of air pollutants, their effects on human health, management and prevention measures. The health educator, the nurse and other stakeholders can carry out this activity with the help of the local health professionals working within the community and even train some community members who will be educating their colleagues; this creates a sense of belonging and ownership among the community members in that they will participate in the health education/promotion activities as their own. This empowers the community and the information stays with them even years after the time of carrying out the assessment. The final step is evaluation and just as in nursing process, evaluations helps in checking if the assessment was a success and whether there has been any positive impact and if interventions put in place had desired results. Evaluation also helps in knowing if the set goals and objectives were met, determining success or failure of the problem and to put corrective measure into place (Zerwekh, 112; Holloway, & Wheeler, 76; Grol 361). The health educator works hand in hand with the community health nurse and other health professionals in the above process where by he/she acts the overall supervisor.

Air pollution has adverse effects on health and majorly affects the respiratory system with children being most vulnerable due to their under developed respiratory system. Health educators are charged with the overall responsibility of overseeing planning, implementation and evaluation of education programs in the community. They also function as consultants to the other health care professionals involved in health education and promotion.

  • “Air Pollutants and their health effects”. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. 2009. Web.
  • “ Health Effects Research .” California Air Resources Board. 2007a. Web.
  • The Children’s Health Study . California Air Resources Board. 2007b. Web.
  • Grol R. “National standard setting for quality of care in general practice: attitudes of general practitioners and response to a set of standards.” Br J Gen Pract 40 (2000): 361–4.
  • Holloway, I., & Wheeler, S. Qualitative Research in Nursing. 2nd Ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002.
  • Zerwekh, J. Nursing Today: Transition and Trends. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 2003.
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Essay on Air Pollution – Causes, Effects, Solutions, Conclusion

Category: Essays and Paragraphs On November 20, 2018 By Aparna

Air Pollution

The whole world has been suffering from lots of problems since its existence, and the problems are getting bigger and bigger day by days.

One of the biggest problems that the entire planet faces is the amount of pollution on the planet. Pollution is of several kinds, but the pollution that affects the most to our nature and environment is Air pollution .

Air pollution is the pollution in which the pollutants get released in the air, and those pollutants then pollute the air which affects the health of a human being.

Air pollution is the pollution when the dirt, dirt particles and other kinds of pollutants get mixed to air and make the air polluted.

Today, every city in the world is suffering from air pollution , and that is why a lot of people and organizations in the world are trying their best to save the world from air pollution.

Air Pollution in India

Indian cities are much polluted and that can get seen from various visuals. Land and air pollution are connected directly as if the land is dirty, after a few days, that dirty land will lead to air pollution. In India, there are only a few surfaces where the pollution level is less. For example, the pollution level in Chandigarh city is lesser than a lot of cities in India. However, the pollution level in various cities of NCR, UP and Bihar is way higher than a lot of cities in India. The air pollution in India is getting increased day by day. But, the good news is that the people who had no interest in cleaning their country before, are now getting involved in schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, etc.

There are lots of causes of air pollution in the world and here are a few of those causes:

  • The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest cause of air pollution, and that is why it has been prohibited at a lot of places in the world.
  • Cars, buses, motorbikes are another big cause of air pollution because they emit a lot of pollution also.
  • Volcano eruptions are another big cause of air pollution.
  • When we cook at home, sometimes we need wood and charcoal for it, and these materials cause a huge amount of air pollution.
  • People smoking cigarettes is another big cause of air pollution.
  • If due to some reason a forest catches fire , then it becomes one of the biggest reasons for air pollution.

These are a few effects on human beings, plants, and animals due to air pollution:

  • The rainwater flows through the surface and ends in the river, and when the surface gets polluted, all the rainwater will take the polluted surface particles with itself which will not only pollute the river, but it will also pollute the land through which the water flows .
  • A lot of people suffer from allergies which are a side effect of living in an air-polluted
  • Air pollution can also lead to severe diseases like cancer, heart diseases, and other respiratory problems, etc.
  • One should restrict the use of charcoal , wood, thus the pollution caused by these resources would not be there in the world.
  • A restriction should be there on industries to use the kind of materials which causes zero to no air pollution at all.
  • The cities which have the maximum air pollution should get asked as to how they will reduce the air pollution and what are their plans for it.

Air pollution is a huge problem not only in India but the whole world, various organizations do their bit to make sure that plans are made to restrict air pollution , but unfortunately those plans never get executed rightly. That is why even after knowing that the air is getting polluted every day, the organizations around the world are unable to provide a good solution to it. As a human being, we must contribute, that is why, we need to gather and make sure that all the places, suffering from air pollution, should get organized in a manner so that air pollution should not exist. Everyone should participate in schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which will not only reduce the air pollution in the country but will also reduce various other kinds of pollution.

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500+ Words Essay on Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to the unwanted and harmful substances in the air we breathe. These substances are known as pollutants. Air pollution can be caused by natural sources or human activities and can have serious health, environmental, and economic impacts. In recent years, air pollution has become a popular debate topic due to the decreasing quality of air. The atmosphere of Earth comprises 78% of Nitrogen, 21% of Oxygen, and 0.93% of Argon.

The causes of air pollution are both natural and man-made. Natural sources of air pollution are volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and dust storms. However, human activities like transportation, industrial activities, agricultural practices, waste management, etc. have more serious and long-term impacts on the air we breathe. An essay on air pollution is a popular academic writing topic assigned to students. To help students with their essays on air pollution, we have listed some samples in 100, 200, and 300 words. These samples will discuss the causes, consequences, and steps to reduce air pollution.

Table of Content

Essays on Air Pollution in 150 Words

Essays on air pollution in 200 words, essays on air pollution in 500 words, 10 lines on air pollution.

Air pollution poses serious environmental and health risks. It is caused by the release of harmful particles and gases in the air. This deteriorates the quality of air we breathe and poses a serious threat to the existence of all living beings on Earth. Human activities, for a long, have been the majority responsible for air pollution. These include vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and agricultural practices that release harmful pollutants into the air.

Prolonged exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory diseases, cardiovascular problems, and even premature death. Not only this, air pollution also poses a serious threat to the environment, leading to climate change. Environmentalists, international organizations, governments, and even private organizations are collectively working to reduce air pollution. They have implemented strict, cleaner technologies, and public awareness campaigns. These concerted efforts can help improve the air quality and create a healthy environment.

With rising environmental and health concerns, air pollution has become a popular debate topic. Air pollution is caused by natural and human activities, which release harmful substances, chemicals, and gases into the air we breathe. Our once-healthy environment has become a gas chamber, causing an existential threat to every species on Earth.

Since the advent of 18th-century Industrialisation, the emission of harmful gases like hydrogen chloride, benzene, and toluene has significantly increased. According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a total of 188 pollutants have been classified as hazardous.

Human activities like burning fossil fuels for energy production, vehicular emission, construction and industrial releases are the major causes of air pollution. There are natural sources also which are responsible for air pollution but their impact is limited to their respective regions. For example, during a volcanic eruption, harmful gases like water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2), are released into the atmosphere. However, such natural activities do not pose a global threat.

Tackling air pollution requires global cooperation and environmentally friendly approaches. One such method is relying on renewable energy sources, rather than exhausting limited natural resources, fossil fuels. World Health Organisation, along with global governments is taking steps to switch to affordable clean household energy solutions for cooking, heating and lighting.

Air pollution is a global concern. Therefore, it requires a collective approach from all countries and their respective governments. Careful implementation of environmentally friendly and sustained approaches will surely help create an air pollution-free environment.

World Health Organisation in its 2019 report stated that 99% of the world’s population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met. Air pollution is known as the releaseof unwanted harmful substances and chemicals in the air. This damages the qualities of air we breath, affecting health and detoriates the environment quality. Air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths every year.

Causes of Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused by both natural and man-made activities. Nature causes of air pollution are volcanic erruptions, dust storms, and wildfires. During a volcanic eruption, harm gases and chemicals like water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) are released. Also, a small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride are also released. However, natural causes of air pollution are limited to there regions and do not poses long term environmental threats.

Human activities causes are the major factors causing air pollution. Human activities like industrialisation, vehicular emission, combustion, energy production, construction, agricultural activities and waste management are major factors of air pollution. Human activities releases pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, (CO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and methane causes air pollution.

In metropolitan cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing, Tokyo, etc. vehicular emission and construction are major causes of air pollution. Construction sites generate dust and emissions from equipment, contributing to local air pollution.

Consequences of Air Pollution

  • Air pollution has harmful consequences on human health, the environment, and the economy.
  • Air pollution contributes to a wide range of health problems, including respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and respiratory infections. Some of these diseases are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to decreased lung function, aggravation of existing health conditions, and premature death, particularly among vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
  • Our ecosystem is the first victim of air pollution. Pollutants deposited onto soil and water bodies harm plants, animals, and aquatic life.
  • Acid rain, caused by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides reacting with water vapor in the atmosphere, damages forests, soils, and freshwater ecosystem
  • Pollutants like carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon are all also greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.
  • The rate at which these pollutants are released in the atmosphere can lead to global warming, rising temperatures, altered weather patterns, and more frequent and intense extreme weather events.
  • Air pollution also affects our economy. Investments in air pollution control measures and environmental cleanup efforts entail financial expenditures for governments, businesses, and individuals.

Steps to Reduce Air Pollution

  • Policies and investments in air pollution control measures are necessary to reduce the content of pollutants.
  • Switching to environmental friendly activities can significantly help reduce air pollution. Excessive use of natural resources not only depletes them but puts a stain on the environment.
  • Relying on solar energy, hydro energy and wind energy can reduce them burden on coal for electricity and power generation.
  • On individual level, we can practice carpooling, use public transportation, cycling, walking, or electric vehicles whenever possible.
  • we can avoid unnecessary idling to maintain proper tire pressure, and combine errands to minimize trips.
  • Build a habit of turning lights and electronics off when not in use. Invest in energy-efficient appliances and adjust thermostats for optimal temperature control.
  • Minimize waste generation and opt for reusable products whenever possible.
  • Recycling reduces the need for raw materials and lowers energy consumption during production of new goods.

Here are 10 lines on air pollution. Feel free to add themto your essay on air pollution or similar writing topics.

1. Air pollution refers to the release of harmful gases and chemicals in the air we breathe.

2. Air pollution poses serious environmental and health risks.

3. It is caused by the release of harmful particles and gases in the air.

4. The causes of air pollution are both natural and man-made.

5. Human activities, for a long, have been the majority responsible for air pollution. These include vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and agricultural practices that release harmful pollutants into the air.

6. Air pollution is a global concern and it requires a collective approach.

7. Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to decreased lung function, aggravation of existing health conditions, and premature death.

8. According to a WHO report, 99% of the global population is breathing harmful air.

9. Human activities release pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, (CO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and methane causes air pollution.

10. Switching to environmentally friendly activities can significantly help reduce air pollution.

This was all about an essay on air pollution. We hope the essay samples listed above will help you with your essay writing practice. For more information on such informative articles, visit GeekforGeeks.

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Essay on Air Pollution- FAQs

How to write an essay on air pollution.

Air pollution poses serious environmental and health risks. It is caused by the release of harmful particles and gases in the air. This deteriorates the quality of the air we breathe and poses a serious threat to the existence of all living beings on Earth. Human activities, for a long, have been the majority responsible for air pollution. These include vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and agricultural practices that release harmful pollutants into the air.

What are the major causes of air pollution?

Air pollution has both natural and man-made causes. The natural causes of air pollution are volcanic eruptions, wildfires and dust storms. The man-made causes of air pollution are industrial wastes, domestic wastes, agricultural activities, vehicular emissions, construction dust, etc. The man-made causes have a greater impact on the air quality.

What is the government doing to reduce air pollution?

The Indian government launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as a long-term, time-bound, national-level strategy to fight the air pollution problem all over India in a sustainable manner. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 lists all the central and state rules to manage air quality and monitor pollutants released by industries, constructions, and agricultural and vehicular activities. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board manage these activities in their respective jurisdiction.

Is air pollution causes by natural sources?

Natural sources of air pollution are volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and dust storms. However, these natural sources of air pollution do not pose a serious threat to the global air quality.

What are some lines on air pollution?

Air pollution refers to the release of harmful gases and chemicals in the air we breathe. Air pollution poses serious environmental and health risks. The causes of air pollution are both natural and man-made. Human activities, for a long, have been the majority responsible for air pollution. These include vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and agricultural practices that release harmful pollutants into the air. Air pollution is a global concern and it requires a collective and systematic approach. Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to decreased lung function, aggravation of existing health conditions, and premature death. Human activities release pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, (CO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and methane causing air pollution.

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Essay on air pollution: causes, effects and control of air pollution.

essay cause and effect about air pollution


Essay on Air Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control of Air Pollution!

The World Health Organization defines air pollution as “the presence of materials in the air in such concentration which are harmful to man and his environment.”

In fact air pollution is the occurrence or addition of foreign particles, gases and other pollutants into the air which have an adverse effect on human beings, animals, vegetation, buildings, etc.

Cause of Air Pollution:

The various causes of air pollution are:

(i) Combustion of natural gas, petroleum, coal and wood in industries, automobiles, aircrafts, railways, thermal plants, agricultural burning, kitchens, etc. (soot, flyash, CO 2 , CO, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides).

(ii) Metallurgical processing (mineral dust, fumes containing fluorides, sulphides and metallic pollutants like lead, chromium, nickel, beryllium, arsenic, vanadium, cadmium, zinc, mercury).

(iii) Chemical industries including pesticides, fertilizers, weedicides, fungicides.

(iv) Cosmetics.

(v) Processing industries like cotton textiles, wheat flour mills, asbestos.

(vi) Welding, stone crushing, gem grinding.

Natural air pollutants include (a) pollen, spores, (b) marsh gas, (c) volcanic gases and (a) synthesis of harmful chemicals by electric storms and solar flares. The major cause of pollution in the urban areas is automobiles which inefficiently burn petroleum, releases 75% of noise and 80% of air pollutants. Concentration of industries in one area is another major cause of air pollution.

Effect of Air Pollutants:

Air pollutants are broadly classified into particulate and gaseous. The particulate substances include solid and liquid particles. The gaseous include substances that are in the gaseous state at normal temperature and pressure. The air pollutants have adverse effect on human beings, animals, vegetation, buildings. Air pollutants also change earth’s climate. Aesthetic sense is also influenced by air pollutants. The different air pollutants and their effects are as follows:

1. Particulate Matter:

It is of two types—settleable and suspended. The settleable dusts have a particle longer than 10 (am. The smaller particles are able to remain suspended for long periods in the air. The important effects of particulate matter are.

(i) Dust and smoke particles cause irritation of the respiratory tract and produces bronchitis, asthma and lung diseases.

(ii) Smog is a dark or opaque fog which is formed by the dust and smoke particles causing condensation of water vapours around them as well as attracting chemicals like SO 2 , H 2 S, NO 2 , etc. Smog harms plant life through glazing and necrosis besides reduced availability of light. In human beings and animals it produces respiratory troubles.

(iii) Particulate matter suspended in air, scatters and partly absorbs light. In industrial and urban areas, sunlight is reduced to 1/3 in summer and 2/3 in winter.

(iv) At a concentration above 150 g/100m 3 , cotton dust in ginning process produces pneumoconiosis or lung fibrosis called byssinosis. Lung fibrosis produced in other industries includes asbestosis (in asbestos industry), silicosis (stone grinders), siderosis (iron mill), coal miners’ pneumoconiosis, flour mill pneumoconiosis, etc.

2. Carbon monoxide:

It accounts for 50% of the total atmospheric pollutants. It is formed by incomplete combustion of carbon fuels in various industries, motor vehicles, hearths, kitchens, etc. Carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin of blood and impairs its oxygen carrying capacity. At higher concentration, carbon monoxide proves lethal.

3. Sulphur Oxides:

They occur mainly in the form of sulphur dioxide. It is produced in large quantity during smelting of metallic ores and burning of petroleum and coal in industries, thermal plants, home and motor vehicles. In the air, SO 2 combines with water to form sulphurous acid (H 2 SO 3 ) which is the cause of acid rain. It causes chlorosis and necrosis of vegetation. Sulphur dioxide, above 1 ppm, affects human beings. It causes irritation to eyes and injury to respiratory tract. It results in discolouration and deterioration of buildings, sculptures, painted surfaces, fabrics, paper, leather, etc.

4. Nitrogen Oxides:

They are produced naturally through biological and non-biological activities from nitrates, nitrites, electric storms, high energy radiations and solar flares. Human activity forms nitrogen oxides in combustion process of industries, automobiles, incinerators and nitrogen fertilizers. Nitrogen oxides act on unsaturated hydrocarbons to form peroxy-acyl nitrates or PAN. It gives rise to photochemical smog. They cause eye irritation, respiratory troubles, blood congestion and dilation of arteries.

5. Carbon dioxide:

Due to excessive combustion activity, the content of C0 2 has been steadily rising. As carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere it absorbs more and more of the reflected infrared radiation. This could cause an increase in temperature referred to as the green house effect. Melting polar ice caps and glaciers could cause sea levels to rise, flooding most of the major population centres and fertile lands.

6. Phosgene and Methyl Isocyanate:

Phosgene (COCl 2 ) is a poisonous and suffocating volatile liquid which is employed in dye industry and synthesis of organic compounds. Release of phosgene and MIC in industrial accident of Bhopal (Dec. 2, 1984) killed over 2500 and maimed several thousand persons.

7. Aerosols:

They are widely used as disinfectants. Other sources are jet plane emissions which contain chlorofluorocarbons. Chlorofluorocarbons are also used in refrigeration and formation of certain types of solid plastic foams. Burning of plastics produces polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The latter are persistent and pass into the food chain. Chlorofluorocarbons and carbon tetrachloride react with ozone layers of stratosphere and hence deplete the same.

8. Photochemical oxidants:

Hydrocarbons have carcinogen properties. Some of these are also harmful to plants because they cause senescence and abscission. In the presence of sunlight, hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides to produce ozone, peroxy-acyl nitrates, aldehydes and other compounds. Peroxy-acyl nitrates are a major constituent of air pollution. They cause eye irritation and respiratory diseases.

9. Automobile Exhausts:

They are one of the major sources of air pollution. The important pollutants are Carbon monoxide, Benzpyrene, Lead, Nitrogen oxides, Sulphur compounds and Ammonia.

10. Pollen and Microbes:

Excess of microbes in the atmosphere directly damage the vegetation, food articles and causes diseases in plants, animals and human beings. Excess of pollen causes allergic reactions in several human beings. The common reactions are also collectively called hay-fever. The important allergic pollen belong to Amaranthus spinosus, Chenopodium album, Cynodon dactylon, Ricinus communis, Sorghum vulgare, Prosopis chilensis etc.

Control of Air Pollution :

1. Industrial estates should be established at a distance from residential areas.

2. Use of tall chimneys shall reduce the air pollution in the surroundings and compulsory use of filters and electrostatic precipitators in the chimneys.

3. Removal of poisonous gases by passing the fumes through water tower scrubber or spray collector.

4. Use of high temperature incinerators for reduction in particulate ash production.

5. Development and employment of non-combustive sources of energy, e.g., nuclear power, geothermal power, solar power, tidal power, wind power, etc.

6. Use of non-lead antiknock agents in gasoline.

7. Attempt should be made to develop pollution free fuels for automobiles, e.g., alcohol, hydrogen, battery power. Automobiles should be fitted with exhaust emission controls.

8. Industrial plants and refineries should be fitted with equipment for removal and recycling of wastes.

9. Growing plants capable of fixing carbon monoxide, e.g. Phaseolus vulgaris, Coleus blumei, Daucus carota, Ficus variegata (Bidwell and Bebee, 1974).

10. Growing plants capable of metabolising nitrogen oxides and other gaseous pollutants, e.g., Vitis, Pimis, Jttniperus, Quercus, Pyrus, Robinia pseudo-acacia, Viburnum, Crataegus, Ribes, Rhamnus.

11. Afforestation of the mining area on priority basis.

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Science News by AGU

Air Pollution Has Masked Climate Change’s Influence on U.S. Rainfall

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A view of Hollywood, Calif., from above on a smoggy, rainy day.

As greenhouse gas emissions raise the temperature of the atmosphere, scientists expect global rainfall to increase , but making regional precipitation predictions is challenging. And it’s at the regional level that these predictions are most important for many. Farmers and water managers need to make plans and adjust to climate change.

“Especially for rainfall, what’s happening locally is really important,” said Mark Risser , a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Risser is an author of a recent study published in Nature Communications that aimed to clarify rainfall trends in the United States by incorporating data about aerosol air pollution. Aerosols are small floating particles that have a drying effect on global climate. Some sources of aerosols are natural, such as sea spray and volatile organic compounds released by plants. There are also anthropogenic sources, such as emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

“Aerosols have been disguising the effects of greenhouse gases on rainfall.”

The research suggested that climate-change-driven rainfall increases in the United States have been offset by historically high levels of aerosol pollution. But because aerosol levels have fallen in recent decades, thanks to passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, we are beginning to see more heavy rainfall. Factoring this pollution into climate models can make regional trends clearer, Risser said.

“The implication is that aerosols have been disguising the effects of greenhouse gases on rainfall,” he said. “We unmasked changes happening behind the scenes.”

Small Particles, Big Influence

Precipitation levels vary highly from year to year. It’s extremely challenging to separate the slow changes wrought by global warming from these yearly trends, said Jesse Norris , who studies precipitation at the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Climate Science. Norris was not involved with the study.

As concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase, Earth gets hotter. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, and warmer oceans are more prone to evaporation. This should result in more rain, said Risser. For every degree Celsius the average temperature rises, there should be a 7% increase in global average precipitation, but this trend doesn’t always appear in regional precipitation data. “When zooming in on the U.S., this wasn’t showing up in the data,” Risser said.

Risser said the complex effects of aerosols have made it more challenging to clearly see how climate change is influencing precipitation. The aerosols examined in the study offset the effect of greenhouse gases by reflecting solar energy back out into space and cooling the planet. But these aerosols can also have localized impacts on precipitation. That’s because aerosols can influence what kinds of clouds form and how water droplets form within those clouds, said Risser. So depending on the season and local conditions, aerosols can also drive the formation of severe storms, as was in the case of Hurricane Harvey .

Sinking Sulfur Dioxide Levels and Rising Rain Rates

Aerosol emissions were increasing for most of the 20th century until the passage of the Clean Air Act, which regulated pollutants including sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ). The main source of SO 2 is industrial burning of fossil fuels, particularly at power plants. SO 2 emissions contribute to acid rain, and inhaling SO 2 can cause respiratory problems, particularly for people with asthma. This kind of air pollution can also drive the formation of another form of pollution called particulate matter, which can also cause respiratory problems, as well as cardiovascular disease and pregnancy complications.

After 1970, SO 2 aerosol emissions in the United States fell gradually but in the past 20 years have gone back to preindustrial levels, said Risser. Norris said it has taken some time for the climate impacts of this to emerge in data because aerosols can persist in the atmosphere for years. “The impact of those aerosols not being emitted is becoming clear now,” Norris said.

Risser and his team used 120-year rainfall records to study both extreme and average rainfall trends. They separated these trends by regions and by seasons and combined these data with emissions estimates of both greenhouse gases and SO 2 , one of the best-studied aerosols.

After accounting for SO 2 aerosol and greenhouse gas emissions, Risser said, global rainfall trends become more evident. Increasing greenhouse gas levels cause increased average and extreme rainfall across all seasons in the United States.

The study also looked at seasonal emissions and precipitation trends, dividing the country into 25-kilometer boxes. In winter and spring, the study found, higher local aerosol emissions lead to drier conditions. In summer and fall, the opposite is true. These seasonal trends are clearest in the northeastern and southeastern United States and in the Great Plains. For the western United States, Risser said, the study is less conclusive. “There’s a lot more year-to-year variation in rainfall in the western U.S., which makes it harder to attribute changes to greenhouse gases or aerosols,” he said.

Norris called the aerosol study “an important step in helping to understand why we struggle to see long-term precipitation trends.”

Cornell University Earth and atmospheric scientist Natalie Mahowald is more skeptical. She noted that aerosol sources and distributions prior to 1980 are not well known. She said this “injects substantial uncertainty” into the rainfall study. And she pointed out that there are many other kinds of aerosols, including nitrogen oxides, black carbon, and those found in wildfire smoke. Adding these into the study could change the results.

—Katherine Bourzac, Science Writer

Citation:  Bourzac, K. (2024), Air pollution has masked climate change’s influence on U.S. rainfall,  Eos, 105, https://doi.org/10.1029/2024EO240157 . Published on 2 April 2024.

Text © 2024. the authors.  cc by-nc-nd 3.0 except where otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. any reuse without express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited., features from agu journals, warming experiment explores consequences of diminished snow, forecasting earthquake ruptures from slow slip evolution, exploring alfvén waves across space—and disciplines.


The Effects of Climate Change

The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

essay cause and effect about air pollution

  • We already see effects scientists predicted, such as the loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and more intense heat waves.
  • Scientists predict global temperature increases from human-made greenhouse gases will continue. Severe weather damage will also increase and intensify.

Earth Will Continue to Warm and the Effects Will Be Profound


Global climate change is not a future problem. Changes to Earth’s climate driven by increased human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are already having widespread effects on the environment: glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, river and lake ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal geographic ranges are shifting, and plants and trees are blooming sooner.

Effects that scientists had long predicted would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as sea ice loss, accelerated sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves.

The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.

essay cause and effect about air pollution

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Some changes (such as droughts, wildfires, and extreme rainfall) are happening faster than scientists previously assessed. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the United Nations body established to assess the science related to climate change — modern humans have never before seen the observed changes in our global climate, and some of these changes are irreversible over the next hundreds to thousands of years.

Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for many decades, mainly due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report, published in 2021, found that human emissions of heat-trapping gases have already warmed the climate by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since 1850-1900. 1 The global average temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (about 3 degrees F) within the next few decades. These changes will affect all regions of Earth.

The severity of effects caused by climate change will depend on the path of future human activities. More greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more climate extremes and widespread damaging effects across our planet. However, those future effects depend on the total amount of carbon dioxide we emit. So, if we can reduce emissions, we may avoid some of the worst effects.

The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief, rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.

Here are some of the expected effects of global climate change on the United States, according to the Third and Fourth National Climate Assessment Reports:

Future effects of global climate change in the United States:

sea level rise

U.S. Sea Level Likely to Rise 1 to 6.6 Feet by 2100

Global sea level has risen about 8 inches (0.2 meters) since reliable record-keeping began in 1880. By 2100, scientists project that it will rise at least another foot (0.3 meters), but possibly as high as 6.6 feet (2 meters) in a high-emissions scenario. Sea level is rising because of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms. Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Sun shining brightly over misty mountains.

Climate Changes Will Continue Through This Century and Beyond

Global climate is projected to continue warming over this century and beyond. Image credit: Khagani Hasanov, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Satellite image of a hurricane.

Hurricanes Will Become Stronger and More Intense

Scientists project that hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates will increase as the climate continues to warm. Image credit: NASA

essay cause and effect about air pollution

More Droughts and Heat Waves

Droughts in the Southwest and heat waves (periods of abnormally hot weather lasting days to weeks) are projected to become more intense, and cold waves less intense and less frequent. Image credit: NOAA

2013 Rim Fire

Longer Wildfire Season

Warming temperatures have extended and intensified wildfire season in the West, where long-term drought in the region has heightened the risk of fires. Scientists estimate that human-caused climate change has already doubled the area of forest burned in recent decades. By around 2050, the amount of land consumed by wildfires in Western states is projected to further increase by two to six times. Even in traditionally rainy regions like the Southeast, wildfires are projected to increase by about 30%.

Changes in Precipitation Patterns

Climate change is having an uneven effect on precipitation (rain and snow) in the United States, with some locations experiencing increased precipitation and flooding, while others suffer from drought. On average, more winter and spring precipitation is projected for the northern United States, and less for the Southwest, over this century. Image credit: Marvin Nauman/FEMA

Crop field.

Frost-Free Season (and Growing Season) will Lengthen

The length of the frost-free season, and the corresponding growing season, has been increasing since the 1980s, with the largest increases occurring in the western United States. Across the United States, the growing season is projected to continue to lengthen, which will affect ecosystems and agriculture.

Heatmap showing scorching temperatures in U.S. West

Global Temperatures Will Continue to Rise

Summer of 2023 was Earth's hottest summer on record, 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) (0.23 degrees Celsius (C)) warmer than any other summer in NASA’s record and 2.1 degrees F (1.2 C) warmer than the average summer between 1951 and 1980. Image credit: NASA

Satellite map of arctic sea ice.

Arctic Is Very Likely to Become Ice-Free

Sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is expected to continue decreasing, and the Arctic Ocean will very likely become essentially ice-free in late summer if current projections hold. This change is expected to occur before mid-century.

U.S. Regional Effects

Climate change is bringing different types of challenges to each region of the country. Some of the current and future impacts are summarized below. These findings are from the Third 3 and Fourth 4 National Climate Assessment Reports, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program .

  • Northeast. Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose increasing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Farmers can explore new crop options, but these adaptations are not cost- or risk-free. Moreover, adaptive capacity , which varies throughout the region, could be overwhelmed by a changing climate. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.
  • Northwest. Changes in the timing of peak flows in rivers and streams are reducing water supplies and worsening competing demands for water. Sea level rise, erosion, flooding, risks to infrastructure, and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire incidence and severity, heat waves, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases are causing widespread forest die-off.
  • Southeast. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.
  • Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also worsen a range of risks to the Great Lakes.
  • Southwest. Climate change has caused increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks. In turn, these changes have made wildfires more numerous and severe. The warming climate has also caused a decline in water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, and triggered heat-related health impacts in cities. In coastal areas, flooding and erosion are additional concerns.

1. IPCC 2021, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis , the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

2. IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

3. USGCRP 2014, Third Climate Assessment .

4. USGCRP 2017, Fourth Climate Assessment .

Related Resources

essay cause and effect about air pollution

A Degree of Difference

So, the Earth's average temperature has increased about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the 20th century. What's the big deal?

essay cause and effect about air pollution

What’s the difference between climate change and global warming?

“Global warming” refers to the long-term warming of the planet. “Climate change” encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet, including rising sea levels; shrinking mountain glaciers; accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic; and shifts in flower/plant blooming times.

essay cause and effect about air pollution

Is it too late to prevent climate change?

Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. However, if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the rise in global temperatures would begin to flatten within a few years. Temperatures would then plateau but remain well-elevated for many, many centuries.

Discover More Topics From NASA

Explore Earth Science

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Earth Science in Action

Earth Action

Earth Science Data

The sum of Earth's plants, on land and in the ocean, changes slightly from year to year as weather patterns shift.

Facts About Earth

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One Thing Most Countries Have in Common: Unsafe Air

New research found that fewer than 10 percent of countries and territories met World Health Organization guidelines for particulate matter pollution last year.

A man covered his mouth and nose as he walks on a road with people in the background obscured by smoke and dust.

By Delger Erdenesanaa

Only 10 countries and territories out of 134 achieved the World Health Organization’s standards for a pervasive form of air pollution last year, according to air quality data compiled by IQAir , a Swiss company.

The pollution studied is called fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, because it refers to solid particles less than 2.5 micrometers in size: small enough to enter the bloodstream. PM2.5 is the deadliest form of air pollution, leading to millions of premature deaths each year .

“Air pollution and climate change both have the same culprit, which is fossil fuels,” said Glory Dolphin Hammes, the CEO of IQAir’s North American division.

The World Health Organization sets a guideline that people shouldn’t breathe more than 5 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter of air, on average, throughout a year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed tightening its standard from 12 to 9 micrograms per cubic meter.

The few oases of clean air that meet World Health Organization guidelines are mostly islands, as well as Australia and the northern European countries of Finland and Estonia. Of the non-achievers, where the vast majority of the human population lives, the countries with the worst air quality were mostly in Asia and Africa.

Where some of the dirtiest air is found

The four most polluted countries in IQAir’s ranking for 2023 — Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan — are in South and Central Asia.

Air quality sensors in almost a third of the region’s cities reported concentrations of fine particulate matter that were more than 10 times the WHO guideline. This was a proportion “vastly exceeding any other region,” the report’s authors wrote.

The researchers pointed to vehicle traffic, coal and industrial emissions, particularly from brick kilns, as major sources of the region’s pollution. Farmers seasonally burning their crop waste contribute to the problem, as do households burning wood and dung for heat and cooking.

China reversed recent gains

One notable change in 2023 was a 6.3 percent increase in China’s air pollution compared with 2022, after at least five years of improvement. Beijing experienced a 14 percent increase in PM2.5 pollution last year.

The national government announced a “war against pollution” in 2014 and had been making progress ever since. But the sharpest decline in China’s PM2.5 pollution happened in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced much of the country’s economic activity to slow or shut down. Ms. Dolphin Hammes attributed last year’s uptick to a reopening economy.

And challenges remain: Eleven cities in China reported air pollution levels last year that exceeded the WHO guidelines by 10 times or more. The worst was Hotan, Xinjiang.

Significant gaps in the data

IQAir researchers analyze data from more than 30,000 air quality monitoring stations and sensors across 134 countries, territories and disputed regions. Some of these monitoring stations are run by government agencies, while others are overseen by nonprofit organizations, schools, private companies and citizen scientists.

There are large gaps in ground-level air quality monitoring in Africa and the Middle East, including in regions where satellite data show some of the highest levels of air pollution on Earth.

As IQAir works to add data from more cities and countries in future years, “the worst might be yet to come in terms of what we’re measuring,” Ms. Dolphin Hammes said.

Wildfire smoke: a growing problem

Although North America is one of the cleaner regions in the world, in 2023 wildfires burned 4 percent of Canada’s forests, an area about half the size of Germany, and significantly impaired air quality.

Usually, North America’s list of most polluted cities is dominated by the United States. But last year, the top 13 spots all went to Canadian cities, many of them in Alberta.

In the United States, cities in the Upper Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic states also got significant amounts of PM2.5 pollution from wildfire smoke that drifted across the border.

Risks of short-term exposure

It’s not just chronic exposure to air pollution that harms people’s health.

For vulnerable people like the very young and old, or those with underlying illnesses, breathing in large amounts of fine particulate pollution for just a few hours or days can sometimes be deadly. About 1 million premature deaths per year can be attributed to short-term PM2.5 exposure, according to a recent global study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

The problem is worst in East and South Asia, as well as in West Africa.

Without accounting for short-term exposures, “we might be underestimating the mortality burden from air pollution,” said Yuming Guo, a professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and one of the study’s authors.

U.S. disparities widen

Within individual countries, air pollution and its health effects aren’t evenly distributed.

Air quality in the United States has generally been improving since the Clean Air Act of the 1970s. Last decade, premature deaths from PM2.5 exposure declined to about 49,400 in 2019, down from about 69,000 in 2010.

But progress has happened faster in some communities than in others. Racial and ethnic disparities in air pollution deaths have grown in recent years, according to a national study published this month .

The census tracts in the United States with the fewest white residents have about 32 percent higher rates of PM2.5-related deaths, compared with those with the most white residents. This disparity in deaths per capita has increased by 16 percent between 2010 and 2019.

The study examined race and ethnicity separately, and found the disparity between the census tracts with the most and least Hispanic residents grew even more, by 40 percent.

In IQAir’s rankings, the United States is doing much better than most other countries. But studies that dig deeper show air quality is still an issue, said Gaige Kerr, a research scientist at George Washington University and the lead author of the disparities paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. “There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said.

Dr. Kerr’s research showed that mortality rates were highest on the Gulf Coast and in the Ohio River Valley, in areas dominated by petrochemical and manufacturing industries. He also noted that researchers have seen a slight uptick in rates of PM2.5-related deaths starting around 2016, particularly in the Western states, likely because of increasing wildfires.

Delger Erdenesanaa is a reporter covering climate and the environment and a member of the 2023-24 Times Fellowship class, a program for journalists early in their careers. More about Delger Erdenesanaa

Learn More About Climate Change

Have questions about climate change? Our F.A.Q. will tackle your climate questions, big and small .

Decades of buried trash in landfills is releasing methane , a powerful greenhouse gas, at higher rates than previously estimated, a study says.

Ocean Conservation Namibia is disentangling a record number of seals, while broadcasting the perils of marine debris in a largely feel-good way. Here’s how .

To decarbonize the electrical grid, companies are finding creative ways to store energy during periods of low demand in carbon dioxide storage balloons .

New satellite-based research reveals how land along the East Coast is slumping into the ocean, compounding the danger from global sea level rise . A major culprit: overpumping of groundwater.

Did you know the ♻ symbol doesn’t mean something is actually recyclable ? Read on about how we got here, and what can be done.

Why does South Asia have the world’s worst air pollution?

Smog-ridden cities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India had the poorest air quality last year, says report.

Children are silhouetted as they play cricket amid smog, as air pollution levels rise in Karachi, Pakistan.

In 2023, Bangladesh recorded the worst air quality of 134 countries monitored by the Swiss climate group, IQAir. Pakistan and India were close behind, with the report showing that South Asia suffers from the worst pollution in the world overall.

Here are some insights from the report and what it tells us about the South Asian countries’ governments.

Keep reading

Thick smog shuts down pakistan’s lahore, sickens tens of thousands, ‘like breathing poison’: children in india’s delhi hit hard by smog, in lahore, it’s that toxic, smoggy time of year again, bangladesh capital most polluted as toxic smog engulfs south asian cities, what does the 2023 world air quality report say.

The report provides an overview of PM2.5 air quality data from 7,812 cities across the world. PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter which is 2.5 microns or smaller in diametre and is dangerous because it can pass deep into the human respiratory tract. These particles are released during natural events such as dust storms and wildfires, or can be caused by human activities such as coal burning or agricultural work.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, average annual levels of PM2.5 should not surpass 5 micrograms per cubic metre. Only 10 countries listed in the report comply with this standard, however. They include French Polynesia – which has the cleanest air in the world according to the report – New Zealand, Finland and Estonia, among others.

Bangladesh’s PM2.5 levels stand at 79.9 micrograms per cubic metre, nearly 16 times higher than the WHO recommends. Pakistan scored 73.7 while India’s air had 54.4 micrograms of PM2.5 particles per cubic metre on average over the last year.

How do South Asian cities rank in terms of air quality?

Within each of the countries monitored by IQAir, air quality can vary hugely from city to city.

Begusarai, the industrial and financial capital of India’s Bihar, with refineries and power stations, had a whopping 118.9 micrograms of PM2.5 particles per cubic metre on average in 2023. New Delhi had 92.7, while Dhaka in Bangladesh had 80.2 and Pakistan’s smog-ridden Lahore recorded an average of 99.5.

Eighty-three cities in India have air with more than 10 times the recommended limit of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.

According to the IQAir report, this compares with San Juan in Puerto Rico, the least polluted city in the world, with only 2.7 micrograms of PM2.5 particles per cubic metre on average in 2023. Wellington in New Zealand comes second, with 3.1 micrograms and Canberra in Australia has 3.8 micrograms.

Why is the air quality in South Asian cities so poor?

The report found that poor air quality in South Asia is often down to “brick kiln and other industrial emissions, agricultural waste burning, and cremation practices”. It added that the burning of solid fuel for cooking and heating, especially during colder months, adds to the air pollution.

In Bangladesh , there are an estimated 8,000 brick kilns , some of which operate illegally. Plastic rubbish incineration and vehicle fumes also contribute to the deteriorating air quality. During crop burning season, smoke from India, Nepal and Pakistan can also drift into Bangladesh.

Northern India and Delhi have particularly poor air quality because of biomass burning – or the burning of wood or crop wastes to make fuel, coal burning and vehicle emissions. Annual crop burning – whereby farmers in India and Pakistan burn plant residue after harvesting rice to prepare the fields for wheat plantation – is also a contributor to air pollution.

The geography of South Asia also plays a role in the accumulation of air pollution. Pollutants emitted from across the Indo-Gangetic Plain, which comprises Bangladesh, a large part of eastern Pakistan, most of northern and eastern India, and the south of Nepal, mix with pollutants brought into the region by winds blowing in from the coast. They then become trapped by the Himalayas bordering the north.

What is the effect of poor air in Asia?

The Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London published a review in April 2023 following decades of scientific research about air pollution.

The review found connections between air pollution and the health of newborn babies in the first weeks of life, low birth weight, miscarriages and stillbirths. It also found that early exposure to air pollution can hinder development.

According to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) published by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) in August 2023, the average Indian’s life expectancy is reduced by 5.3 years due to PM2.5 pollution. In New Delhi, life expectancy is cut by 10 years.

The report found that an average Pakistani would live for 3.9 years longer if air quality met the WHO guidelines.

INTERACTIVE- air pollution symptoms

Besides the health effects, air pollution in Pakistan and India affects everyday activities such as education and business.

In early November 2023, Pakistan’s Punjab province, engulfed in a blanket of smog, declared an emergency in Lahore, Gujranwala and Hafizabad and all public places were closed . In Delhi, India’s capital territory, schools were shuttered and construction was halted due to dangerous levels of air pollution at the same time. Later in November 2023, face masks were made mandatory in Lahore.

What can be done to remedy South Asia’s air quality crisis?

The IQAir report recommends that governments invest in renewable energy initiatives, introduce incentives for cleaner vehicles, improve infrastructure to enable better pedestrian mobility and ban agricultural burning practices.

The report particularly highlighted a lack of government-operated air quality monitoring stations in South Asia. Some 96 percent of stations reporting air quality data in Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan, as well as Dhaka in Bangladesh, were not affiliated with the countries’ governments.

The IQAir report concluded that while this shows that private residents and organisations want to document and monitor air pollution levels, governments are not taking responsibility for doing so.

Some attempts have been made by South Asian governments to curb air pollution. Coal burning was banned in Delhi’s National Capital Region (NCR) in January 2023, for example.

Older vehicles were banned in Delhi in 2018, resulting in a 35 percent decrease in the number of cars on the road, according to the IQAir report. However, in November 2023, a collaborative project between the Delhi government and the Indian Institute Of Technology Kanpur showed that vehicle emissions remained the largest contributor to air pollution in the city.

Pakistan’s Punjab province has banned crop burning and launched public transport projects in a bid to get private vehicles off the road. However, despite the ban, farmers continue to burn crops illegally, possibly because alternatives are unaffordable.

India and Pakistan have turned to cloud seeding to prompt artificial rain in order to curb smog. Cloud seeding is a weather modification technique that uses ground-based generators or aircraft to allow clouds to be modified with a compound to form ice crystals that facilitate the formation of rainwater droplets.

The caretaker minister for the environment in Pakistan’s Punjab, Bilal Afzal, told the Guardian that cloud seeding carried out in Lahore had been a success. While air quality in Lahore had improved with a small amount of rain, however, it did not last for more than a few days as the air pollution went back to its usual levels afterwards.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Bangladesh announced in January that it intends to use a brick kiln tracker, which will use remote sensing technology to identify harmful brick kilns and to help improve enforcement.


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