What are the Different Kinds of Air Pollutants?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2019
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Substances which degrade the quality of the air we breathe are known as air pollutants, and the accelerating rate of industrialization around the world has led to high levels of pollution globally. Because air pollutants can travel on wind currents, pollutants are not only concentrated over industrialized areas: they can also be found in locations as remote as Antarctica. Plants, animals, and people all suffer health problems as a result of air pollutants, which sometimes cluster so thickly that they cause a chemical fog known as smog. There are three primary sources of air pollution: chemical, biological, and particulate.

Chemical air pollutants include a variety of substances created through combustion such as nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, lead, and sulfur. In addition, substances such as CFCs are considered to be chemical air pollutants. Chemical pollution is emitted on a daily basis by thermal power plants, cars, mines, refineries, and other similar manufacturing facilities. Cement and metal processing such as that used to create steel also add chemical pollutants to the atmosphere, as does the manufacture of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. Many nations have enacted pollution control laws designed to reduce factory emissions through the use of filters and modernized facilities.


Biological air pollutants include molds, pollen, fungi, dander, and bacteria. These pollutants are more of an issue when considering indoor air quality, because they usually disperse outdoors. However, people with severe allergies often suffer during the spring, when pollen levels are high, and airborne molds and fungi can elicit allergic reactions from sensitive individuals. In addition, human accidents can cause the release of biological agents such as anthrax.

Particulate pollution is air pollution caused by small particles in the air. There are many natural sources of particulate pollution such as dust storms, fires, and volcanic activity. However, some human processes also create particulate pollution: most manufacturing facilities, for example, emit chemical and particulate contaminants. This type of pollution reduces visibility and can also make it very difficult to breathe: some particulate air pollutants are also harmful to inhale, and prolonged exposure will lead to health problems.

Air pollution impacts the world and the people that live on it in a number of ways. The primary problems associated with air pollutants are diseases of the heart and lungs. Asthma, emphysema, and respiratory allergies are on the rise globally, thanks to irritation by air pollutants. Some pollutants are eating away at the atmosphere, exposing the earth to harmful ultraviolet radiation in high doses. Air pollutants also are the primary ingredient in things like acid rain, smog, and other pollution related weather phenomena which carry health problems for animals and plants alike.


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Excess carbon monoxide can be a problem indoors. Signs of the excess CO are headaches and nausea, sluggish and tired feeling. It is important to ventilate living quarters.

Gas stove and dryer have to vent outside. If suspected that there is excess carbon monoxide in the house, CO monitors should be installed.

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