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Effects of Air Pollution

  • Date Submitted: 09/06/2011 09:12 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 33.4 
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AIR POLLUTION

heaLth, environmentaL, anD cLimate imPacts
Air pollution can affect our health in many ways. Numerous scientific studies have linked air pollution to a variety of health problems including: (1) aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease; (2) decreased lung function; (3) increased frequency and severity of respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coughing; (4) increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; (5) effects on the nervous system, including the brain, such as IQ loss and impacts on learning, memory, and behavior; (6) cancer; and (7) premature death. Some sensitive individuals appear to be at greater risk for air pollution-related health effects, for example, those with pre-existing heart and lung diseases (e.g., heart failure/ischemic heart disease, asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis), diabetics, older adults, and children. In 2008, approximately 127 million people lived in counties that exceeded national air quality standards. Air pollution also damages our environment. Ozone can damage vegetation, adversely impacting the growth of plants and trees. These impacts can reduce the ability of plants to uptake CO2 from the atmosphere and indirectly affect entire ecosystems. Visibility is reduced by particles in the air that scatter and absorb light. Typical visual range in the eastern U.S. is 15 to 30 miles, approximately one-third of what it would be without man-made air pollution. In the West, the typical visual range is about 60 to 90 miles, or about one-half of the visual range under natural conditions. Pollution in the form of acids and acid-forming compounds (such as sulfur dioxide [SO2] and oxides of nitrogen [NOx]) can deposit from the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface. This acid deposition can be either dry or wet. Wet deposition is more commonly known as acid rain. Acid rain can occur anywhere and, in some areas, rain can be 100 times more acidic than natural precipitation. Acid deposition can be...

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