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Notes on Air Pollution


Air Pollution: Obtaining and using certain energy resources -- fossil fuels and nuclear energy can pollute the air.


Most air pollution is caused by motor vehicles.


Temperature Inversion: Cool air near the earth’s surface is trapped under a layer of warm air.  Pollutants are trapped with it.

·        Pollutants produced by too much industry burning fossil fuels

·        Results in eye irritations, lung and heart disease

·        Donora Pennsylvania – 1948 had a severe temperature inversion – 20 people died thousands were hospitalized – lasted 4 days

·        Los Angeles has many temperature inversions per year.




























Smog: Brownish haze – a mixture of smoke and fog

·        Mostly caused by motor vehicles by the release of hydrocarbons due to fuel not being completely burned.

·        Carbon monoxide (poisonous gas) is released into the atmosphere.

·        These gases react in sunlight to form smog

·        Results in eye irritations, breathing problems (especially dangerous to people with lung disease)

·        Can damage or kill plants

·        Los Angeles has so much smog that the air there is unhealthy 200 days per year!


Acid Rain: Precipitation that is more acidic than normal

The scale used to measure acidity is called the Ph scale.  The pH scale is from 0 to 14.  A pH below 7 is an acid, 7 is neutral, and above 7 is alkaline or a base.  Water or precipitation should be 7, however it is usually between 5 and 6.

·        Factories release sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides into the air through their smokestacks. (burning fossil fuel)

·        These gases combine with water vapor in the atmosphere and form sulfuric acid and nitric acid.

·        These acids fall back to the Earth by precipitation (Acid Rain) and pollute the air, land and waters of the Earth.

·        Acid Rain is carried by wind currents to places far from their original source.


Indoor air pollution: Any gases released into the air inside buildings.

·        Appliances, fireplaces, stoves, ovens, air fresheners, disinfectants, cleaning supplies and cigarette smoke are all sources of indoor air pollution

·        Building insulation help to hold the pollutants inside longer.

·        Breathing in the smoke of one cigarette is the equivalent of breathing in the smoggy air of Los Angeles for one week.