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Air pollution: all you need to know

Apr 15, 2021
Reading time 3 min.

The problem of air pollution is complex and affects our daily life, even though we don’t necessarily notice it. Consciousness is the key to effective protection. That’s why today, we’d like to focus on the air pollution types and the ways they influence our health and the environment.

What is air pollution? We all know about the smog - an integral element of the urban countryside. But what does it really consist of, and what causes it to appear? Let’s break it down! If you’re searching for the extended air pollution definition, check our little compendium below.

Smog - composition, and causes

Smog is a phenomenon caused by a concentration of polluting particles over a particular area. It’s symptomatic to the big agglomerations, particularly those located in valleys or surrounded by natural barriers such as mountain ranges. The pollutants mix with the masses of air, causing the creation of thick clouds. They consist of particulate matter and toxic gases. Their composition depends on the type of smog.

There are two variants of smog: photochemical and sulfurous. The first one - alternatively called “The Los Angeles smog” - is typical of subtropical spheres. It consists mainly of ozone and harmful aldehydes, created in the reaction of hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon oxides from the exhaust fumes. The second one, named “The London smog” is more associated with the moderate climate and appears mainly as a result of extensive heating. Its composition is dominated by sulfur dioxides and particulate matter - the type of air pollution that affects our health the most.

Types of air pollution

Air pollution doesn’t always cause the appearance of smog. Even if the sky seems to be clear, you still might be breathing polluted air. Most toxic gases, and even the solid polluting particles, are odorless and small enough to be invisible to the human eye. The particulate matter is so tiny that it can enter the bloodstream through our respiratory system and be distributed to organs. That’s why monitoring the air quality maps is crucial - it helps you fight the invisible enemy.

The general division refers to the physical state of the polluting particles. Accordingly, we can differentiate two types of air pollution - toxic gases and particulate matter.

Among the most common toxic gases, there are:

• nitrogen dioxide

• sulfur dioxide

• carbon oxides

The particulate matter can consist of different elements - from dust, through heavy metals, to minerals. Interactive maps such as Airly.org usually measure two types of PM - 2.5 and 10. These numbers refer to the size of the particles.

Particulate matter is the main culprit when it comes to the harmful impact of air pollution all over the world. It causes respiratory diseases, but that’s only the beginning of the list. The toxic particles, such as aromatic hydrocarbons or heavy metals, can be transported with the bloodstream to the organs, where they accumulate. That can lead to cancer and circulatory diseases, just to mention a few.

The best way to protect yourself against the negative impact of air pollution is to keep up with PM and toxic gas levels in your area. Use the air pollution map to stay updated.

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