There are six common air pollutants that the EPA has established in the Clean Air Act and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These air pollutants are found all over. Ground level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and lead are the six common air pollutants. There are different types of air pollution that are considered harmful to health and environment for various reasons.
Types of Air Pollutants
Different air pollution is caused by various air pollutants. 6 major air pollutants are discussed briefly below.
#1 Ground Level Ozone
Ground level ozone contributes to the most widespread health threats. Ozone is what many see as smog or haze that hovers over cities. This is the air that we breathe and people already diagnosed with diseases of the lungs, children, elderly and people who work or are active outdoors are the most sensitive to ozone. Children are the most at risk when it comes to breathing in ozone. Their lungs are still developing and tend to spend more time outdoors.
People are not the only ones being affected by ozone. Sensitive plants, forests, parks, wildlife and wilderness areas are also heavily affected. Major contributors of ozone pollution include industrial factories, car exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.
#2 Particulate Matter
Particulate matter is also known as particle pollution and is comprised of very small particles and liquid droplets of nitrates, sulfates, organic chemicals, metals and dust particles. Particulate matter, along with ground level ozone, has the most widespread health threat to humans. Particles that are ten micrometers or smaller are the most dangerous for people since those are the ones that can easily pass through the throat and nose and enter into the lungs, causing serious health problems.
Particulate matter is grouped into tow categories, course particles and fine particles.
- Course particles are those that are larger than 2.5 micrometers but smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter. They are generally found near roadways or dusty industries such as factories.
- Fine particles are those that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter. They are found in haze and smoke. They are formed from forest fires and when the gases from power plants and cars react with the air.
#3 Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is formed and emitted during combustion processes. Carbon monoxide causes ill effects to the human body by robbing the body of oxygen and not allowing oxygen to be carried to the organs of the body. People exposed to high concentrations of carbon monoxide will cause serious illness and possible death.
#4 Nitrogen Oxides
Nitrogen oxides are highly reactive gases that include nitrous acid and nitric acid. They form quickly from the emissions of cars and other motor vehicles as well as power plants. Nitrogen oxides add to the formation of ground level ozone and particulate matter. It is also associated with several ill effects that concern the respiratory system.
#5 Sulfur Oxides
Sulfur oxide is a highly reactive gas that forms from fossil fuel combustion. The combustion of fossil fuels occurs mainly at power plants and industrial facilities. Sulfur oxide, like nitrogen oxide, has adverse effects on the respiratory system. Children and those suffering from lung ailments are the most susceptible to damage from sulfur and nitrogen oxides.
Lead is a metal that is a natural resource. It can be found in the environment and in manufactured products. Industrial sources and lead mining are leading contributors of putting lead dust into the air. The highest level of lead in the air is usually concentrated around lead smelters. People living near a lead smelter and those working in a lead smelter are at the highest risk of developing lead poisoning and severe health effects associated with it.