The Earth's atmosphere is made up of several gases. This includes around 78 % nitrogen and 21% oxygen by volume. Carbon dioxide, argon, methane, ozone, and water vapour also exist in trace amounts. Air pollution occurs when undesired pollutants contaminate the air, negatively impacting both living and non-living organisms.
What are air pollutants?
Air pollutants are compounds that contaminate the air. Pollutants in the air can arise from both natural and man-made sources. Carbon monoxide, smog, sulphur dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons are some examples of air pollutants.
Case study - The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal in Agra is counted among the seven wonders of the world. However, the air pollution caused by the surrounding industries has led to a visible discolouration in the monument’s white marble. Pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, produced by the neighbouring rubber, automobiles, chemicals factories, and, most notably, the Mathura oil refinery lead to acid rain, which has corroded the marble.
What is acid rain?
Acid rain is caused when air pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide react with the water vapour in the atmosphere. This leads to the formation of nitric acid and sulphuric acid, which then falls with the rain.
The greenhouse effect is a phenomenon by which the atmosphere traps a portion of the sun’s rays. This stored radiation causes heating of the Earth’s atmosphere. This process is aided by greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapour. Life would not have been conceivable on the planet if this process had not occurred. However, it now poses a danger to human life.
The unusually rapid increase in the Earth's surface temperature caused by greenhouse gases, emitted by burning fossil fuels, is known as global warming. It is usually caused by an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
How to reduce air pollution?
Air pollution can be reduced in the following ways:
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