of fossil fuels is the main source of air pollution. Fossil fuels are burnt in
power stations using coal, petroleum and natural gas, in domestic and
industrial boilers and in the internal combustion engines of vehicles. When
fossil fuels are burnt, the elements in the fuels are oxidised, forming various
air pollutants. These includes carbo monoxide, sulphur dioxide, oxides of
nitrogen, lead, carbon dioxide and fine particulate matter.
POLLUTANT : CARBON MONOXIDE
Incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, exhaust of vehicles, factories
Combines readily with haemoglobin and affects the transport of oxygen to body
cells, impairs alertness and causes fatigue as well as headaches.
: SULPHUR DIOXIDE
Source : Combustion of fossil fuels,
particularly in heat and power generation facilities, volcanic gases, large
industrial boilers, factories.
Effect : Health
– Irritates eyes, damages respiratory passages, causes bronchitis,
causes wheezing, a shortness of
breath and coughing causes asthmatic attacks. Climate – Combines with rainwater to form acid rain. Agriculture – Contributes to acid rain
which damages photosynthetic tissues, lowers pH of soil and rivers. Buildings – Acid rain corrodes iron,
limestone, stonework and destroy buildings.
Solution : Use low sulphur content fuels. Clean
up emissions from power stations and factories with scrubbers.
OXIDES OF NITROGEN
Example: Nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide
Source: Vehicle exhausts, action of bacteria
and fertilisers, combustion of fossil fuels and factories.
– Irritate lungs, nose, throat and eyes, cause respiratory infections, cause
bronchitis. Climate – Dissolved in
rainwater to form acid rain. Agriculture:
Contributes to acid rain which lowers Ph of soil and makes it unsuitable for
cultivation of crops, damages leaves and roots. Buildings – Acid rain corrodes metal and destroys stonework of
Solution: Clean up emissions from car exhausts
by installing catalytic converters to turn oxides of nitrogen into harmless
Source: Combustion of fossil fuels, vehicle
– Retards mental development and damages the liver, can result I coma or
Solution: Use unleaded petrol.
Source: Open burning, combustion of fossil
– Affects respiration, Climate –
Leads to greenhouse effect and global warming, results in an increase in the
atmospheric temperature, climatic changes.
Solution: Reduce the use of fossil fuels.
FINE PARTICULATE MATTER
Source: Incomplete combustion of fossil fuels
for example, bonfires, open burning, the burning of oil wells and the burning
of dried paddy stalks. Motorised vehicles. Quarries, sawmills and asbestos
– Irritate the eyes, nose and lungs, damage the respiratory passages and lungs.
Haze can cause conjunctivitis, influenza, asthma and lead to bronchitis. Dust
from sawmills and asbestos factories can cause lung diseases. Haze leads to
reduced visibility. Agriculture –
Smoke particles (soot) deposit o leaves and block stomata which prevents
gaseous exchange. Both lower the photosynthetic rate of plants which
subsequently reduces crop yields. Climate-
Contributes to the formation of haze and smog. Smoke and haze can reduce
visibility. Buildings – Soot darkens
Solution: More efficient burning of fuels in
well- designed furnaces. Stop open burning.