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Air pollution is any practice which releases substances into the atmosphere that have damaging effects on living things and the environment. Dirt, dust, various harmful gases and industrial emissions are all air pollutants. Air pollution is a major concern in the 21st century, and many concerns have been voiced about its negative effects on the environment, and particularly the rapid development of global warming.

Types of air pollution

Despite the fact that persons usually associate air pollution with smog, acid rain and CFC's, all types of outdoor air pollution, there are also types of indoor air pollution. While the two types of pollution have different sets of properties, they both have the potential to cause harm to the planet and its inhabitants.

Outdoor air pollution
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Outdoor air pollution is associated with large scale activities that tend to have a significant impact on the planet's atmosphere; automobile exhaust and the emissions from factories fall into this category. One major consequence of outdoor air pollution that has often been highlighted is the greenhouse effect, or global warming. Carbon dioxide is produced when fuels are burned. Plants convert carbon dioxide back to oxygen, but the release of carbon dioxide from human activities is higher than the world's plants can process. The situation is made worse since many of the earth's forests are being removed, and plant life is being damaged by acid rain. Thus, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is continuing to increase. This buildup acts like a blanket and traps heat close to the surface of our earth. This heat will cause temperatures around the world to increase, and if this goes unchecked, eventually the polar ice caps will melt and the world's weather systems will be thrown into turmoil.

Indoor air pollution

There are many sources of indoor air pollution. Tobacco smoke, cooking and heating appliances, and vapors from building materials, paints, furniture, etc. cause pollution inside buildings. These sources of pollution do not affect as many individuals at one time as do sources of outdoor air pollution. However, their potential for causing harm to living beings is no less. In fact, depending on which country of the world a person resides in, their chances of exposure to indoor air pollution are much higher than their chances of similar exposure to air pollution outdoors.

Prevention of Air Pollution

In many countries in the world, steps are being taken to stop the damage to our environment from air pollution. Scientific groups study the damaging effects on plant, animal and human life. Legislative bodies write laws to control emissions. Educators in schools and universities teach students, beginning at very young ages, about the effects of air pollution. The key initiative must be to reduce harmful emissions, as well as exposure to existing pollutants. These objectives can be accomplished by:

  • Changing fuel sources to those with less environmentally damaging emissions.
  • Establishing and enforcing controls on pollution emissions for transportation vehicles and industry.
  • Paying more careful attention to our personal activity (lighting of fires, smoking indoors, the materials used in construction).