Air Pollution

Air is contaminated everywhere to some degree with smoke, haze, dust, odors, corrosive _______ and toxic compounds.

  • air pollution is the most widespread environmental damage.
  • 147 million metric tons of air pollution released each year by the _____.
  • the world releases about 2 __________ metric tons a year.
  • air quality has __________ over the past 20 years in developed countries.
  • developing countries however have higher air pollution sometimes ______ times higher than the pollution levels considered safe for human health.

Natural Air pollution:

  • Natural _______-smoke
  • Volcanoes emit ash, acid ________, hydrogen ________ and toxic gases.
  • Sea spray and decaying organics ­ release _________ compounds
  • Trees and bushes- emit volatile __________ compounds
  • Pollen, spores, viruses, bacteria are also air pollution
  • the effects of natural contamination and human contamination can be similiar

Human caused Air pollution:

  • Primary pollutants- released ________ from the source into the air in a harmful form.
  • Secondary pollutants- substance is released into air and THEN later modified into a ____________ form by subsequent chemical reactions. ex. _________________
  • Fugitive emissions- do not go through a smoke stack (most commonly dust from _______ erosion, strip mining, rock crushing, and __________ construction)
  • US Clean Air Act of 1970- ___________ major pollutants for which maximum ambient air (air around us) levels are mandated - ________ _________, ___________ oxides, carbon __________, particulates, metals and halogens, volatile _______ compounds, and photochemical oxidants. They represent the biggest threat to human health- that are regulated anyway!



  • Sulfur Compounds: about 114 million metric tons a year released from all sources. Humans release about _____% of the sulfur in the air in urban areas.
  • Natural sources: sea spray, erosion of sulfate containing dust, fumes from __________.
  • Anthropogenic sources: smelting of metals, paper manufacturing, burning fuel (_______ and oil) containing sulfur­ China and US release the most sulfur because of their great amount of coal and oil burning.
  • Sulfur dioxide effects- directly damaging to plants, animals and our _______. Once in the air it can turn into sulfur trioxide and react to water vapor contributing to acid rain. ______ % acid rain from SOX.
  • Sulfate particles reduce visibility in US 80%


  • Reduction of SOX can be achieved with ____________ and burning low ________ coal.



  • Nitrogen oxides- Total emissions about 230 million tons a year. Humans release about ________% of the nitrogen.
  • Natural sources: lightening, fires, volcanoes and _______ in soil.
  • Anthropogenic sources: formed high temperature fuel burning found in _______ exhaust and electrical power generation (esp. coal)
  • NOX can react with volatile organic compounds and sunlight to create ozone (found in smog).
  • NOX irritiates the lungs, makes smog, is a potent greenhouse gas, suppresses plant growth, and makes acid rain. ______% acid rain from NOX.


  • Reduction of NOX can be achieved with _________ converter.

This is why I am hot!


  • Carbon _________ is causing global warming: about 3 billion tons accumulate in the atmosphere a year. (not regulated in US)
  • Carbon __________: colorless, highly toxic gas. Produced by incomplete combustion (partial oxidation) of _________. 1 billon metric tons released into atmosphere each year, half of that by humans (internal combustion engines)
  • Carbon monoxide binds with blood's hemoglobin displacing oxygen. Can be deadly.
  • Reduction with a catalytic converter, mass transit and higher emission laws


_______________ MATERIAL:

  • Particulate material: really small are particles with a diameter 1/7 the size of human hair such as diesel soot, pollen, leaf mildew, cigarette smoke, lead and asbestos.
  • Can be natural: dust, volcanic ash can also be suspended in the air.
  • Con: Limits visibility, irritates and damages lungs
    • Can be a mutagen, teratogen or a carcinogen.
  • Can be reduced by electrostatic precipitators (a filter on smoke stacks)



  • Lead emissions are about 2 millions tons a year, ____ of all metallic air pollution. Most of the lead is from leaded gasoline. (About _____% of inner city children suffer from some kind of mental retardation because of lead poisoning from peeling lead paint but this is NOT air pollution.)
  • Mercury: sources: _______ burning power plants and waste __________.
  • ______________ in aquatic ecosystems- making it dangerous to eat fish high on the food chain
  • More toxic metals: nickel, beryllium, cadium, thallium, uranium, cesium, plutonium, arsenic.
  • Radon- radioactive uranium decays in bedrock and causes cancer of the lung.
  • Can be reduced by strict emission laws


VOLATILE ______________ COMPOUNDS: (VOC's)

  • Largest catagory of regulated air toxins- over 600.
  • Organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure so it exists as gases in air
  • __________ are the largest source.
  • Volatile hydrocarbons are oxidized into CO and CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • Examples include benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, chloroform and other chemicals are released into the air by human activities through mainly unburned or partially burned hydrocarbons (oil) from transportation. Also caused by power plants, oil refineries, oil based paint, aerosol sprays, cheap 70's furniture and carpets, dry cleaning solvents.
  • Causes asthma, respiratory disease, cancer, liver, kidney, and nervous system damage.



  • Also known as smog!
  • Products of secondary atmospheric reations driven by the _______.
  • PAN (peroxyacetyl nitrate) is a particularly nasty photochemical oxidant.
    • Formed from the reaction of hydrocarbons combining with oxygen and nitrogen dioxide catalyzed by sunlight.
    • At only a few parts per billion, it causes eye irritation and at higher concentration it causes major damage to plants.
  • Creates smog and ozone which damages buildings, vegetation, eyes and lungs.
    • Ozone is formed from sunlight reacting with nitrogen oxides and volatile compounds.
    • Damages plants, rubber and plastics.
  • Formulas:



Most common units are parts per million which means one particule of pollutant for every 999,999 particules of air. The symbol is __________.

Environmental Scorecard- How does Ulster County rate?



It has been found that indoor concentration of toxic pollutants are often higher than outdoors.

___________ is the most severe air pollutant. 400,000 people die each year from Emphysema, heart attacks, lung cancer, strokes, and other diseases caused by smoking. (20% of all mortality in US)

Leading cause of death for women since of advertising campaigns began in the '50's

These deaths cause us $100 billion a year; eliminating smoking would save more lives than _____ ________ pollution control.

Concentration of _________, carbon tetrachloride, _______________, and strene has been found to be 70 times higher in indoor air than outdoor air. Yikes!

Less developed countries burn wood and coal for ________ and heat- because of poor ventilation and cooking fires there is a large amount of indoor air pollution. ­ __________ and children are most effected.

Levels of carbon monoxide, particulates, aldehydes and toxic chemicals can be ________ times greater than the safe outdoor concentrations in US


Sick Building:

A building in which a number of people experience adverse health effects related to the ________ spent in the building. These symptoms disappear when they go outside. Common symptoms of sick building syndrome include asthma, headaches, breathing disorders or worse.

Up to a third of new buildings worldwide may be linked to symptoms of sick building syndrome.

Common pollutants include molds, bacteria, radon, asbestos, formaldehyde and VOCs from carpets, adhesives and particleboard.



Temperature inversions: occur when a stable layer of _________ air overlays _________ air, reversing the normal temperature decline with increasing height and preventing convection currents from dispersing pollutants. Therefore smog is trapped near the ground.

Can occur (mostly at night) when:

  • a ______ air mass slides under an adjacent warmer air mass -or-
  • ______ air moves down a mountain slope to displace warmer air in the valley below.

Long range transport:

Many pollutants can be carried long distances by the _______ currents.

Some of the most toxic and corrosive materials brought by long range transport are ___________ pollutants.

Areas considered the cleanest in the world still have pollutants in the air. :( Grasshopper Effect


Effects of air pollution:

50,000 Americans die prematurely because of illnesses related to air pollution. (A ____-____ year decrease in life span!)
____________: persistent inflammation of bronchi and bronchioles that causes mucus build up, painful cough, and involuntary muscle spasms that constrict airways.

Bronchitis can lead to ___________- an irreversible obstructive lung disease in which airways become permanently constricted and alveoli are damaged or even destroyed.

_________ is the leading cause of both these diseases.

Before air pollution was regulated thousands of people at a time were hopitalized for severe air poisoning from caustic smog from steel factories.


Acid Rain

Normal pH of rain is about ___.6. Anything less is acid rain.

Acid rain can be wet as in rain, fog and snow or dry such as gases and particles. Half of the acidity in the atmosphere falls back as dry deposition. This deposit can then wash into streams and lakes making them even more acidic than just rain alone might.

Acid shock occurs when snow melts each spring which contains dry deposition. As a result lakes and streams can become 5-10 times more acidic.

Aquatic effects: acid in water effects fish- to protect their ________ fish produce a mucus lining over their _______ and eventually suffocate themselves.

Kills all life in lakes and other aquatic ecosystems at a pH of ______. New Paltz rain is a pH of _____

Forest damage:- seedling production, tree density, and viability of _______-fir trees at high elevations have declined about ________% because of air pollution in the form of acid mist and snow. Acid rain also leaches essential plant nutrients such as Ca, K and Mg out of the soil, while mobilizing heavy metals such as Pb, Cd and Hg from the bedrock into the soil.

Buildings and statues are damaged if made of limestone or marble

__________ ­ has been reduced greatly. Even National Parks are effected by air pollution.


Heat Island Effect

Urban areas have so much concrete, roads and other infrastructure that it unnaturally holds heat. Lack of vegetation also increases temperatures. This causes these areas to be as much as 10 degrees ______ than usual! It is like a localized greenhouse effect.

As many as 1,000 people die a year due to excessive heat. What can be done?



Noise Pollution

  • Unwanted __________ from industry and transportation disrupts sleeping, conversation and the quality of one's life. It can create hearing loss, hypertension and _________.
  • Constant and/or high decibel levels of noise exposure are the worst. The decibel scale is logarithmic. At 45 decibels people can't sleep. Hearing damage begins at 85 decibels. The most common hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear called sensory hearing loss.
  • Too much noise can also lead to hypertension, high blood pressure and intestinal problems.
  • Control: Noise ________, speed limits and alteration of texture of highway or tires. Aircraft noise can be reduced with quieter engines.
  • The EPA no longer effectively controls noise pollution instead it is left to the state or __________ to address.


Stratospheric Ozone:

The stratospheric ozone contains 97% of the ozone on Earth.

The ozone is formed in the stratosphere when UV light hits O__ and breaks up into O and O. Then one the Os join with the O__ and O__ is born. Naturally the ozone fluxuates in size with a thicker ozone in our spring and a thinner ozone in our fall.

It was discovered in 1985 that the ozone levels in the ______________ over the South Pole were dropping 3% a year. The ozone has decreased ________ since 1970.

Causes of the Ozone Depletion

________'s (Chlorofluorocarbons) are suspected to be the major cause of ozone loss. ­ known as Freon. When discovered they were regarded as nontoxic, nonflammable and cheaply produced. But because they are so stable they remain in atmosphere for __________. When they are diffused into the stratosphere they release chlorine atoms which destroy the ozone.

One chlorine atom can distroy ___________ ozone molecules.





Bromine (fire extinguishers), flourine and iodine also decrease the ozone.

Effects of Ozone Depletion

This is dangerous because ozone filters out _______ light and without it organisms would be exposed to life threatening radiation.

Increased UV cause:

  • skin _________
  • cataracts
  • reduction in _______
  • reduction in phytoplankton
  • __________ change

CFC's have been banned by the Montreal Protocol Treaty. Old refrigerators and aerosol cans are still leaking ozone into the atmosphere from landfills but this is one air pollution issue that we should see reduced.


Global Warming

Officially called Climate Change by our government- doesn't sound as scary. May be now be more accurately called Climate Instability.

  • The burning of ______ ______ creates greenhouse gases- especially ______ _______.
  • Since 1800 we've gone from 280 ppm to _______ ppm of CO2. (Prehistoric data is obtained by sampling the air bubbles trapped deep inside ice sheets.)
  • Other gases implicated in global warming are water vapor, methane- mooo! (CH4), N20 (laughing gas) and sulfur hexafluoride.
  • The massive deforestation around the planet also adds to the greenhouse effect because our natural carbon dioxide sinks are compromised... ok, dead.

These greenhouse gases trap infrared heat energy trying to exit the planet and the Earth is heated up- already we've noticed a ______ degree F change. That doesn't sound like much but it only took a reduction of _____ degrees to trigger an ice age. Scientists think that even a 2 degree Celius increase in temperature will cause floods, droughts and extreme weather events.

2011 was one of the most extreme weather years in history and 2016 was the hottest.

Effects of Global Warming include:

  • Glaciers melting and huge icebergs calving off ______ ______. The Arctic sea is now _____% thinner. Many alpine glaciers are shrinking quickly or melting altogether. (Communities at the foothills of glaciers may run out of drinking water).
  • Creates sea level rise (____ inches projected in next 100 years). If all of the glaciers/ice sheets melted the sea level would rise _______ feet. (The oceans would rise from thermal expansion as well).
  • Drought/ fires are more common due to changes in weather patterns.
  • Crop failure- US _______ basket is now moving to Canada- only problem is that the soil is thin and not particularly fertile.
  • More ________ disease will spread due to more tropical areas- malaria is coming- agghhh!
  • Extreme weather- contrary to popular misconception- winters get more ferocious and of course summers get hotter.
  • Coral reefs are being "_________" by the hotter temperatures. That means that the algae that lives commensually on the coral is dying. It is projected that the reefs have ______ years left... poor Nemo!
  • Extinctions and migrations- animals and plants are changing location. Some can't migrate fast enough to out pace environmental changes. Some questions to ponder:
    • How does this climate change compare with migrations due to periods of glaciation?
    • What types of animals are being forced to migrate due to climate shifts?
    • How is plant life changing on the plant?



_________ Protocol

In 1997, 162 countries gathered together in Japan to figure out how to slow global warming. EVERY COUNTRY agreed to limit their carbon dioxide production and signed a treaty to that effect, except for the ______ and ___________. It really shocked and disturbed the world, especially when George Bush senior said, "We are going to put the interests of our own country first and foremost" and "The American _________ is not up for negotiation." We tried really hard to create a "carbon credit" for polluting the air with CO2 in exchange for having a fair amount of land forested, but the countries won't go for it. The US produces ______% of the world CO2, and yet has less than____% of the world's population.The Bush administration responded to environmentalists' pressure by pledging lots of money to investigate the NATURAL causes of global warming (okay volcanoes DO make CO2... ).

Many people argue that historically we've seen massive fluctuations in temperature on the Earth, but the point is that the present _______ of temperature change is unprecedented, and inconveniently coincides with human-caused increases in _______ levels... The plot thickens.

Why isn't America taking Climate change more seriously? Maybe Trend and Variation has something to do with it?

Scientists are 95-100% certain that global warming is caused by man.

Recent Climate Change talks in Durban, South Africa did not result in a binding world agreement to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

Climate Change Special

Extreme Ice: Nova