How does air pollution affect the environment?


Quick Answer

Air pollution affects the environment by causing acid rain, reducing visibility, damaging plants and animals, and contributing to climate change. It has a negative effect on biodiversity and the survival of species. Air pollution is caused by both particulate and gaseous pollutants.

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Full Answer

Toxic air pollutants, such as sulfates, nitrates, dust, lead and mercury, accumulate in the food chain and harm plant and animal species. These pollutants emanate from industries, power plants and pesticide applications.

Acid rain is formed when nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide react with oxygen and water in air to form acidic compounds. These compounds acidify streams, lakes and the soil, causing chemical alteration and damage to the ecosystem. Acid rain also corrodes buildings and other materials.

Air pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and methane, cause climate change by depleting the ozone layer, leading to increased amounts of ultraviolet radiation on the Earth’s surface. Excessive heat causes damage to crops and diseases, such as cataracts and skin cancer, in humans.

Greenhouse gases are released from fossil fuels, such as natural gas and gasoline. Particulate pollutants in smoke and smog are the cause of loss of visibility in areas with high levels of air pollution. Air pollution also emanates from natural sources, such as volcanic activity, dust storms and forest fires.

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