It was not yet realized by the public the seriousness of the environmental problems we face if not for the issue on global warming. Dozens of organizations, many of them with international memberships, are now working on everything from saving wildlife to developing new sources of energy. But pollution, energy consumption and economic growth are independent problems. Effective programs for dealing with one of them often aggravate the others. For example, devices that clean automobile exhaust and reduce air pollution also decreases fuel economy, thereby using up our limited reserves more rapidly. Similarly, banning the burning of household trash reduces air pollution but increases environmental pollution, as land, animals and scenery are sacrificed for strip mines and oil wells, and the wastes produced by the fuel are dumped into the environment. On the other hand, ignoring the need for more energy retards the economy, thereby increasing unemployment and possibly reducing food production.
Nature is fighting back against the abuses we have inflicted upon it! Due to human carelessness that damaged the environment, many communities are now suffering from environmental crises. The air that you breathe contains gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide in certain amounts. But many people live in areas where the air contains pollutants that are harmful to their health. Air pollution is a common problem in congested and urban areas (The Washington Times 2006, p.26). Food, air and water needed for life’s processes which the environment provides unfortunately contain harmful substances called pollutants. The presence of air, water and soil in the environment is of waste materials or pollutants which the environment cannot handle, degrade, disperse or diffuse so that it becomes unclean and unhealthy is called pollution (Colla 2002, p.125). There are four general types of pollution, namely:
1. Air Pollution – It is an undesirable change in the physical and chemical characteristics of air. Industrial plants, motor vehicles, indiscriminate throwing and burning of refuse everywhere make the air polluted. Cigarette smoking contributes to air pollution, most especially in enclosed places. Foul smell from waste and methane gas emitted through the combustion of refuse contributes to the problem of air pollution (Kemp1994, p.23).
Prolonged exposure to air pollution may cause/aggravate respiratory and other diseases as well as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
2. Water Pollution – this results when water contains more harmful substances such as harmful bacteria and poisonous chemicals, than it can naturally get rid of. The dumping of domestic and industrial wastes into the rivers, canals, and other water bodies causes pollutants to be introduced into waterways. Frequent flooding which carry topsoil and sewage into the water supplies pollute the water, too. Sugar mills, distillers and mining firms without proper waste disposal systems are among the principal polluters of the nation’s waterways. Soap and water detergents produce enormous persistent layers of suds on the surface of receding waters.
Substances such as harmful bacteria and poisonous chemicals are likely to cause gastro-intestinal diseases, cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, infectious hepatitis, food poisoning and even death.
Mercury in sea water is absorbed by tiny plants that provide food for small fish, which is eaten by a larger fish. When they are eaten by men, mercury is deposited in the kidneys and brain which may cause death when accumulated (Kemp 1994, p.23).
3. Land Pollution – This takes place when harmful substances are introduced into the soil making it unable to sustain plant life. Dumping areas are breeding places of disease carriers such as flies, rodents, mosquitoes and cockroaches.
Uses of excessive amounts of fertilizer, pesticides and other toxic chemicals can destroy the ability of the soil to self-generate. They deplete the nutrients, harden the texture, and increase toxicity, making the soil less productive.
Other causes of land pollution are atomic fallouts and mine tailings which poison agricultural lands. Toxic residues from the accumulation of chemicals in the land can cause cancer and other diseases (Kemp 1994, p.24).
4. Noise Pollution (Persistent noise) – This refers to the presence of too loud, too sudden or very unpleasant sound that becomes an assault to the body causing mental or physical harm. The roaring of motor vehicles, grating sound of jackhammer, squeaking of tires, screeching brakes, blaring television sets, radios and stereos and even loud shouting are some types of dangerous noises when one is continuously exposed to them. Noise pollution affects not only the ears but also directly or indirectly impairs the mind and the whole body. Directly, it can cause deafness; indirectly, it may lead to increased heart beat and high blood pressure that eventually cause cardiovascular disease (Kemp 1994, p.24).
Most pollution is caused by man, pollutants will increase as population grows, and hence, minimizing the production of pollutants and managing its proper disposal must be the goal of every human being.
But the air pollution must be given extra attention by the government, society and each individual to protect people from this environmental danger, not only for ourselves but for future generations.
Air Pollution, Environmental Hazard
There are five basic pollutants of air are carbon monoxide, sulfur oxide, hydrocarbons (organic compounds made up of hydrogen and carbon) and small particles that float in the air (Jordan 2005, p.12-20).
Sources of Air Pollution
1. Automobile exhausts
The poisonous carbon monoxide in the air comes from automobiles. Nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons are also produced as by-products of engine combustion. The more vehicles there are on the road, the greater is the possibility of pollution. Unleaded gasoline and some anti-pollution automobile parts cut down the amount of pollutants in the air. But transportation vehicles are still a major cause of air pollution.
Industries are responsible for the second largest amount of pollution in the air, next only to vehicles. Fuels that are used in some industries may give off large amounts of sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and harmful particles of dust and ash. Sulfur oxide is made when fuels containing sulfur like coal are burned. Certain industrial processes may give off more of one pollutant than another. This depends on the kind of fuel used and the product that is being made.
People pollute the air in many ways. Each time a person smokes a cigar/cigarette, the air is being polluted when he burns trash, air pollution is increased. More pollution is added when he uses wood for cooking or to keep warm during the cold months or cool during the hot months.
Effects of Air Pollution
1. Respiratory disorders
If you have breathed polluted air, the eyes may water, the nose may run and a cough may develop. Serious illnesses are likely to happen to people long exposed to polluted air. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer are common in air polluted areas. Cigarette smoking is closely related to the development of long cancer. Heart diseases, especially heart attacks occur more in places where there is a high level of carbon monoxide in the air.
Vehicle accidents happen more often in places where air is polluted. These accidents may be caused by poor visibility in the polluted air. Or they may be caused by increased exposure to carbon monoxide. People with watery eyes, headaches and breathing problems often find it hard to drive in air polluted areas.
2. High economic cost
The government may spend billions of pesos per year to control air pollution. However, little has been done by the government to control air pollution due to the struggling economy and the low economic growth. The United States spends around 4o billion dollars a year to control air pollution. The cost of air pollution is about 200 dollars per year for each person.
Air pollution can also add to the rusting and corrosion of vehicles and machinery. Even farm crops may be harmed or stunted in growth by air pollution.
There is a way out of this trap. In a word, it is sacrifice. The fact that there is no way both to clean up the environment and conserve natural resources without changing the life-style of people in the industrialized nations. The challenge is that of motivating people to make the necessary changes now, before a worldwide disaster forces much more difficult adjustments upon us.
Preventing of Air Pollution
Everyone needs to care more about the problem of air pollution. Car exhausts and air conditioning systems can be checked at regular times and kept in good working condition. Air conditioners, if not working properly, may give off harmful hydrocarbons. Vehicles should not be allowed to idle for more than a few minutes because idling lets carbon monoxide escape in the sir. Use of public transportation would also lower the number of vehicles on the road and in return would also lower air pollution. Strict laws on transportation and industry must be enforced.
Instead of burning trash, it should be allowed to decompose in pits. The decomposed materials can be utilized as fertilizer for plants and at the same time minimizes smoke in the air. Stricter laws on cigarette smoking should also be enforced. The end result of this is lesser lung and heart ailments and cleaner atmosphere (Cline 1992, p.35-37).
The real problem comes from the wealth the power of the opponents of environmental protection. On the local level, environmentalist face rich land developers who can make large campaign contributions to the politicians who decide what land may or may not be developed. At higher levels of government, environmentalists face even more powerful foes: multinational corporations that stand to make big profits from despoiling the environment. Included here are some of the most powerful corporations in the world, such as petroleum and mineral companies that want to sink wells and mines in fragile wilderness areas, the manufacturers that spew pollutants into the air and water, and the firms that sell products such as polluting automobiles and unsafe pesticides. Such corporations have spent hundreds of million dollars to persuade the government not to outlaw their destructive activities (Diehl, p.20-21). The environmentalists and the concerned public simply do not have that kind of money.
If we are to preserve the natural environment for ourselves and the generations to come, two things must be done. First, a stronger educational campaign must be launched to make more people aware of environmental problems. Second, more ordinary citizens must join together and become involved in the political action necessary to strengthen anti-pollution laws, increase the enforcement effort, and protect our natural resources.
There is no doubt that our existing resources can be used far more efficiently. It is possible for a large-scale, multiple-stage recycling program to be introduced in imitation of natural ecosystems. To take a simple example, garbage could be used as fuel to run the mills to make recycled paper, the wastes from which could be burned as fuel. Similarly, it is possible that community water districts will some day become closed systems, meaning that the water would be used again and again, never being discharged into an ocean or river. Some factories already have such closed systems (Sarewitz 2000, p.55). It is possible to envision larger closed systems designed so that no industrial material would ever be discarded as either waste or pollution.
Energy conservation can also stretch our natural resources. Insulating homes, driving smaller cars at slower speeds, riding trains and buses instead of driving cars, recycling the heat used in factories, and restricting the manufacture of energy-wasting gadgets are obvious ways of eliminating waste. The immediate task is not to develop technologies that are more energy sufficient; the challenge is to find ways or persuading people to use the conservation measures that are already available.
A growing number of scientists and concerned citizens are coming to see solar system as the best answer to the world’s energy problems. Solar power units use the endless supply of energy from the sun, are nonpolluting, and pose no threat of radiation or explosion. Other promising approaches use specially prepared ponds of water to trap solar energy or mirrors to concentrate it on a single location, where it can be used to generate electrical power (Tennesen 2004, p.85).
Technological solutions are attractive, but it is doubtful that they alone can resolve the environmental crisis. It is often argued that industrial growth is necessary to create new jobs for a growing population. The argument that economic growth is necessary to eliminate poverty and create a more egalitarian society is also misleading. Despite decades of rapid economic growth, the industrialized nations continue to show enormous inequalities of wealth and power (1991, p.12).
The environmental crisis does not mean everyone should return to hunting and gathering; the world’s current population is too large to even consider such an idea. Keeping a clean environment is the responsibility of the government, society and each individual. Today, air pollution must be given extra attention to protect people from this environmental danger. All of us must have aknowledge of this environmental menace. The young generations today, like us, crave for the total preservation of our natural resources, earnestly begging to put an end to wastage and preserve the natural wealth intended by our Mother Earth for the future.
Yes, there is still gleaming hope to save our Mother Earth from total destruction. There is still a chance to regain the lost paradise we unscrupulously abused. We must do our part to make this world a safer place to live in, not just for ourselves and our neighbors but our future generations. The will to dynamic implementation to this urgent call lies in your strong and sustainable support, giving once more Mother Earth a chance to care for our lives now and in the future generations.