heaLth, environmentaL, anD cLimate imPacts
Air pollution can affect our health in many ways. Numerous scientific studies have linked air pollution to a variety of health problems including: (1) aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease; (2) decreased lung function; (3) increased frequency and severity of respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coughing; (4) increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; (5) effects on the nervous system, including the brain, such as IQ loss and impacts on learning, memory, and behavior; (6) cancer; and (7) premature death. Some sensitive individuals appear to be at greater risk for air pollution-related health ...view middle of the document...
Acid deposition can be a very serious regional problem, particularly in areas downwind from high SO2- and NOx-emitting sources (e.g., coal burning power plants, smelters, and factories). Acid deposition can have many harmful ecological effects in both land and water systems. While acid deposition can damage tree foliage directly, it more commonly stresses trees by
Our Nation’s Air
changing the chemical and physical characteristics of the soil. In lakes, acid deposition can kill fish and other aquatic life. Air pollution can also impact the Earth’s climate. Different types of pollutants affect the climate in different ways, depending on their specific properties and the amount of time they stay in the atmosphere. Any pollutant that affects the Earth’s energy balance is known as a “climate forcer.” Some climate forcers absorb energy and lead to climate warming, while others reflect the sun’s rays and prevent that energy from reaching the Earth’s surface, leading to climate cooling. Climate forcers can either be gases or aerosols (solid or liquid droplets suspended in the air) and include many traditional air pollutants, such as ozone and different types of particle pollution.
Greenhouse gas (GHG): A gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. The principal greenhouse gases affected by human activities are: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone, and fluorinated gases (hydrofluorocarbons [HFCs], perfluorocarbons [PFCs], and sulfur hexafluoride [SF6]). Climate forcing pollutant: Any pollutant that affects the Earth’s energy balance, including GHGs and aerosols. These pollutants are also called “radiative forcers.” Some climate forcers absorb energy and warm the atmosphere (positive radiative forcing), while others cool it by reflecting sunlight back into space (negative radiative forcing).
Under normal conditions, most of the solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is radiated back toward space. However, atmospheric greenhouse gases—like CO2 , CH4 , and ozone—can trap this energy and prevent the heat from escaping, somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are necessary to life as we know it because they keep the planet’s surface warmer than it would otherwise be. However, as the concentrations of these gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, largely due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil, the Earth’s
health, environmental, and climate effects of air Pollution
Pollutant health effects
Decreases lung function and causes respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath; aggravates asthma and other lung diseases leading to increased medication use, hospital admissions, emergency department (ED) visits, and premature mortality.
environmental and climate effects
Damages vegetation by visibly injuring leaves, reducing photosynthesis, impairing reproduction and growth, and decreasing crop yields. Ozone damage to plants may alter...