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The organic pollution

Effects of air pollution on the environment

Air pollution is the presence of pollutants in air in quantities that can cause health damage to humans, animals, and plants. When gases such as nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulphides and sulphur oxides are released into the atmosphere they can dissolve in the water vapour of clouds and fall as rain. The presence of these pollutants acidifies the water and causes acid rain (Figure 8.5).

Figure 8.5  Acid rain formation

Acid rain usually has a pH of less than 5 and is highly corrosive and damaging, especially to buildings and forests (Figure 8.6). (pH is a measure of acidity and alkalinity on a scale from 0 to 14. pH 7 is neutral; less than 7 is acid; more than 7 is alkaline.)

Figure 8.6  Acid rain due to air pollution kills trees and destroys forests.

8.3  Effects of pollution on human health

Most of this section will focus on the effects of water pollution, but we should not forget air pollution. Air pollutants in the form of dust and soot (particulate matter) and gases such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxides and nitrogen oxides have serious impacts on health. Intense air pollution causes reduced lung function and diseases of the respiratory system such as asthma and bronchitis. Acute respiratory infections are among the leading causes of attendance at outpatient clinics in health centres and hospitals in Addis Ababa (Tiwari, 2012). The direct causal link is difficult to prove, but air pollution from domestic fires and vehicle emissions is a likely contributory factor. We now turn to the significant impacts on health from water pollution.