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Air Pollution: Annotated Bibliography

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“Air Pollution.” GEG Project RSS2. GEG Project, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. This informative web article details the process of air pollution. In defining air pollution—when specific compounds in the atmosphere reach a point to which they cause change in the environment—it is observed that large quantities of these pollutants can be harmful. Natural processes such as volcanic eruptions decay of organic matter, and wildfires generate small amounts of air pollution. Humans, however, create far more substantial quantities that have greatly impacted the environment. An increase in outputs of pollution is the cause of acid rain, global warming, and even health risks such as heart disease and stroke. “Air Pollution.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. This web article focuses on two of the most common air pollutants: greenhouse gasses and sulfur dioxide. Greenhouse gasses are the main pollutants causing global warming. The most commonly emitted pollutant of this type is carbon dioxide. It is naturally produced when we breathe but most associated with cars, planes, and power plants.

Methane, another greenhouse gas, is produced by gas emitted from swamps and livestock and causes destruction of the ozone layer. On the other hand, sulfur dioxide (naturally released by volcanic eruptions and the main component of smog), has the opposite effect. Instead of trapping heat, it reflects light and keeps earth cool. Industrialized countries have been working to reduce levels of sulfur dioxide, smog, and smoke in order to improve people’s health. But as a result, not determined until recently, is that the lower sulfur dioxide levels may actually make global warming worse. Fears, Nikki. “Air Pollution in the U.S – Is It Getting Better or Worse?” Bright Hub. Bright Hub Inc., 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. Identifying and listing certain cities in the US, this article discusses whether or not air pollution has gotten better after a 2009 survey that ranked the US as the “largest producer of air pollution” according to hospital admissions for respiratory diseases caused by polluted air. In the short term category, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania was number one on the chart in the top ten cities with the highest level of particle pollution exposure.

Four other California cities followed. In the long-term category, however, Pittsburg placed second while Bakersfield, California placed first—also followed by four other California cities. Similarly, in the top ten cities with the highest level of ozone pollution, Los Angeles, California placed first, followed by five more California cities. Concluding, it is stated that the US has indeed improved, but certain regions seem to be struggling with controlling such control—especially California (“Solutions of Air Pollution”). Fears, Nikki. “Main Types of Pollution: Learn About Air, Water, Soil Pollution As Well as Radioactive Contamination: How Pollution Occurs & How You Can Help Prevent It.” Bright Hub. Bright Hub Inc., 15 Jan. 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. Providing simplified explanations of types of pollution, this web article will be used to present background information on pollution in general. There are four main types of pollution: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, and radioactive pollution.

Air pollution is generally the release of harmful amounts of gases and particulates (in the case of asbestos) into the air. Many of the same contaminants that lead to air pollution can also lead to water pollution through leaking or spilling sources into water or falling back into water through acid rain. Like air and water, soil can also become polluted through contamination of dangerous sources such as heavy metals, pesticides and landfills. Radioactive contamination can affect every aspect of the environment including the air, water, and soil as well as various objects such as buildings and equipment which can retain radiation after massive exposure. It is ceased by nuclear plants, uranium mining, and weapons. Rhinehart Neas, Linda M. “Understanding & Preventing Water & Air Pollution.” Bright Hub. Bright Hub Inc., 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. Though this web article explains prevention of both water and air pollution, only information on air pollution in particular will be used.

Effects of pollution have become increasingly apparent over the past fifty years. Air pollution contributes to a variety of diseases that were never before seen in a general population. According to the U.S. EPA, methane is the second largest source of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and landfills account for 37% of methane gas output. By reducing and recycling properly organic materials, including paper, we can divert them from landfill, and reduce the negative effects of methane gas. Prevention begins with the individual. Learning to become aware of how carelessly we treat the environment and simple steps such as being mindful of what we buy to how we discard waste help create cleaner air and water with a positive “trickle-down effect.” “Understanding the Clean Air Act.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Mar. 2012. A brief history and explanation of the Clean Air Act is presented in this web article.

In October 1948, a deadly occurrence called London’s “killer cloud” lead to the awareness of air pollution. In a matter of five days, a cloud of pollution so thick (that buses had to have guides walk ahead) caused the deaths of 3,000 and illness of 6,000 in a population of 14,000. This alerted the government to the dangers of air pollution and resulted in the Clean Air Act which established funding for the study and the cleanup of air pollution. But there was no comprehensive federal response to address air pollution until Congress passed a much stronger Clean Air Act in 1970. That same year Congress created the EPA and gave it the primary role in carrying out the law. Since 1970, EPA has been responsible for a variety of Clean Air Act programs to reduce air pollution nationwide.

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