Natural Causes Of Air Pollution

Wondering about the natural causes of air pollution?

Air pollution means the introduction of materials that can cause harm into the air. These materials are known as pollutants, and could be foreign substances, such as man-made chemicals like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or they could be naturally occurring substances that become pollutants when found in excessive quantities, for example carbon dioxide.

Two significant natural causes of air pollution are volcanic eruptions and forest fires.


Air pollution from Volcanoes

One of the most important natural causes of air pollution is volcanic eruption.

The most problematic gases emitted in a volcanic eruption include sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen fluoride.

In nearby places, sulfur dioxide gas can cause acid rain in nearby places and air pollution in downwind areas from the volcanic site.

Besides the volcanic gases, there is also volcanic ash. Volcanic ash can move hundreds to thousands of miles downwind from a volcano. Fresh volcanic ash is gritty, rough, and at times corrosive. The ash can cause respiratory problems for young children, the elderly or those already with respiratory ailments.

Volcanic eruptions can generate so much polluting gases and ash into the air that the sun’s rays could be blocked, and land temperature in the affected area lowered, as with the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.


Air pollution from Forest Fires

All forest fires emit carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter.

Carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas, can be emitted in large amounts during forest fires.

Particulates, which are mixtures of soot, tars, and volatile organic substances, either solid or liquid, are emitted in large quantities from forest fires. The particulates, which can be smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, if deeply inhaled into the lungs, can damage lung tissues and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Nitrogen oxides are released at temperatures greater than 1,500 degree centigrade. Therefore nitrogen oxides are released in significant quantities only during the most severe fires.

Sulfur dioxide emissions are significantly less serious with forest fires, as concentration of the dioxide in most forest fuels is usually less than 0.2 percent. However, forest fire sites with "peat" and "muck soil" may be exceptions.

There are many other air pollution causes like wind erosion, pollen dispersal, evaporation of organic compounds, and natural radioactivity. However, these causes are usually not significant.

Although there is no doubt that the impact of natural causes for air pollution can sometimes be drastic, take for example volcanic eruptions, but they are usually not frequent. Rather, the more significant air pollution causes are in fact caused by human activities, such as through the combustion of fuel by vehicles and power stations, waste incineration, etc. In other words, we have mainly ourselves to blame for our dirty air!


Most appalling air pollution scenes

If you have ever witnessed air pollution scenes that are either disturbing or heart-wrenching, share photos of these pollution scenes with our readers, so that the photos may open the eyes of those who are still unmoved about the environmental problems of the world today.


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