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What is Air Pollution?


All of us are aware about the quality of air. It is getting dirtier day by day. The Air Quality in India is continuously deteriorating due to industrialization, urbanization and application of latest technology.

Air Pollution is the presence of one or more contaminants (like dust, fumes, mist, smoke or vapours) in the outdoor atmosphere in sufficient quantities which threaten to be injurious to human, plant or animal life, or reasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.

  • All of us are aware about the quality of air. It is getting dirtier day by day. The Air Quality in India is continuously deteriorating due to industrialisation, urbanization and application of latest technology. The Air Pollution is increasing at an alarming rate. We must take necessary measures to control it.

  • Air Quality is generally described as a combination of physical and chemical characteristics of Air. The physical characteristics include factors like temperature, density, water content and air movement in the troposphere. The chemical characteristics include concentration of various gases and pollutants.


  1. Oxides of Sulphur are produced by the combustion of coal, burning solid and fossil fuels, industries and transport vehicles. Naturally occurring Volcanos also increase the concentration of these gases.
  2. Oxides of Nitrogen result from combustion of coal, oil and natural gas in power plants, transport vehicles and internal combustion engines. Some natural phenomena like bacterial activity in soil, solar radiations, lightning and forest fires also add to their production.
  3. Carbon Monoxide is produced by the internal combustion of engines, transportation vehicles, forest fires, coal burning, agricultural burning and solid waste disposal.
  4. Carbon dioxide produced from the burning of fuels, transport vehicles and industries has resulted in the increase of carbon dioxide levels of air.
  5. Hydrocarbons result from solid waste, transportation, agricultural burning, forest fires, coal waste fires, incomplete combustion of coal, oil and wood. Some natural sources include swamps, marshes, geothermal areas, natural gas from petroleum fields.
  6. Other sources include Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), lead compounds, asbestos dust, cement dust, pollens and radioactive rays.
  7. Cutting the trees is also a major source of air pollution. The reducing forest cover adversely affects the quality of air.


There have been various disturbing Air Pollution Episodes in the past which we should be aware of.

  1. The first case of air pollution was in the Meuse Valley of Belgium in 1930. Almost 60 persons died in Meuse Valley.
  2. Another case of air pollution was a Killing Smog in Donora, Pennsylvania in 1948 in which hundreds of people died.
  3. A Deadlier Smog in London in 1952, in which about 4000-5000 people died from respiratory failure is another air pollution episode. The mixture of smoke, fog and oxides of sulphur affected London so badly for several centuries after the introduction of coal as a fuel.
  4. The Poza Rica air pollution episode resulted from an industrial accident at a refinery in 1950. About 25 persons died and more than 300 became ill. The accident released a high amount of Hydrogen Sulphide gas which spread over the ground around the refinery and crept into the nearby homes.
  5. Episode-104 which blanketed all or part of 22 states east of Mississippi, with air pollution haze in August, 1969. Several people suffered from respiratory diseases.
  6. A massive hood of stagnant air stretched from Chicago and Milwaukee south to New Orleans and east to Philadelphia, creating dangerous air pollution levels in the area.
  7. Los Angeles in California experienced a serious type of air pollution during 1944, which was characterised by low visibility, eye irritation and plant damage. The pollution resulted due to photochemical smog causing severe cracks in the rubber articles.
  8. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy which took place in India on December 3rd, 1984 is a case of serious air pollution. MIC (Methyl Isocyanate) gas was released accidentally from a Fertilizer Manufacturing Plant of Union Carbide. It caused the death of approximately 3200 persons. This gas causes irritation which may be followed by blindness and various lung diseases causing death.
  9. World’s worst nuclear disaster occurred on 27th April at an Atomic Reactor at Chernobyl in Ukraine Area of Soviet Union, resulting in clouds of radioactive smoke over a large area, causing deaths of thousands of people.

All these episodes are of great concern because they provide evidence by which we can evaluate the effects and gravity of Air Pollution. People should be sensitised about the effects of Air Pollution. Various measures have to be taken to control the air pollution.


tree plantation
  1. The main source of air pollution is automobiles. So, the engines of automobiles should be redesigned in such a way that their emissions cause minimal pollution. The vehicles should be serviced regularly.
  2. The traditional use of wood and coal as fuel should be checked and newly devised smoke free furnaces should be used.
  3. The industries should be strictly dealt with. They should follow the norms laid down by the Pollution Control Boards to control air pollution. The industries should treat their emissions as per specifications before releasing into the atmosphere.
  4. The forest fires need immediate measures as and when it happens.
  5. The use of steam engines by the railways should be stopped or minimised. Electrically operated engines are the best alternative.
  6. The forest cover should be protected. 33% area of land requires to be covered by the forests. The cutting of trees should be controlled. The reforestation i.e. planting more trees shall be promoted. The forests are considered as the lungs of atmosphere. So, forests should be protected.
  7. The Green Belt around the roads, residential areas as well as industries are necessary.
  8. Burning of Crackers on various occasions like marriages, festivals, etc. should be banned and people should be sensitised about the ill effects produced by the burning of crackers.
  9. The stubble burning in agricultural farms need to be controlled.
  10. Plant more trees in your neighbourhood and take proper care of the plants. EACH ONE PLANT ONE should be promoted.

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