Atmospheric Pollution Abstract Air or atmospheric pollution is just one of the many forms of environmental contamination which is brought about by mostly irresponsible human activities that is damaging and spoiling our planet. One particular environmental problem which arises from within atmospheric pollution is the emergence of the phenomenon referred to as urban heat island. The effects of this particular urban air pollution is widespread and impact covers air quality, the health of the populace including the increase in demand of energy, and the infrastructure costs. A community-based sustainability scheme is outlined at the end of the article to emphasize the need for an effective and efficient program which will help reduce the effects of urban heat island which will not require much government, federal and even global support. = = = = = = = = == = = Most planets in our solar system have nothing but sunlight; only our earth has air and water. The presence of sun, air, soil and water guarantees and ensures life on our planet.
A diverse community of plant and animal life has thrived on this planet for millions of years mainly because of the sustenance provided by the sun and supported by the soil, water and air. The air is made up of nitrogen and oxygen, with traces of other gases such as carbon dioxide nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons, plus minute nutrient particles (both solid and liquid), at low concentrations, essential for the sustainable development of ecosystems. But because of many factors (largely of human misuse and exploitation), large and quite harmful quantities in high concentrations of these gases are expelled and dispersed throughout the world’s atmosphere causing damage not only to humans and other living organisms but also to the whole environment (Breuer, 1980).
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When the condition of the atmosphere becomes fatal, authorities refer to it as air pollution and define it as a state of the atmosphere, which leads to the exposure of human beings and/or ecosystems to such high levels or loads of specific compounds or mixtures thereof, that damage is caused (Slanina, 2006).Humans most probably experienced harmful effects from air pollution when they built fires in poorly ventilated caves. Since then, the Earths populace have gone on and continued to pollute the planet. Air pollution results from a variety of causes, not all of which are within human control especially that all compounds (with very few exceptions) which are considered air pollutants have both natural as well as human-made origins. Massive injections of sulfur dioxide, ashes and suspended toxic fumes particulate matter emitted by a large volcanic eruption, wind blown-dust and dust storms in desert areas and smoke from forest, bush and grass fires contribute to chemical and particulate pollution of the air and has been found out to be related to measurable climatic changes and other atmospheric pollution including upper atmosphere ozone depletion acid rain and urban island heat. Records and studies point out to four human progress and developments: increasing traffic, growing cities, rapid economic development, and industrialization as major contributors and factors that aggravated air pollution.
Air pollution problems have dramatically increased in intensity as well as scale due to the increase in manufacturing emissions since the Industrial Revolution. Although the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 19th century saw the beginning of air pollution as we know it today; awareness of this particular issue goes back in medieval times when the burning of coal was forbidden in London while Parliament was in session. The environmental pollution problems have been local and minor for a long time particularly because of the Earth’s own ability to absorb and purify minor quantities of pollutants until recently when the problem has gradually become a global problem. With the fast growing population and progress throughout the world coupled with the industrialization and urbanization which means the immense use of fossil fuels, the problems on air pollution sky-rocketed and seems to continue at a fast growing rate unless methods are adapted to clean up the air. Environmental studies throughout the world ascertained that the problems generated by air pollutions will not just likely to affect the local environs but other places as well. One example is the discovery of pesticides in Antarcticas atmosphere, where they have never been used, suggesting the extent to which aerial transport can carry pollutants from one place to another (Schwela, 2006).
... 2008, two of the worst pollution problems in the world are urban air quality and indoor air pollution. To solve the problem of air pollution, it’s necessary ... ; episodes of ozone air pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, outbreaks of infectious disease, river flooding, and wildfires. All are projected to increase in severity, frequency ...
Another sad and probable circumstance might be the case when the source of pollution may be in one country but the impact of pollution may be felt elsewhere. Urban Heat Island Some forms of air pollution create global problems like upper atmosphere ozone depletion and acid rain including enhanced greenhouse effect requires international solutions and global cooperation. While other forms of air pollution need but the communitys collaborative efforts and cooperative implementation.
Urban air pollution is one of the issues that call for both personal and communal responses. Modernization and progress — industries, vehicles, increase in the population, and urbanization are just some of the major factors responsible for air pollution. In a localized scale, these are the same problems which can be readily addressed by personal commitment and communal efforts. People will often say Ill go out for a breath of fresh air every time one needs to clear his mind but this phrase has become irrelevant in todays world. The quality of air in our cities is anything but fresh. With the increasing modernization and urbanization in most places, a phenomenon where the air and surface temperatures in highly congested metropolitan areas can be 8F to 12?F warmer than the surrounding natural land cover usually occurs; these warmer areas are termed as urban heat islands a.k.a.
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UHI (Oke, 1987 and World Meteorological Organization 1984).
This occurrence usually becomes the established trend in highly populated urban places where natural vegetation is replaced by dark heat-absorbing surfaces such as building roofs and walls, parking lots, and streets. These dark surfaces absorb more heat from the sun and release them slowly into the atmosphere; and because vegetation has been mostly replaced by structures, the area has less shade and cool air. A highly urbanized city’s air temperature profile typically rises from the urban and rural border, and is warmest in dense downtown areas. Urban Heat Island Effects The UHI is an expected and predictable consequence when natural land covers such as tress and other forms of vegetation usually are replaced with pavement, buildings, and other infrastructure to accommodate growing populations. The removal of trees and vegetation minimizes the natural cooling effects of shading and evaporation of water from soil and leaves (evapotranspiration) thus contributing to higher urban temperatures.
Typical and standard building materials generally have a lower albedo (unit-less measurement indicative of the extent to which an object diffusely reflects light) than soil and vegetation; thus buildings, streets and parking lots absorb more solar radiation than the natural surroundings. As a consequence, the increased absorption of solar radiation also contributes tot the citys warmer temperature as compared to the surrounding rural areas. Aside from the inexorable direct effects of urbanization mentioned above, there are also a number of human activities that occur in the city which generate heat as a waste by product. Exhaust gas from vehicles, industrial emissions from power plants, industry heat loss from buildings and numerous heat exhaust dispersed to the atmosphere are just but some of the sources of heat added to the atmosphere which eventually pollutes it. Studies confirm that the additional heat produced in the city tends to make it warmer then surrounding rural areas; thus, producing urban heat islands. The higher temperatures normal and common in urban heat islands increase the demand for cooling energy as well as accelerate the chemical reaction that produces ground-level ozone and the formation of smog. The higher demands for cooling energy will also mean a rise on energy expenditure and an eventual increase in fossil fuel burning which will lead to the raising air pollution levels. Most of the times, the urban heat island also plays a big role in the increasing heat-related illness and mortality in most tropical and sub-tropical metropolitan places.
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Urban Heat Islands Impacts UHI Effects can adversely impact a city’s air quality, public health as well as energy demand, and infrastructure costs. Most prominent of these bad influences are those that affect the quality of air in a particular urban place. The hot air in a high density urban area increases the frequency and intensity of the chemical reaction that produces ground-level ozone (main component in smog).
The demand for increase energy use due to the expanded AC usage also contributes to the deterioration of the quality of air in a community. The need for more energy consumption due to hotter temperature also means an increase in the use of fossil fuels hence a good amount of heat is released to contribute to the ever increasing problems on air pollution. There is a higher risk to public health with the increased in UHI effects. The normal result of UHI prolongs and intensifies heat waves in cities; thus, putting residents and workers alike in an uncomfortable position with the possibility of increased risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
In addition, the high concentrations of ground level ozone (the number one detrimental effect of UHI which forms when pollutants released from gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles and oil-based solvents react with heat and sunlight) does not only contribute to global warming but also aggravate lungs and respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, acute respiratory infections in children, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, throat inflammation, chest pain, congestion and chronic respiratory diseases in adults. These air pollutants once inhaled are also taken up by the blood and pumped all round the body thus putting children and the elderly at particular risk. Existence of ground level ozone also lowers the human resistance to colds and pneumonia. The impact of UHI to the environment is wide-spread and encompassing. While the major impact might be on the health of the populace and their surroundings, there are other aspects of human life, the economic aspect, which can also be affected by the consequences of UHI. A good example of this is the increase on energy expenditure due to the higher demand AC and other energy use.
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Hotter temperature also means specialized building materials which can also mean added expenses. Given the UHI situation, the added economic outlay will never be a luxury since they will help alleviate if not eradicate the discomfort and stress brought about by extremely warm temperature. Evaluation Most environmentalist have focused their efforts on the goals of sustainability— implement practices that do not exceed the environments capacity to support both human and natural communities, now and in the future including issues of soil, air, water, vegetation and energy. But the ways and means of achieving sustainability in urban areas are still being debated, created and tested. Countless of initiatives are being implemented in many American cities in their efforts to achieve sustainability. Most communities use sustainability strategies that include both comprehensive and detailed approaches to achieve their goals (Portney 2001).
The schemes and programs across the country vary in scale depending on the gravity of their own particular urban heat island situation. As a federal support, the US Environmental Protection Agency has developed policy guidance describing how states can “bundle” or group together multiple smaller emission reduction measures as well as other methods to reduce the negative effects of UHI and that which they (the state administrators) believe will be effective in their particular community (EPA, 2007 complete article can be found in http://www.epa.gov/heatisland/strategies/ index.html).
The Proposal The fact of the matter is that the measures which communities can adapt to reduce the negative effects of heat islands are easy and common-sense procedures that are fool-roof and effective. It does not entail any extensive and immense planning and implementation. What it needs is a personal commitment to pursue, support and continue for sustainability. Alleviating Urban Heat Islands is a simple way to decrease the adverse quality air in the community and the risk to public health during heat waves, while at the same time reducing energy use, the emissions that contribute to global warming, and the conditions that cause smog. The challenge is to be able to come up with programs and measures which will be effective as well as sustainable. The procedures are simple although some might need substantial financial resources. There are basically two approaches to minimize the Urban Heat Island effect. The most cost efficient of the two is the strategic planting of trees, shrubs and vines as well as installing green roofs or rooftop gardens. Increasing the cover of trees and vegetation in a city is a simple and effective way to reduce the urban heat island effect.
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Aside from providing direct shading, cooling the air through evapotranspiration, contributing to storm water management, reducing air pollution, and storing as well as sequestering carbon, tress and vegetation also contributes to the beauty, distinctiveness, and material value of communities by incorporating the natural environment into the built environment. Studies report that trees and vegetation can reduce a buildings cooling energy consumption by up to 25% annually (Gorsevski et.al., 1999).
Another complimentary method is the use and installation of specialized building materials which will help mitigate the effects of the UHI phenomenon. The goal is to look for building materials for roofs, walls and pavements which will reflect and not absorb the solar energy and thus reduce heat transfer indoors. Studies show that the urban heat island effect can be counteracted by using white or reflective materials to build houses, pavements, and roads, thus increasing the overall albedo of the city. The use of lighter-colored aggregate in the pavement mix, use of porous materials for paving or covering asphalt pavements with highly reflective seal coats, rock chips, or a thin layer of concrete will decrease the heat absorption as well as increasing the reflectivity of roads and pavements. This can also lessen the number of streetlights required to brighten roadways at night, consequently reducing demand for energy. This approach together with the former will eventually minimize energy consumption and gain substantial energy savings.
Aside from the two major approaches, individuals can also follow these steps and measures to reduce not just the urban heat island phenomenon but also most of air pollution: Switch-off all the lights, AC and fans when not required. If possible, better to share room with others when the AC, cooler or fan is on; Look after the trees in your neighborhood and begin a tree-watch group to ensure that the community will tend and care for them; Burning leaves in your garden will only increase the non-friendly gases on the atmosphere, it will be more beneficial to place them in a compost pit; Make sure that there should be a pollution check for your car at regular intervals. Cars should, as far as possible, be fitted with catalytic converters; Always use unleaded petrol; Whenever possible take your bicycle, use public forms of transport, form a car pool to office and back; and Encourage everyone to walk to the neighborhood market and grocery. The goal is to conserve and save on energy by minimizing its use, look for alternative measures and methods which will support and enhance all environmentally friendly methods. The urban heat island reduction strategies outlined in here will surely benefit individual home and building owners directly, and at that same time enhance the quality and character of neighborhoods. The widespread implementation of these strategies across a community is all that is needed to reduce urban temperatures, energy use, air pollution, and heat-related health impacts.
There is no need for any government, federal or even global support. What is important is the communitys involvement and assurance that they will support, utilize and apply all measures pertaining to the mitigation of urban heat island effects. Reference List Breuer, Georg. 1980. Air in Danger: ecological perspectives of the atmosphere. New York: Cambridge University Press. Environmental Protection Agency.
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