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Primary pollutants are released into the environment by vehicles, industry and natural environments.
Industry Related Vehicle Related Natural Processes
Sulfur Dioxide Hydrocarbons Sulfur Oxides
Nitrogen Dioxide Nitric Oxide Carbon Dioxide
Carbon Monoxide Carbon Monoxide Volcanic Dust
Hydrogen Sulfide Smoke
Secondary pollutants form when primary pollutants react in the atmosphere, such as the presence of direct sunlight. These secondary pollutants are ozone, nitric acid, peroxyacyl nitrates and toxic organic compounds such as formaldehyde. It is the mixture of these primary and secondary pollutants that form photochemical smog. Photochemical smog is more prolific in warmer climates with areas of modern industry and a number of automobiles.
Smog isn’t a major issue in Australia but in larger cities and developing countries where pollution levels are much higher smog is an everyday occurrence. Due to large populations these smog affected cities release a large sum of primary pollutants, which react with the atmosphere and in particular ultra violet light. The chemical reaction between the primary pollutants and ultraviolet light, results in secondary pollutants resulting in the formation of Photochemical Smog.
Toxic Chemicals within Photochemical Smog Sources of Chemicals
(Human Activities) Environmental Effects
(NO and NO2) -Combustion of oil, coal, gas in automobile and industry
-Forest Fires - Decreased visibility due to yellowish colour of NO2
- Contributes to lung issues
- Suppresses plant growth
- Decrease resistance to infection
- Encourages the spread of cancer
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) - Evaporation of Solvents
- Evaporation of Fuels
- Incomplete combustion of fossil fuels - Eye irritation
- Respiratory irritation
- Some are carcinogenic
- Decreased visibility due to blue and brown haze
Ozone (O3) - Formed from photolysis of NO2 - Decreases crop yields
- Retards plant growth
- Damages plastics
- Breaks down rubber
- Harsh Odor
- Respiratory Irritation
Peroxyacetyl Nitrates (PAN) - Forms by the reaction of NO2 and VOCs - High toxicity to plants
- Damaging to proteins
- Respiratory Irritation
- Eye Irritation
Photochemical Smog is a major contributor of air pollution. Photochemical Smog has been linked to many negative health conditions; in particular respiratory conditions. These health conditions aren’t only linked to humans but also plants and animals.
• Smog has been responsible for loss of lung capacity and lung elasticity in humans and animals exposed to photochemical smog.
• In plants ozone, a secondary pollutant is responsible for the damage of leaf tissue greatly affecting the ability for that plant to grow and thrive.
• Smog doesn’t only affect living things but also effects synthetic products. With low-level exposure for only a month smog can crack rubber and with continued exposure can cause complete disintegration.
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Photochemical smog is a serious environmental concern, and it poses a health problem to people living in many urban ecosystems around the world. In fact, sometimes levels of ozone, a major component of smog, are so high that school children in Los Angeles, California, are kept from going outside for recess because of the potential health risks.
Limiting those processes that create it can decrease smog. By reducing the particulates in the air you are reducing smog levels.
In Denver, Colorado, the second most polluted city in the United States following Los Angeles, several innovative measures have been trialed in an attempt to decrease smog levels. The government has requested that people not drive to work at least one day a week to reduce emissions produced by vehicles, the city encourages the use of oxygenated fuels and experimented with fuels that released less primary pollutants and therefore less smog. All these propositions where put forward as an effort to reduce the number of emissions being released into the atmosphere.
On the other side of the world, in China, where rather than cutting air pollution Chinas leaders have been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth, pollution is so bad in the major cities they are coming up with radical ideas to reducing smog. These ideas involve artificial rain and a giant vacuum, which would be designed to suck the smog up. Some companies have even developed a bicycle that purifies air as you pedal. A Dutch artist is even going as far as having designed and tested a giant electrostatic vacuum cleaner, which uses electrified wire to attract smog particles. This online video demonstrates the concept, which cuts small circles in the cities smog blanket to reveal blue sky and shining sun.