Developing Pressure Indicators for Europe
Edited by Anil Markandya and Nick Dale
4. Air pollution and acidiﬁcation D. Guinnup and C. Sansevero 1. INTRODUCTION – HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF EIGHT POLLUTANTS Air pollution can induce a variety of adverse health effects in human beings and damage the natural environment by attacking plants, animals, vegetation and entire ecosystems. There are eight pollutants most commonly found in the ambient air: carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and ﬁne and coarse particulate matter. Further, some of these pollutants are signiﬁcant contributors to acidic deposition. Acidic deposition, or acid rain as it is commonly known, occurs when emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen and oxidants to form various acidic compounds. The formation of these compounds is enhanced by the presence of ozone in the lower atmosphere. These compounds then fall to the earth in either dry form (such as gas or particles) or wet form (such as rain, snow, and fog). Acidic pollutants can damage lakes and streams to the point where they cannot support ﬁsh life. Forests can also be affected by acidic compounds, which can directly impact trees at high elevations and can indirectly inﬂuence forest soil chemistry. In addition, before falling to the earth, acidic compounds contribute to visibility degradation and can pose certain adverse human health effects when inhaled. The following paragraphs describe the speciﬁc health and environmental effects associated with exposure to the eight pervasive pollutants listed above. Carbon Monoxide Exposure to carbon monoxide...
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