Developing Pressure Indicators for Europe
Edited by Anil Markandya and Nick Dale
Chapter 2: Air pollution and acidification
2. Air pollution and acidiﬁcation P. Papagiannakopoulos 1. THE PROBLEM AND ITS IMPACT Air Pollution The ﬁrst signs of the postwar air pollution problem became apparent over thirty years ago, mainly in the large urban and industrial centres. This problem was closely related to the enormous postwar economic growth. Initially, the ‘conventional’ air pollutants were sulphur dioxide, black smoke and lead, which were usually connected with the combustion of fossil fuels. However, in recent years new classes of air pollutants, which include nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, have appeared. These are especially evident in the urban atmosphere and are responsible for the well-known phenomenon of photochemical smog. This phenomenon was ﬁrst noticed in the greater Los Angeles area, but it is currently present in many large European cities, such as Athens and Paris. Today’s catalogue of harmful air pollutants has grown to a large number, which includes both primary (for example VOCs – volatile organic compounds) and secondary air pollutants (for example Peroxyacetylnitrate (PAN) carbonyl compounds). Finally, aerosols, several heavy metals and particulate matter are signiﬁcant air pollutants in both urban and industrial environments. Acidiﬁcation Since the early 1960s there has been growing evidence that the chemistry of precipitation over northern Europe is changing, along with the ﬁrst negative impacts of acid rain on the environment. The emissions of anthropogenic sulphur and nitrogen compounds (mainly as SO2 and NO2 gases) are causing a critical chemical transformation of the atmosphere that results in the problem of acid rain...
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