10 Major Causes of Air Pollution You Should Know

Causes of Air Pollution

Pollution is one of the most common words which we hear and read about in our day-to-day life. We have heard about many different types of pollution, but air pollution is one of the most dangerous ones. Air pollution can be defined as the release of gases and solid particles which are harmful not only to humans but also to all other living beings. The change in the air due to the mixture of harmful particles and gases is what causes air pollution.

10 Major Causes of Air Pollution

Nowadays, because of air pollution, everyone is worried about their health. When it comes to the lives of humans, air pollution is the cause of most of this every year. Although it is such a big problem, still many around the world are unaware of it.

The increase of certain gases in the atmosphere causes the depletion of the ozone layer. This happens because our atmosphere is composed of different types of gases that are present in a certain amount, so, if a gas that is not needed increases in the atmosphere, it causes air pollution. Global warming, which is a hot-selling cake, is the consequence of air pollution.

Our atmosphere is polluted by various types of pollutants. So, to understand the causes of air pollution, you also need to know a little about air pollutants. Primarily we can divide air pollutants into two categories- primary air pollutants and secondary air pollutants.

Primary air pollutants are the ones that are emitted and have a source. Elements like carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter are considered as primary air pollutants.

Secondary air pollutants are formed in the atmosphere when the primary pollutants go through chemical reactions. An example of a secondary pollutant is ozone.

Some of the main causes of air pollution are as follows:

1. Fossil Fuel Burning

Fossil Fuel Burning

The burning of fossil fuels is considered one of the main reasons for air pollution. When fossil fuels are used but not completely burned, they produce lots of pollutants. Fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil are mainly used for the production of electricity and in our vehicles.

Carbon monoxide(CO) is highly emitted when fossil fuels are burned. Along with carbon dioxide, gases like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide are also emitted when fossil fuels are used.

The vehicles that we use in our daily life emit dangerous gases like nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, organic compounds, and lead. This is how the usage of fossil fuels, although important to us, is very harmful to the environment which is indirectly harmful to us as well as all other living beings.

It is reported that about two third of the SO2 emissions produced by fossil fuel burning cause acid rain. According to the World Health Organisation, about 4.2 million people every year lose their life due to outdoor air pollution.

2. Emissions from Factories and Industrial Areas

Emissions from Factories and Industrial Areas

When we talk about industrial areas or a plant, the first thing that comes to our mind is the large chimney. Although one might think that these industries don’t contribute to air pollution majorly, that is false. These industrial areas are considered among the major causes of air pollution. Many different types of pollutants are emitted from these industries. Some of the major pollutants of these industries are particulate matter 2.5 and 10, along with NO2, SO2, and CO. The main reason behind this is that all industries use either coal or wood as the primary source of energy.

Moreover, air pollutant CO2 is also produced which plays a major role in global warming as this is a greenhouse gas. The increase of greenhouse gases traps the heat of the sun which results in an increase in the temperature of the earth. According to many surveys, it is estimated that every 10 years, the surface temperature of the earth rises by one degree Celsius.

Industrial pollutants are also very dangerous for humans. The effects of this in humans are breathing issues, eye and throat irritation, asthma attacks, and increased chances of chronic illness.

3. Wildfires in the Forests

Wildfires in the Forests

In recent years, we have heard about wildfires burning down big parts of forests. Wildfires are considered natural causes of air pollution, however, indirectly humans are the ones behind this as well. Wildfires may happen during the dry hot summers as the heat helps in igniting the fire.

Humans are indirectly responsible for this as well because of climate change which is caused by global warming. During the summers, we hear in the news that throughout the world forests are burned into ashes because of these wildfires. We see the number of wildfires keep on increasing year by year.

In a forest fire, PM 2.5 is released which when coming in contact with certain gases in the air turns to smog. This smog is very harmful because it causes breathing problems, irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, and itching in the respiratory tract. It is even more harmful to the wildlife in the region because many animals lose their lives and their habitat.

It is estimated that about 90 percent of wildfires are caused by careless human activities. Which results in the burning of large areas of forests. Moreover, with the rise in the surface temperature of the earth, wildfires will increase more. This clearly shows that in the coming years if the increase in temperature is not controlled every year, a huge loss of both wildlife and plants will happen.

4. Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor Air Pollution is another very harmful type of air pollution. Although it might not feel so dangerous, once we know more about it, we can certainly understand how life-threatening it would be. Indoor air pollution is caused by toxic products which are known as Volatile Organic Compounds. This becomes even more dangerous when a house is not properly ventilated, has uneven temperature, and is humid.

Some of the common things that cause pollution inside the house are smoking and leaving the walls of the house with mold untreated. The use of a wood heater in a house increases both the temperature and the humidity of the house as well. Another thing that is responsible for indoor pollution is the use of products like pants, and other clothes which have many toxic components in them. This is seen when a house has been painted, the paint smell makes it uncomfortable for anyone to breathe inside. Suspended particulate matter is also found in houses.

About 17 percent of deaths from lung cancer are caused by toxic indoor pollutants. In a report published by the World Health Organisation, it is reported that 27 percent of the deaths caused by pneumonia are due to indoor air pollution and 45 percent of the deaths by pneumonia are children. Moreover, in the report, it was stated that in 2020, about 3.2 million people died due to indoor air pollution.

5. Decomposition of Waste in Landfills

Decomposition of Waste in Landfills

Every day, millions of tons of waste from cities and towns are collected and dumped in landfills outside big cities. Although many would think that helps in keeping the city as well as the surroundings clean, it is not what it seems. The area in which all the waste is collected become like a live bomb as a huge amount of methane is released from it. This happens because the wastes are not separated and the wet and dry wastes are dumped together.

The methane gas which is emitted from these landfills is considered a bomb because it is a highly flammable gas and is a greenhouse gas as well. Along with methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen are also released. If someone breathes this type of air, for sure he will face breathing problems and this could lead to the loss of his life as well.

Moreover, wastes from different industries are also dumped in the same place. This waste of industries produces CO, hydrocarbon, and chemical which contaminates air, water bodies as well as soil.

The health-related issues that one will face in this type of region are breathing problems, aggregation of asthma, skin allergies and disease, eyes, nose, and throat irritation, and much more.

6. Emissions from Transportation

 Emissions from Transportation

Transportation is one of the most important things in a developing country. Over the years, there has been increasing demand for both public and private modes of transportation. People buy vehicles of their own for easy movement. Although transportation is very important, with the increasing number of vehicles like cars, buses, bikes, etc., pollution of air also increases.

This is because the majority of these vehicles either use CNG or oils like petroleum and diesel. This results in them emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases like CO2, hydrocarbon, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and suspended particulate matter like 2.5 and 10. In urban cities, this pollution from vehicles shows its worst effect because it mixes with fog to make smog which is very harmful and causes serious breathing complications and many other health issues as well.

This will increase if necessary steps are not taken by both the citizens as well as the government of a country to combat it. At the government level, strict rules and regulations should be introduced, and public transport systems that are more efficient and environmentally friendly should be introduced. Whereas the citizens should look to use electric vehicles or vehicles which have the least amount of emissions.

7. Burning of Waste in the Open

Burning of Waste in the Open

Every day, a large amount of garbage waste is produced. However, when it comes to proper treatment of this waste, it is not done properly and if done, then the waste is mainly burnt in the open. One would not understand the consequence of burning waste unless one knows its effects. Wastes are burned after they are bumped in the landfills to decrease the amount of waste however, its effect is very harmful. When the waste is burned, many greenhouse gases are released along with black carbon, soot, and carcinogens.

This emission of such harmful toxins is very harmful. The black carbon and soot remain spent in the air and when they fall on the glaciers, the melting of glaciers is fastened. Along with global warming, this deposition of black carbon and soot causes the ice peaks to melt very fast.

The burning of waste is harmful to humans as well because temporary health issues like breathing problems, asthma, headache, and nausea happen. Some permanent and very dangerous health conditions may also arise like cancer, liver issues, and weakness of the immunity system, affecting the nervous system as well as the reproductive system. Carcinogens are the top substance that causes cancer.

8. Pollution due to Construction and Demolition

 Pollution due to Construction and Demolition

This type of pollution is mainly seen in urban areas. The reason behind this is that a large number of construction works are done in all the major cities and towns for accommodation for the rural population moving into the urban areas.

When the construction of buildings is carried out, large amounts of dirt and dust are suspended in the air. Moreover, pollutants like asbestos and lead are also released into the air when large buildings are demolished along with the dust as the building collapses.

Particulate matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, and many other pollutants are majorly found in this air.
It is seen that the workers or people who come in contact with the air of these sites, after some time, start having health-related issues. Moreover, people who live beside these areas also start having different health issues in them. All of these give us a clear idea of how harmful the air of construction and demolition sites is.

9. Agricultural Pollution

Agricultural Pollution

There are several agricultural countries and a major portion of their population work in the agricultural sector. So, all the farmers get the highest yield from their fields using different types of fertilizers and pesticides. All these fertilizers and pesticides help in increasing the yield but these are very harmful to nature as well as humans.

Some harmful elements are used in these fertilizers and pesticides which make both the air and soil polluted. Toxic elements are suspended in the year which inhaled by someone could lead to some serious health issues. A lot of different chemicals are used in the manufacturing of fertilizers and pesticides which degrades the quality of soil and pollutes the air. Nitrogen fertilizer is one such fertilizer that is suspended in air and when comes in contact with water turns the water poisonous as well.

According to the food and Agriculture Organisation, 40% of the emissions of the World comes from livestock, 16% from mineral fertilizers, 17% from Burning Biomass, and 8% from agricultural waste.

10. Pollution due to Mining Operations

Pollution due to mining operations

Mining is done to extract different minerals from below the Earth’s surface. Mining large types of equipment along with TNT results in air pollution. During mining large amount of dust and chemicals are released into the air along with certain gases which causes pollution.

How harmful the year of the mines is seen when we see the workers and the residents who live near the mining areas facing many health issues related to breathing.

Mining is indeed significant to get important minerals that help in the development of a country but it is also one of the reasons which helps in degrading the quality of the air.


Pollution is one of the hottest topics in the world at present. Air pollution is one of the most dangerous types of pollution which is affecting the lives of people all over the world. Due to air pollution, the Global temperature has increased, with the chances of acid rain have also increased. We should try to find ways to minimize air pollution and other pollution. To do this, many drastic steps should be taken worldwide to protect our planet.

Read Also:

Kyoto Protocol – MCQ

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