Air pollution

The Natural, Transportational, Industrial, and Agricultural Causes of Air Pollution

By Clement Kwan and Ginny Park

Natural events/Environment

Due to climate change over the past few decades, air pollution has increased PM 2.5 in the air from volcanoes and wildfires, colliding with pollen creating smog and making it hard to breathe as a result. Even through dust storms and mold spores, acid rain can occur as a result of these natural events, releasing harmful gases like nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. This results in long term changes in the ecosystem, destroying both aquatic and terrestrial animals, causing asthma and bronchitis in humans


Burning gasoline emits greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, contributing to global warming by burning a hole through the ozone layer1. This causes various health issues such as respiratory issues from the resulting smog and skin cancer and cataracts as a result of global warming. There has been evidence which shows that transportation has a direct effect on mortality and has strong links to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, it’s been stated that 100,000 premature adult deaths come from air pollution which occurs every year in the WHO European region4. With emissions that come from road traffic accounting for a significant account of the burden, this has been estimated to be around 40 million people in the 115 largest cities in the European Union (EU) are exposed to air exceeding the air quality standard that WHO states



  • Children that live near heavy traffic have twice the risk of obtaining respiratory problems compared to those who live further away from high traffic streets
  • Transportation is the quickest growing source of fossil-fuel emissions, and is also the biggest factor to rising climate change. Of the 25 EU countries in 2004, transportation alone accounts for around 35% of the total energy consumption, which resulted to a 20% net increase of greenhouse-gas emissions from the past decade. (These all end up from the rise in transport volumes which has a larger factor than vehicle efficiency). 

Factories and industries

Key pollutants such as PM 2.5 and 10, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide are emitted as a result of industrial activities, largely from industries that burn coal, wood and gasoline as their primary energy source, and also from improper or incomplete combustion produced from both natural and man-made processes. Pollution can not only result in irritation in the eyes, but also through breathing issues and heart attacks.  


Agricultural activities 

As a result of pesticides and fertilizers, the surrounding air is contaminated through the smell and effect of pesticides. While some ends up mixed with water and seep into the soil, crops are destroyed and invasive species destroy the current ecosystem by taking out species that live in the current habitat1. Not only that but fertilizers can pollute nearby water sources, by leaking chemicals into the water


Other factors:

  • Methane gas produced by cattle
  • Deforestation due the need for more land (E.g. pastureland, growing fields) ~ These require the removal of trees which before would have taken in the carbon and clean the air