Air pollutants and its impact

Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. The air we breathe contains various harmful substances of a chemical, physical or biological nature, known as air pollutants, which alter the natural composition of the atmosphere and endanger our health and life on the planet.

These pollutants can be primary, i.e. emitted directly from a specific source, such as gases produced by vehicle combustion, industrial emissions or forest fires. There are also secondary pollutants, which result from chemical reactions of primary pollutants with other atmospheric constituents under the influence of sunlight.

Main air pollutants

The most common and harmful air pollutants include:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO): a toxic gas that interferes with the body’s ability to carry oxygen.
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx): irritating gases that cause respiratory problems. They are caused by the combustion of fuels, which react with oxygen in the air and water vapour to form acids (sulphuric and nitric), which are transported by rain, hence acid rain.
  • Particulate matter (PM): small solid or liquid particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): a broad category of chemicals that contribute to the formation of smog or grey haze when mixed with smoke and airborne dust.

Health and environmental effects of air pollutants

Exposure to air pollutants can cause serious health problems such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. In addition, pollutants that alter air quality contribute to climate change and ecosystem degradation, threatening the survival of many species.

It is essential to take actions to reduce emissions of air pollutants, such as the use of renewable energies, the reduction of waste generation, since most of it is burnt outdoors, the development of respectful agricultural practices, the use of clean technologies and the promotion of sustainable mobility, such as the use of public transport or other means that do not affect air quality.

Only through joint efforts at the individual, community and government levels can we guarantee cleaner and safer air for all living beings on the planet.

Environmental monitoring and management of air pollutants

To maintain good air quality, regular air monitoring is essential to identify the pollutants present and their levels in the atmosphere. This information is essential for developing effective air pollution prevention and control strategies and for evaluating the effectiveness of the measures implemented.

Environmental management plays a key role in this process. We can reverse air pollution by promoting measures to prevent, reduce or mitigate the emission of pollutants and protect the environment. By taking a comprehensive and sustainable approach, we can address this global environmental challenge and preserve clean air for present and future generations.