Air Pollution

There are many types of air pollution. Some are visible. Others are invisible. But all of them can make people sick, harm plants, pollute waterways, or even cause global warming.

Some of these dangerous particles get into the atmosphere naturally from forest fires, lightning strikes, and erupting volcanoes, but most of the stuff that we call air pollution is put into the atmosphere by humans. Here's a list of a few of the common air pollutants and where they come from.

  • Carbon monoxide, is an invisible air pollutant and is released into the air when fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas are burned.
  • Nitrogen dioxide is a brown gas that comes mostly from cars and trucks that burn fossil fuels, plants that make electricity, and burning wood. Breathing nitrogen dioxide in the air makes people's lungs irritated. A similar type of pollution, nitric oxide, creates haze. It damages plants and makes materials like fabric and metal wear apart easily.
  • Ground-level ozone, a harmful type of ozone, forms in the air when sunlight interacts with nitrogen oxides, which are released from factories, and organic compounds, which are released naturally from plants. Ozone near the ground is not beneficial like the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and is a major part of smog.
  • Ultrafine aerosols are tiny particles in the air. They are released from cars, trucks, and power plants. When people breath aerosols, the particles travel deep into their lungs and the tissue of the lungs can become inflamed.

(Image: C.Calvin/UCAR)

Did you know there was "good" ozone and "bad" ozone? Click to find out more!