Air Pollution

excess death deaths over the expected number

Air pollution is a phenomenon by which particles (solid or liquid) and gases contaminate the environment. Such contamination can result in health effects on the population, which might be either chronic (arising from long-term exposure), or acute (due to accidents). Other effects of pollution include damage to materials (e.g., the marble statues on the Parthenon are corroded as a result of air pollution in the city of Athens), agricultural damage (such as reduced crop yields and tree growth), impairment of visibility (tiny particles scatter light very efficiently), and even climate change (certain gases absorb energy emitted by the earth, leading to global warming).

Air pollution is certainly not a new phenomenon. Early references to it date back to the Middle Ages, when smoke from burning coal was already such a serious problem that in 1307 King Edward I banned its use in lime kilns in London. More recently, there have been major episodes of air pollution, such as the 1930 catastrophe in the Meuse Valley, Belgium, where SO2 and particulate matter, combined with a high relative humidity, caused sixty-three excess deaths in five days. In 1948 similar conditions in Donora, Pennsylvania, a small industrial city, caused twenty excess deaths in five days,

U.S. NATIONAL POLLUTANT EMISSION ESTIMATES FOR 1999

(thousand short tons)

U.S. NATIONAL POLLUTANT EMISSION ESTIMATES FOR 1999

(thousand short tons)

Source Category

CO

NOx

VOC

SO2

PM10

PM2.5

Total

On-road Vehicles

49,989

8,590

5,297

363

295

229

64,763

Non-road Vehicles

25,162

5,515

3,232

936

458

411

35,714

Miscellaneous

9,378

320

716

12

20,634

4,454

35,514

Fuel Combustion

5,322

10,026

904

16,091

1,029

766

34,138

Electric Utilities

445

5,715

56

12,698

255

128

19,267

Industrial

1,178

3,136

178

2,805

236

151

7,684

Other

3,699

1,175

670

588

568

487

7,187

Waste Disposal

and Recycling

3,792

91

586

37

587

525

5,618

Solvent Utilization

2

3

4,825

1

6

6

4,843

Metals Processing

1,678

88

77

401

147

103

2,494

Other Industrial

Processes

599

470

449

418

343

191

2,470

Chemical Manufacturing

1,081

131

395

262

66

40

1,975

Storage and Transport

72

16

1,240

5

85

31

1,449

Petroleum Industries

366

143

424

341

29

17

1,320

Total

97,441

25,393

18,145

18,867

23,679

6,773

190,298

SOURCE: Adapted from http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/trends/trends99/tier3_1999emis.pdf.

SOURCE: Adapted from http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/trends/trends99/tier3_1999emis.pdf.

and in the early 1950s in London, England, two episodes of "killer fogs" claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people.

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