Society as a whole faces many environmental problems, and as a result, environmental awareness tends to be a pressing issue. Everyday, people recycle cans, glass bottles, and newspapers. Many people buy bottled water, or own filters for their tap water, as a health precaution from the pollutants in normal everyday drinking water. Everyone seems to be concerned with issues such as, littering, and what is going to happen when there are no more land fills.
Some people are even talking about the introduction of the electric car sometime in the near future. Air pollution is perhaps the biggest environmental issue the Earth is facing. Automobiles are responsible for a notable amount of the air pollution problem. Of course, on the other hand so are factories. If the fight against air pollution were to be taken to a higher level, putting pressure on factories that produce air pollution will have a greater effect than focusing on automobiles. The solution for problems caused by automobiles can only be taken to the level of removing vehicles off the road that cause excessive pollution.
A campaign to promote car-pooling, and the use of public transportation could be started up, but those types of promotions do not get enough support. Clearly, factories should be targeted for the best results. The environmental policies that the government regulates for factories or other companies who produce air pollution must be made stricter. Factories are causing enormous amounts of air pollution, the air in most metropolitan areas is filled with pollutants, and passing laws that are more strictly enforced could have a positive effect on the situation.
Air pollution can be simply defined as “all the substances that are exhausted into the atmosphere that do not normally make up the air.”(Sorvall 17) These substances are next divided into two basic categories: aerosols and unwanted gases. (Sorvall 18) Aerosols are tiny bits of solid matter that can be visibly floating around in the air, such as the particles that are released when using a can of hairspray or burning leaves in an open fire. The results of this pollution can be seen on mirrors or windows, giving them a sticky texture and a smudged appearance.
Unwanted gases, on the other hand, are usually invisible; however, they are the most dangerous to the air. There are numerous types of these pollutants in the air, but carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides are, by far, the most common. Such particles are expelled daily by leniently controlled factories through the continuous outpour of smoke.
The primary process that creates air pollution is oxidation, which is simply defined as burning. (Sorvall 18) This process has been going on for centuries, beginning when man first became aware of a very useful cooking tool, what is now known as fire. Until recently, pollution from fires was seemingly insignificant because fires were previously used only in households and could be easily dispersed. However, as technology advanced, major industries developed and began to use fires as a source of energy for power plants and the disposal of garbage. This major increase in the usage of the oxidation process and the lack of knowledge of the hazards involved, contaminants in the air, as a result of factories excessive usage, has become a major environmental dilemma.
Though air pollution in some form has been around since the discovery of fire, it has only recently become known to be a major problem. Air pollution has long been a factor with the issue of protecting the environment. For example, in the nineteenth century, people in London, England complained about the foggy weather that was created by the smoke from burning coals in the homes of people, as well as places of business. (Sproull 18) In December of 1952, the worst air pollution disaster ever recorded also occurred in London.
Nicknamed the “killer smog,” this disaster occurred because of a temperature inversion, which is when warmer temperatures get hotter as they get further from the earth’s surface rather than cooer as they usually do. In this particular event, a cool front also moved in below the warm air, which caused more people than usual to burn coal, which is high in sulfur. Because of the warm air that had risen, the smoke from the fireplaces had nowhere to rise and was being pushed back down. This string of events produced the “killer smog” which led to the deaths of more than four thousand people. Because of this one horrific event, scientists became more aware of the effects that air pollution can have on a population, which has led to more in-depth studies.
The same type of pollution, though in much more extreme cases, can be seen in cities today. The modern name for the foggy weather that these people were seeing is now referred to as smog. It is composed of mainly ground level ozone, which is caused by toxins in the air. (EPA 2) “Ground-level ozone is produced by the combination of pollutants from many sources, including smokestacks, cars, paints, and solvents.” (EPA 2) These toxins are released mainly through the exhaust systems of automobiles and from factories.
There are two main causes of air pollution: automobiles and factories. The dangerous effects that these two cause can be primarily attributed to burning, or more specifically, oxidation. When a substance is burned, it releases harmful by products that are emitted into the air and thereby become pollutants. The greater majority of citizens drive automobiles, and they are vital in everyday life for the purpose of transportation. With the unimaginable amount of automobiles being driven everyday, the pollution caused is extremely damaging. Air toxins from automobiles escape when gas is pumped into the car in the form of evaporation and are emitted from the tailpipes when the car burns the gasoline through the process of combustion.
Automobiles were previously fueled by petroleum products that contained lead, which emitted hydrocarbons and smoke into the atmosphere. However, with the invention of unleaded gasoline, many of these emissions have been eliminated, but smoke is still a problem with older model cars. The introduction of stricter standards for emission testing sites has also significantly decreased the amount of pollutants that are being emitted from automobiles.
Factories, on the other hand, are still producing significant amounts of contaminants that are consistently being released into the air. This is due, not only to the disregard of the principal standards that the government has set for these industries, but also the lack of governmental agencies to oversee the actions of pollution within these industries.
Factories everywhere are causing a serious amount of pollution in the air. Although attempts have been made in the past to do something about this, more still needs to be done. There are many types of companies that fall into the category being targeted. Pollution controls on power plants will help get rid of particulates in the air (EPA 2). A prime example of a company that must be closely monitered would be the oil refineries, which release smoke that is filled with cancer causing agents.
By filtering the toxins that are being produced at these refineries, the air qualities surrounding these refineries would be greatly improved and to insure that these qualities will remain intact, the air should be frequently and regularly monitored, by such agencies as the Chemical Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency. Oil refineries are of course not the only industries at fault, unfortunately they are just one of a number of industries that are polluting the air. The easy answer would be to simply shut down any factory that was found to be polluting the air. Obviously, nothing is that simple and straightforward.
These factories are providing goods and services that are vital to the existence of modern society, whether or not the by products of such factories emit harmful pollutants into the air. The answer is not to shut those companies down, but to create more effective standards and regulations for these factories to follow. The amount of toxins being released into the air must be strictly monitored, and if possible, new, cleaner methods by which to manufacture the products must be explored.
The emphasis of new policies should be placed primarily on factories, while not completely ignoring the effects of automobiles. “Industrial air pollution is the greatest threat to air quality in the United States.”(Sorvall 34) The government needs to review the present day regulations on factories that cause air pollution caused by industry. This, of course will have to be done in a manner that will not upset the present resources that are available to the citizens.
The products that are produced by these factories will still be needed to some extent, whether the process by which they are produced is revised or there is a substitution found. Factories will be required to meet certain standards and will be inspected to insure that these standards are being met. Studies will be conducted biannually to determine how much pollution is being created and what the effect have had on the surrounding community. If a company wishes to increase the amounts of toxins coming out of an operating plant, the company may choose to offset the increases so that the total hazardous air pollution released from a plant does not go up. Otherwise, they may choose to install pollution controls to keep the pollutants at the required level.
It will then be decided how much can be tolerated under these new regulations, and companies will be required to meet those specifications within a ten year period. This grace period will be given to insure that the research that has been conducted is accurate and will also allow the businesses to incorporate the new standards into their regular business without any undue hardship.
Though some businesses may be forced to shut down their operations, the negative effects that these closures will have on the economy for a relatively short span of time will in no way outweigh the positive effects that the closures will have on the environment, and the health of humanity in general. “Studies that have estimated the benefits of air pollution control programs in North American and Western European countries indicate that when monetary values for reductions in health effects are considered, the benefits of air pollution control programs have been successful. (Chestnut 3)