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Major Natural Sources of Air Pollution

Air pollution comes from many different sources that are either naturally occurring or man made. While mankind is doing its best to pollute the air, there are natural sources of air pollution that are just as dangerous.

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

 

  • Sulfur dioxide

Other sources of air pollution are when sulfur dioxide is released from volcanoes, forest fires and biological decay. It is hard to calculate the actual amount of sulfur dioxide that is being released naturally. The United Nations Environment Program has estimated that approximately 80 million to 288 million tons of sulfur oxide is released naturally per year. There is only about 69 million tons of man made sulfur dioxide released each year.

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

  • Nitrogen oxides

Nitrogen oxides that are released naturally from oceans, volcanoes, biological decay and lightning strikes cause air pollution. It is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 90 million tons of nitrogen oxides are being released naturally each year. Man made nitrogen oxides released each year are estimated to be about 24 million ton.

  • Ozone

Ozone is a pollutant that is a photochemical and is formed near ground level. It is the result of chemical reactions taking place in the sunlight. Ozone pollution is naturally occurring and can cause serious health issues to humans and animals as well as  problematic to plant life.

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

  • Particulate matter

While most harmful particulate matter is man made, there are natural sources as well that can cause serious problems to humans and animals. Sources of natural particulate matter include dust storms and volcanoes. These sources account for intense and large amounts of particulate matter pollution that occurs over relatively short periods of time. Dust storms move particles thousands of miles causing problems to plants, animals and humans.

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

Natural Sources of Air Pollution

  • Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are produced naturally from plants and trees. A common VOC that is emitted by plants is isoprene. It has been shown that isoprene is a significant trigger for asthma and other allergic reactions within humans. Pollen is another VOC that affects the health of humans and animals.

All of these naturally occurring sources of air pollution, when found in large quantities, are damaging to plant life as well as the well being of humans and animals. Health risks to humans include respiratory inflammation and infection, cardiovascular disease and cancers. These health problems can lead to lessened quality of life for the afflicted as well as premature death. Combine these natural pollutants with man made air pollutants and there is a crisis that has been developing for years. Our air quality is poor and our health is suffering from these pollutants.