Friday, March 26, 2010

Air Pollution Control Techniques

The best control measure, of course, is prevention. However, as long as there are fossil fuel emissions from our coal-burning factories and gas-burning automobiles, there will be air pollution. The key to easing future impacts is control. The sources of air pollution are many, although most authorities identify sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter as the major pollutants. Identification of sources of pollution offers opportunities for control.

Industrial Solutions
1. Overall, control measures are proving effective. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that air quality has improved significantly since 1990, with control programs for chemical plants, coke ovens, and incinerators, among other pollution sources, in place. The success of such programs depends upon achieving a balance between benefits and costs.

A switch to low-sulfur coal would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Power companies have opposed the switch, citing the high cost of implementation and cost to the consumer. However, the EPA estimates the cost to the consumer as only a 1 to 1.5 percent increase in energy costs. Another possible solution is installation of scrubbers on smokestacks. Scrubbers filter emissions with a water and limestone solution, resulting in formation of gypsum, an additive for concrete or for use in wallboard construction. This solution dramatically reduces sulfur dioxide emissions, by some estimates up to 95 percent.

Individual Activities
2. While tangible results can be achieved with control measures, the American lifestyle counteracts a reduction in air pollution. Since 1970, automobile travel has increased 177 percent. The population has grown over 46 percent, accompanied by an increase in energy consumption. Driving a car is the greatest source of pollution from a single individual. Hydrocarbon emissions result in ground-level ozone, which has been linked to respiratory problems in people and wildlife. Driving less and car pooling are two ways an individual can reduce the effects.

Other seemingly innocuous human activities also increase air pollution levels. The EPA estimates that smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contributes up to 80 percent of the particulate emissions during the winter season. Using an EPA-certified control device and cutting back on wood fires are two ways to reduce emissions.

3. Deforestation also impacts air quality in two major ways. As a result of the reduction in plant biomass, the total volume of oxygen released by plants during photosynthesis is reduced. Carbon dioxide that is normally cycled by plants builds up in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is considered a greenhouse gas and a contributor to global warming.

4. Air pollution affects all life on Earth, from reducing a plant's ability to produce food to acidifying lakes and killing fish, to causing human disease and death. The complexity of air pollution with its many causes requires a multi-faceted approach that involves not only industry control but conservation practices by citizens as well.


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