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Impacts of Air Pollution

Air pollution can be both natural and man-made, and occur both indoors and outside. Although natural emissions of air pollution may impact upon the environment from time to time, for example though a volcanic eruption, it is most often man-made air pollution which can lead to poor air quality on a more regular basis

Outdoors, common air pollutants which affect ambient air quality include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), emitted through the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation. Ozone, a secondary pollutant, is formed in the atmosphere near ground level when primary pollutants are oxidised in the presence of sunlight. The resulting cocktail of pollution can have detrimental effects on human health, wildlife and vegetation. Asthma is an increasingly common respiratory disease which may be triggered by air pollution. In addition, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides may be converted into acids, and deposited as acid rain.

Indoors, poor ventilation can lead to a build-up of air pollutants, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from faulty gas heaters and cookers, carbon monoxide and benzence from cigarette smoke, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from synthetic furnishings, vinyl flooring and paints. Like outdoor pollutants, indoor pollutants may also act as triggers for attacks of asthma. Since most of us spend up to 90% of the time indoors, indoor air quality could have a real bearing on our health.