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Lecture 2

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Environmental Science
Jovan Stefanovic

Week 2- Lecture 2 Airborne Hazards and Human Health Case Study 1) London Smog of December 1952 – “Great Smog” - Was a severe air pollution event that affected London during December 1952. A period of cold weather (which resulted in homes using a lot of heat), combined with high humidity and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants mostly from coal burning to form a thick layer of smog over the city. - Coal = sulphur dioxide + fog water droplets = sulphuric acid - The peak in the number of deaths coincided with the peak in both smoke and sulphur dioxide pollution levels- the deaths are mostly from lung infections exacerbated by chronic bronchitis- on the graph = 3600-4000 deaths in 6 days - Solved when winds came 2) Indonesian Fires of 1997 - Caused mainly by slash and burn techniques adopted by farmers (it’s cheaper and most common) in Indonesia which got out of control. - It is usually done before the monsoon (rainy) season. However, that year was relatively dry (El Nino) and prolonged the fires. - Solved when rain came - Can be connected in Canada – heavy pollution in the Golden horseshoe area (Waterloo- Kitchener, Hamilton) Airborne Hazards Outdoor air pollution - Primary pollutants – from human sources eg. Factories, automobiles o Particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) – both solid and liquid forms – made in the air – recently, those with 2.5 microns size are believed to have the ability to enter the lungs. o Particles found in the air (dust, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets) o Vehicles, factories, construction sites, tilled fields, stone crashing, burning o Some formed in the air and transform into salts and acids (secondary) o Causes respiratory infections and eye irritations; if severe=cancer, birth defects o Carbon monoxide  Odourless, colourless gas  Anything that burns causes CO production  1 000 people die each year in USA as result of CO poisoning  Have the same symptoms as of flu or food poisoning  Fetuses, infants, elderly and people with heart and respiratory illnesses are at high risk for adverse health effects  CO can interfere with the binding of Oxygen to the blood – can worsen cardiovascular conditions, nausea, headache, vomiting. o Nitrogen oxides  Formed in any type of combustion process (common are nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide)  Involved in formation of ground level ozone  Form nitrate particles, acid aerosols  Contribute in formation of acid rain  Transported over long distances – can travel – even from China = global problem  NOT soluble in water = can reach upper airways (lungs) o Sulphur oxides  Burning of coal and oil, extraction of metals from ore  SO2 dissolve in water vapour to form acids - soluble  Acids react with other gases and particles and form sulphates  Transported over long distances  Respiratory illnesses, aggravates existing heart and lung diseases o VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)  Evaporate in room temperature  Hydrocarbons: methane, butane, propane  Some produce photochemical smog (brown air) and ground ozone o Lead  Metal and industrial sources – can deposit lead in soil  Children are primarily affected as they constantly eat soil – slowly seep in soil  Used to be added to gasoline – banned now  Closer to highways = higher exposure to lead - Secondary pollutants – from natural sources eg. Primary + another compound = Secondary pollutants o Ground Level Ozone (O3) 
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