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Lecture 4

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Environmental Studies
Robert Mc Leman

Week 4:Air Pollution  January 27 2014 What is air pollution? • Undesirable chemicals and particulates in concentrations high enough to have harmful effects Carbon monoxide CO Description • Colorless, odour less gas Origins • Formed from Incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuel • Vehicles, fireplaces, cigarettes Harmful Effects • Impairs ability of bloodstream to deliver oxygen where needed • Impairs reflexes, causes nausea • At higher levels of exposure, causes birth defects and death Nitrogen oxides NOx • Description NO=short lived; N2O= ` Laughing gas; NO2= reddish-brown; Origins • Formed when fossil fuels are burned Harmful Effects • NOx are greenhouse gases • NO2 is a key ingredient in photochemical smog, acid rain • Change soil & water chemistry • Smog elevates medical visits for respiratory illness, asthma Sulphur dioxide SO2 Description • Colorless gas Origins • Formed when coal is burned Harmful effects • Key components of acid rain • Change soil, water chemistry • Elevates medical visits for respiratory illness, asthma • Chronic exposure leads to permanent bronchitis Ozone O3 Description • Bad-smelling, short lived gas Origins • Cars, industry Harmful Effects • Component of smog • Causes difficulty breathing • Elevates medical visits for respiratory illness, asthma Lead Pb Description • Toxic metal Origins • Metal refineries, batteries, used to be common in paints, gasoline Harmful Effects • Bio-accumulates • Damages brain, nervous system Suspended particulate matter (SPM) Description • Various small molecules and droplets light enough to be temporarily suspended in air Origins • Burning coal, industries, diesel fuel, construction, agriculture Harmful effects • Respiratory illness • Some may be toxic Photochemical smog • Occurs when airborne NO ozone and volatile organic compounds (e.g. methane, propane, CFCs) react under UV radiation • Creates a brown haze over urban centers on hot, sunny days • You will get more of it on a weekday than on a Sunday, other conditions being equal (because there are fewer cars, factories operating) Canada – air quality health index  • Scale of 1-10 • Measures ozone at ground level, NO2, and particulates • In 2012, stations in Toronto recorded level 7 on 4 different days • Currently readings are at 3 Temperature inversions • Magnify low- air-quality events by trapping air at ground level, preventing mixing Acid deposition • Occurs when SO2, NOx, particulates mix high in the air and become transported • Can return to ground as dry particulate or, if mixed with moisture, as acid rain • Heavy industry (e.g. ore refining), coal-burning electricity plants are among biggest sources (typically anything with a tall smokestack is a possible source) Impacts of acid deposition • Fish kills in lakes that have no natural buffering against acidity (e.g. lakes situated on Canadian Shield bedrock) • Mobilizes metals like aluminum’lead, cadmium, mercury • Direct damage to leaves, bark stunts plant growth • Leaches calcium, magnesium from soil, harming plant growth Sudbury • Region has been site of active nickel & copper mining, smelting since early
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