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EESA10H3 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Great Smog Of London, Smog, Volatile Organic Compound

Environmental Science
Course Code
Jovan Stefanovic
Study Guide

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TAs (office SW511A)
James Nugent (A - F)
Lisa Tutty (H- L)
Slawomir Kowal (M -S)
Smriti Das (T - Z and G)
(A –Z first letter of the student's last name)
Airborne Hazards and Human Health
Global problem, used to be local problem but now is a global problem from continent to
There is no place that is perfectly safe from pollution
In industrialized areas, concentration of pollution is higher
Case study 1: London smog, 1952 – represents landmark for air pollution
The revolution and solution with air pollution started
In beginning of December in 1952, the air was steady and cold
So they need extensive heating in their homes for a long time
The source of energy at that time almost exclusively was the coal
Coal contains a lot of sulphur, when burning the coal, sulphur is released in
sulphuric gas
There was no wind to distribute the sulphuric gases and evacuate matter (smoke)
to distribute it further, gas was stagnant
So after a couple of days, everything combined with industries with same gases,
and with the weather, it resulted in very thick smoke
What the people felt at first felt burning sensation in their throat, had difficulty to
breathe and would choke
During this ten days, about 4000 people died from this, many got poisoned, got
sick, young children, people with history of asthma and chronic diseases suffered most
The disease was resolved by itself, no one did anything about it
The wind started blowing and distributed the pollutants from the area
Why it was a landmark was because the British government started investing
money into sulphur in solving this city
It was not just a landmark for the British, but It was also a landmark for other parts
of the world
A man guides a London bus through thick fog with a flaming torch during the
1952 Great Smog
The smog was the result of coal burning
The Relationship Between Smoke And Sulfur Dioxide Pollution And Deaths During The Great
London Smog, December 1952, Source: Wilkins, 1954
The number of deaths is directly proportional to the level of sulphur dioxide and
The two things to be blamed for the deaths was smoke and sulphur dioxide

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Figure shows the average smoke and sulphur dioxide levels for 12 London sites
and the relationship with deaths recorded during the smog period in December 1952. The
peak in the number of deaths coincided with the peak in both smoke and sulphur dioxide
pollution levels.
Case study 2: Indonesian Fires, 1997
oIn this part of the world, it was a common practice to burn tropical forest in big areas,
and after the forest is burned, the area is converted into cultural life for a number of
oUsually the burning is done every year before the rain
o1997 was different because it was a relatively hot, dry season…the burn prolonged
oAt one point, the huge extremely hot area was burning at once, the area was the
approximately the size of United States
oWas not just in Indonesia but was worldwide
oIn 1998, a similar event happened with a smaller proportion
oThis significantly impacted the air quality all around the world
oPollution in Canada, many cities are quite badly polluted, even the government invests
a lot of money in trying to solve the problem, we still have a problem
oWe see improvements, but problems still persist – e.g. Hamilton
oFire damage classification of the 1997-1998 fires in East Kalimantan, Indonesia,
based on ERS-SAR images.
oSmoke over Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia, photographed by the Space Shuttle
Atlantis. Smoke from fires set to clear land for agriculture in Indonesia at one time in
1997 blanketed an area larger than the continental United States.
Airborne Hazards
Outdoor air pollution
Indoor air pollution
Outdoor air pollution
Normally all sources can be divided by human sources and natural sources
In the air, when primary air pollutants change, they form acids and salts (secondary
Human sources stationary
oWhen human sources are present, the nature cannot cope with it
oE.g. industries
Human sources mobile
oDifferent types of vehicles
Natural sources
Health effects of Outdoor Air Pollution
The effects depend on the dose or concentration
Primary effects:
oToxic poisoning

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oCancer – results after long period of time of exposure
oBirth defects
oEye irritation – watery eyes, red, itchy, burning sensation in the eyes
oIrritation of the respiratory system – burning of lungs
oIncreased susceptibility to heart disease
oAggravation of chronic diseases such as asthma and emphysema
Seven Common Outdoor Air Pollutants
Primary air pollutants
oParticulate matter
oCarbon monoxide
oNitrogen oxides
oSulphur oxides
oVOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)
Secondary air pollutant
oGround level Ozone
Early Morning Fog Shots in Toronto
Particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5)
Particles found in the air (dust, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets)
Big and small
oBig = > PM 10, Small = < PM 2.5
oSmaller particles can be inhaled and do more harm
oNot so much harm for big ones because cannot go through airways
oThe smaller they are, they carry longer distances
oThe bigger they are, the shorter the distances are
Vehicles, factories, construction sites, tilled fields, stone crashing, burning
Some formed in the air
oE.g. salts
Serious health effects
Carbon Monoxide = more concerned for indoor air than for outdoor air
Odourless, colourless gas
Incomplete burning of carbon containing fuels
Heaters, woodstoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, automobile exhaust, tobacco
1 000 people die each year in USA as result of CO poisoning
Sometimes confused with flu or food poisoning
oSymptoms are similar
Fetuses, infants, elderly and people with heart and respiratory illnesses are at high risk for
adverse health effects
Health effects of Carbon monoxide
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