Chapter 2-Life Support Book

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Environmental Science
Jovan Stefanovic

Chapter 2: Urban and Transboundary Air Pollutions Recognition of the relationship between non-workplace (i.e., community) air pollution and respiratory disease dates back to the first use of coal as a combustion source in the fourteenth century. Later, in the industrial nations of Europe and North America, whole communities were engulfed in air pollutants, resulting in serious illness and death among individuals with cardiopulmonary disease. These episodes occurred in the Meuse Valley of Belgium in 1930; in Donora, Pennsylvania, in 1948; and in London in 1952. These air pollution emergencies were caused by air stagnation, which resulted in greatly increased concentrations of atmospheric pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide and suspended particulates. The worst episode occurred in London. As a result of these epidemics, scientists and governments paid increased attention to the health effects of air pollution. This crisis has several aspects. First, since the atmosphere is dynamic and always changing, contaminants are transported (sometimes over thousands of miles), diluted, precipitated, and transformed. Air pollution, therefore, knows no boundaries or national borders. Second, the primary emissions of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, respirable particulates, and metals are severely polluting cities and towns in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Many cities in developing nations and in Eastern Europe are experiencing uncontrolled industrial expansion, increasing motor vehicle numbers and congestion, and pollution caused by fuels used for cooking and heating. World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that this disparity between wealthier and poorer nations persists. Third, in nations that have reduced the primary emissions from heavy industry, power plants, and automobiles, new problems have arisen from pollution by newer industries and from air pollution caused by secondary formation of acids and ozone. Finally, although this report is focused on the human health effects of air pollution, there are also many other aspects of the problem. For example, damage to ecosystems and agriculture from acid rain, damage to buildings and artwork, and reduced visibility are all attributable to air pollution. Defining Adverse Health Effects An adverse health effect is any effect that results in altered structure or impaired function or that represents the beginning of a sequence of events leading to altered structure or function. Specific Air Pollutants Associated with Adverse Respiratory Effects
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