The problem of air pollution is constantly raised in both media and scientific sources. The dependence of modern technological civilization upon gas-emitting production facilities and transport utilities presents a particular paradox for those pushing for greater environmental protection measures. At the same time, it is evident that air pollution has an adverse effect not only on the environment but on human beings as well. Therefore the tackling of air pollution remains an important task that modern humankind has to face.
Air Pollution Causes: Chemical Industry
Chemical industry, or chemical manufacturing, is one of the principal air-polluting industrial sectors. A wide range of air pollutants is emitted by chemical production units, with reaction or distillation facilities, raw materials’ (e.g. solvents’) production, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or sulfurous compounds’ manufacturing, and waste and wastewater treatment processes accounting for the majority thereof (Prevent pollution from chemical manufacturing 2011). The odor and noise emissions have an adverse impact on health of both the residents of chemical works’ vicinities and the population of adjacent regions.
For instance, in 2006, about 20% of total manufacturing CO2 emissions in the USA were generated by chemical industries (U.S. Department of Commerce 2010, p.11). At the same time, the data provided by U.S. Department of Commerce (2010) demonstrate that chemicals markedly improved their energy efficiency performance, with 0.892 to 0.613 CO2 intensity levels decrease between 1998 and 2006 (U.S. Department of Commerce 2010, p.12).
The United States Environmental Protection Agency lists a number of regulatory acts and directives dealing with air pollution arising out of chemical manufacturing proceedings. Such laws and regulations as 2006 National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants provide greater standards of accountability and more stringent pollution limits, which nonetheless vary in accordance with individual production process in use. For instance, the 0.45 kg/hr limitation for hydrogen halide and halogen HAP is predicated on the use of specific process vents (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2006, p.40320). In this way, both energy efficiency and industrial productivity would be positively affected.
Therefore the introduction of a flexible emission limits’ regulatory framework appears to be the step in a right direction, as it would both compel the manufacturers to reduce their production units’ emission footprint and give way to further innovations and enhancements in respective fields of manufacturing.
Air Pollution Causes: Transportation
Given an immense role that personal transportation vehicles and their supporting facilities play in the life of ordinary Americans and, to a lesser extent, Europeans, it is no wonder that transportation sector provides for ever increasing percentage of air pollution statistics. According to Eurostat (2006), in 2004, share of road transport sector in energy consumption and emissions equaled 83%, with automotive and other transport consuming up to 290 million tones of oil equivalent (mtoe) annually. Air transport was the second largest energy consumer, accounting for 13.0% of the total (Eurostat 2006).
In the USA, the situation appears to be even more one-sided, with highway automotive vehicles being responsible for 75% out of the total 28% road transport share in energy consumption for the year of 2003 (Bodek 2006, p.1). In addition, automotive industry is especially resource-dependent, with 1 auto vehicle requiring 90 kg of various fluids or lubricants for its production (2006, p.1). This means that further pollutants are emitted in the course of the auto’s preparatory production processes.
The main impact of auto-produced air pollution seems to be concentrated within urban areas, with millions of residents having to endure the constant inflow of gases and sulfurous compounds emitted by automotive engines. The health impact of these pollutants is profound, ranging from occurrences of cancer to occasional nausea. This has an especially adverse influence on urban health situation.
The main line of solutions with respect to automotive emissions’ issues appears to be connected with the introduction of larger numbers of hybrid and clean diesel-based powertrains. For instance, the 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid model demonstrates carbon footprint level of 3.7 ton/yr, whilst conventional Ford Fusion AWD car produces 9.8 ton/yr of CO2 (U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2010). The significant gap between hybrids and petroleum-based cars shows the potential for further emission reductions if the former are to be more widespread.
Air Pollution Causes: Pesticides
Pesticides and similar compounds are widely used in modern agriculture in order to destroy and prevent the vermin, such as insects, from harming the agricultural produce. However, at the same time, pesticides cause a variety of human health hazards. According to Toxics Action Center (2010), a pesticides’ health impact includes both relatively minor issues (such as experiences of chronic headache and nausea) and extremely serious ones, including endocrine system disorders, leukemia and other forms of cancer, and autism specter disorders (ASD). It is notable that pesticides pose particular danger to children’s health (Toxics Action Center 2010).
The solutions offered by the industry appear to be tied to the technical enhancements of pesticide transportation facilities, as well as to the development of less polluting pesticide types. However, such line of reasoning is demonstrably flawed, as the pesticide impact would be only partially lessened by these measures.
The pesticide problem may be partially solved by instituting stricter testing requirements for the newly produced brands of pesticides, pesticide use reduction, the prohibition of aerial pesticide usage near waterways and places of human residence, etc. However, the complete eradication of the hazards posed by pesticides may be possible only through a comprehensive restructuring of modern agricultural system.
Air pollution comes from many sources, and the aforementioned forms thereof are not exclusive ones. The combating of air pollution phenomena demands a less productivist attitude to human environment. The virtual deification of production for the sake of production lies at the root of pollution problems, and without overcoming this factor, it is impossible to hope for drastic air pollution reduction.