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The source of, impact and control of ozone and particulate matter(toxic air pollutants).

Sources and Characteristics of Toxic Air Pollutants

Air pollutants are the extremely harmful substances whose presence in the air leads to deterioration of the air quality. These substances includes particulate matter like carbon soot from vehicular emission, burning of the fossil fuels, industrial emissions contain toxic gases like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide form the toxic pollutants. These pollutants are toxic in nature and are major causes of air pollution. Air pollution can be explained as the existence of toxic chemical compounds in the air whose excess in the air poses serious health hazards to living beings. It can be extremely detrimental to plants, animals, microorganisms as well as human beings. Some major chemical substances like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) aggravates the air quality and leads to depletion of ozone layer (Bolaji and Huan 2013). These are odorless chemical compounds which are in aerosols, refrigerators, air conditioners, foam food packaging, and fire extinguishers. Due to its hazardous effects Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has been banned since 1996. These toxic pollutants get released from the massive exploitation on the limited non-renewable resources like exploration of mines, thermal power plants, and combustion of coal in the industries. The renewable sources of energy like sunlight, waves and tidal energy, geo-thermal energy, hydropower, biomass energy has proved to store massive potential energy which can cut down on toxic pollutants exponentially. However, these alternative sources are more expensive as they demand cross-cutting technologies to tap its energy. Further, it will also require installation of newer industries or structural changes in the existing industries to develop and assimilate to newer technologies. Therefore, the whole process is time consuming however, bring a paradigm shift in controlling pollution from large point of sources. The other method can be to integrate greener technologies in the process of combating air pollution through energy efficient vehicles and fuels (Silva et al. 2013)

Ozone is a gas which is exists naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. It is comprised of three atoms of oxygen and is denoted as O3. This gas is primarily found in two distinct regions of the atmosphere. Around 10 % of the ozone gas in confined in the area from 10-16km from the surface of the earth. Remaining ozone resides in the stratosphere, hence it is noteworthy that 90% of the ozone gas in present 50km above the earth due to which it has called as the OZONE LAYER. The word ozone has been derived from the Greek word óζειν (ozein), which means “to smell.” Ozone has a very pungent odor which helps to detect its presence even at low quantities. It is highly reactive hence it rapidly reacts with nitrogen, chlorine, bromine. It can be explosive if present in concentrated amounts (Worrest and Caldwell 2013). Ozone is said to be a unique chemical compound which is created when the rays of the sun splits the molecules of the oxygen into single atoms. The resultant atoms mostly are unstable which further combine with the available oxygen thus forming a three oxygen molecule called ozone. The oxidation potential of ozone is greater than oxygen. Ozone is said to be a powerful oxidant which means that it has highly demanded in the industries and for other commercial purposes as it has wide variety of application in the oxidation processes. This inherent quality of ozone makes it harmful for respiratory tissues of plants and animals and has the potential to damage the mucous membrane when the concentration reaches over 0.1ppm. Therefore, it is considered to be potential health hazard and a toxic pollutant when it is present near the ground level. However, its presence in the stratospheric layer is a boon as plays a pivotal role in absorbing the harmful ultra violet rays from reaching the earth surface.

Impact of Ozone on Health, Vegetation, and Ecosystems

Ozone is a considered as one of prominent oxidizing agent which is has more potential than oxygen. Being extremely unstable at higher concentration it constantly decays forming ordinary oxygen. There are many external environmental factors and atmospheric conditions determining it presence like varying temperature, humidity of the air and movement of the air. Increasing temperature triggers the reaction process of ozone.

The excess amount of ozone in the stratospheric region of atmosphere comprises the ozone layer. It extends to about 10 km and 50 km above the surface however its concentration is only two to eight parts per million. Ozone layer was mainly created when the ultraviolet light strikes the oxygen molecules comprising two molecules of oxygen and splits into singular oxygen atoms. These oxygen atoms reacts with the oxygen forming ozone, thus continuing the process into a constant chain of reaction leading to ozone-oxygen cycle (Chipperfield et al 2015). The ozone layer has been experiencing ozone hole which means that the thickness of this shield is constantly reducing due to pollutants like CFCS and hydrocarbons. The decreased thickness of the ozone layer will lead to major health issues like as it shields from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Ultraviolet rays is known to cause skin cancer as it is carcinogenic on human health.

The ozone gas is obtained from a series of complex photochemical reactions which involves sunlight and heat. Ozone gas gets released in the air as a consequence of precursor pollutants which are reactive organic compounds and various other oxides of nitrogen. The gas is also generated from the combustion of engines like from power cars, construction equipment, lawn movers, trucks, trains, boats and other mobile sources in the bay area zone. The bay area experiences higher temperature and exposure to sunlight for longer duration also facilitate formation of ozone. Hence the extended evening and morning hours significantly contributes to more number of commuters on the road hence emission of ozone increases manifold. The ground level ozone which is considered as a bad ozone is formed as a result of various chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and many other volatile organic compounds under the influence of sunlight. Many industrial facilities and several electrical utilities, vehicular emissions, vapors from gasoline chambers and other chemical solvents releases organic compounds which triggers ozone reactions creating various health problems (Elsom 2014). Hence, the ground level ozone is considered as the bad ozone while the stratospheric ozone is the good ozone as it protects from harmful ultra-violet rays.

Particulate Matter and its Mutagenic Effects on Living Organisms

Ozone poses serious health issues which can cause breathing problems especially to older women, children, aged people thereby causing asthma, chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, airway inflammation. It also reduces the functional system of lungs and harm tissues of lungs. It can also worsen many bronchitis and emphysema. Ozone can lead constriction of the tissues in the airways thus entrapping poisonous air in the alveoli (Bais et al 2015). This can lead to shortness in breathing as well as other serous breathing problems. Ozone can create difficulty in breathing, inflammation in the airways thus damaging the delicate tissues. It can also aggravate respiratory issues and increase the frequency of the asthma attacks, increase susceptibility to infection and also lead major disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) further long term exposure to ozone can aggravate the condition of asthma.

Ozone poses detrimental impact on the vegetation and ecosystems and has the ability to damage the growing season very harshly especially for plants like black cherry, quaking aspen, white pine, red alder, ponderosa. When considerable amount of ozone enters the sensitive tissues of the plant it reduces the intensity of thee photosynthesis. It reduces the pace of growth of the plants and lead to various fatal disease. The risk of damage from the insects also increases and the resistance against various disease is decreased. There is a rapid loss of species diversity including plants, animals, insects and fish. It have an impact on the plant habitat leading to changes in water and nutrient cycles. The risk to plants against harmful weather also increases. During the regular exchange of gases, ozone as a strong oxidizing agent triggers symptoms of chlorosis in the plants. This results flecks, stipples, bronzing and reddening of leaves. Further the agricultural loss is huge as the yield by the crops also reduces significantly. 

Particulate matter consists of major solid and liquid particles which are complex organic and inorganic substances suspended in the air. There are two principal groups- coarse particles and fine particles and difference between the sizes of these two particles is 1 µm and 2.5 µm. The particles which are smaller consists of aerosols formed from the combustion, metal vapors. The particles which are larger in size consists of earth crust materials and dusts generated from construction activities and roads. The fine particles consists of mostly acidic in nature as it contains hydrogen ion hence responsible for mutagenic activity of the particulate matter (Burnett 2014).

Methods to Control Air Pollution

The varying sizes of suspended particles in the atmosphere ranges from a few nm to tens of mm formed by the mechanical breakdown of the larger particles. The particles are blown from the agricultural lands, uncovered soil, unpaved roads and mining operations. The traffic also contributes to the road dust and turbulence in the air which increases the flow on particulate matter in the air. However, the coasts have witnessed larger forms of particulate matter due to the evaporation effect of the sea spray. Further, the pollen grains from the plants, mould spores, and parts of insects also remains suspended in the air leading to massive increase in the volume of pollutants pollution (Ellabban, Abu-Rub and Blaabjerg 2014). The energy required for the breakdown of the particles depends on the size of the particles. The smallest of the particles are formed by nucleation which is a complex process. When the temperature is high, the condensation of the low-vapor-pressure substances is formed by various chemical reactions in the atmosphere forming new particles called as nuclei. These nuclei coagulates with other particles like those of carbon, sulfates and nitrates. Coagulation increases the size of particles thereby increasing the condensation as a larger surface area is present on the nuclei. Hence, it is noteworthy that these forms the accumulation range which fluctuates between 0.1 and 1 µm. Sub micrometer-sized particles is formed by the process of  condensation of metals and organic compounds which are vaporizes at higher temperature during the process of combustion. These are considered more toxic and poisonous for the environment (Kim et al 2015).

Several various polluting sources releases dust, soot, smoke, aerosols, fumes, mists, and condensing vapors that remain suspended in the air for longer period which forms the various components of the particulate matter. These particles can be released from anthropogenic activities as well as natural activities. The combustion process in the factories and industries, activities like construction of roads have been contributing largely towards polluting the atmosphere. Agriculture also adds much of the particulate matter in the air. Mining activities releases mineral dust, black carbon sand brown carbon (Byrnes et al 2013). These carbon plays a potent role in absorption of light. Natural activities like volcanic eruptions releases large amount of fly ash and unburnt or half-burnt particles. Leaf flitters releases organic matter in the air and sea spray largely affects the climate. Wildfires and forest fires is another major natural events contributing towards air pollution due to the presence of particulate matter. There are also secondary sources apart from these primary sources which are the main precursor sources such as oxides of sulphur, nitrogen, volatile organic compounds and ammonia.

Renewable Energy as an Alternative to Fossil Fuels

Particulate matter has hazardous implications on human health, biodiversity, climate change, global warming. This has graving concerns for the biological processes in the food chain thus impacting the ecosystem as a whole. The implications of the particulate matter can be measured under suitable heads.

The particulate matter are very small solid particles and can be microscopic as well as liquid droplets which can easily penetrate during breathing process can cause irritation in the tissues of the lungs. This can increase the permeability of the lung tissues. It can also lead to chronic diseases in the respiratory system of the can cause rapid loss in the functioning of the air way. Particulate matter can lead to major changes in the composition of the blood increasing issues the blood clotting (Raaschou-Nielsen et al 2013). Susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections also increases leading to pneumonia thereby increasing the vulnerability of the person to other issues. Chronic asthma has been a major consequence due to longer exposure to the wood smoke, reduction in the proper functioning of the lungs among the children and further increased in the morality rates of the persons. Reports suggest that deteriorating quality of the air has been extremely detrimental to human health and one of the potent reason of mortality (Fuzzi et al 2015).

Particulate matter has exerted a triggered response in the characteristics of the plants changing the status of plants biochemically, morphologically and physiologically. Reduction in the leaf area, number of leaves, structural changes in the stomata, flowering, reproduction and growth. Transformation in the pigment content, composition of the enzymes as well as ascorbic component undergoes a crucial change. The protein content, sugar, relative water content and changes in the pH value has also been witnessed. This has also impacted the ecosystem and biodiversity of the area which are regarded as the major hotspots of the biodiversity (Volk et al 2013).

Australian government plays a vital role in proactively managing the quality of the air and controlling the emissions through a framework of emission standards to phase out the toxic pollutant. Air NEPM framework and Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 has been a landmark achievement in improving the quality of the air. Energy efficient vehicles and alternative technologies has been built to address the grave concerns of air pollution. With the establishment of Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions (DIRD 2015) ways are formed to examine how to reduce the impact of emissions from vehicles on human and environment. A remarkable effort to transform the Motor Vehicle Standards Act was also proposed in 2016 (Department of the Environment and Energy 2018). This aimed at reducing the regulatory framework with better technologies and lessen the burden by removing the barriers. 

Integration of Greener Technologies in Combating Air Pollution

Air pollution Act in Australia has been effective over years in combating air pollution, however, it can be further strengthened by some important measures. WHO guidelines can be further adhered in framing the maximum permitted concentration for each of the toxic pollutant so as to align with the global standards. Paris climate agreement was another landmark effort to combat climate change and greenhouse effect due to massive air pollution. Australia has honored this agreement with full force yet the adequate mechanism to execute the target of keeping the global temperature below 1.5 degree Celsius based on the pre- industrial level is ambitious yet challenging (Martens 2013).  Australia should take collaborative effort to transform the targets into a reality. This will be a landmark achievement if nations collaborate on this front to resolve the plaguing issues urgently. Emerging green technologies and hybrid cars can be roped into thereby phasing out the diesel cars gradually. Finland and Norway have taken brilliant efforts by banning diesel cars, installing electric charging systems at various station to popularize and promote electric cars. Australia can take similar efforts in fighting against air pollution which has been a raging cause against global climate change. Stricter compliance on the fuel norms and policies can be undertaken to arouse self-consciousness among the public at large. The government should embrace forward looking policies, eco-friendly technologies, promote bicycling for shorter distances, easy taxation policy for industries to reduce their carbon footprint and invest in research and development for greener fuels like bio-fuels, bio-diesel. The agricultural wastes which contributes to major part of particulate matter can be reformed with better technique of farming and proper disposal of wastes (Cheng 2013). The biomass generated as a byproduct in the process of agricultural process are extremely rich in methane which forms a major component of biofuels.

Conclusion

Air pollution is a global concern which has affected the world population on various parameters which has been major economic loss for the nations all over the world. Ozone and particulate matter is a toxic pollutant which has deteriorated the quality of air. This has been also considered a major cause of air pollution. Long term exposure to the pollutants is known to reduce the demographic dividend as well as impact heavily on the productivity of the vibrant working population. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible through a collaborative effort and a multipronged approach by all the nations. Many cities has been experiencing gas chamber effect, frequent smog like conditions, and the rate of acid rain has also multiplied manifold due to the horrendous effects of the toxic pollutants. The toxicity of the air quality needs to be monitored and simultaneously efforts must be to phase out the point of sources. The better alternatives like greener technologies also needs to be developed according to the needs of the nations. Moreover, there are many challenges in addressing to completely phase out the diesel and petrol which contributes to a considerable amount of unburnt lead particles. However, with improved research and technologies a more customized solution will enable reinforced capabilities in handling the situation. The sources of ozone and particulate matter is generated mostly from the anthropogenic activities hence there are millions of opportunities if we can limit the pollution. These pollutants are mostly released from the non-renewable resources which can impact a huge amount of pressure on the limited resources thus compromising on the future generations. Sustainable management of the resources and tapping the unprecedented energy of the renewables sources have a larger potential to combat against ozone and particulate matter.     

Health hazards of Air Pollution

References

Bais, A.F., McKenzie, R.L., Bernhard, G., Aucamp, P.J., Ilyas, M., Madronich, S. and Tourpali, K., 2015. Ozone depletion and climate change: impacts on UV radiation. Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, 14(1), pp.19-52.

Bolaji, B.O. and Huan, Z., 2013. Ozone depletion and global warming: Case for the use of natural refrigerant–a review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 18, pp.49-54.

Burnett, R.T., Pope III, C.A., Ezzati, M., Olives, C., Lim, S.S., Mehta, S., Shin, H.H., Singh, G., Hubbell, B., Brauer, M. and Anderson, H.R., 2014. An integrated risk function for estimating the global burden of disease attributable to ambient fine particulate matter exposure. Environmental health perspectives, 122(4), p.397.

Byrnes, L., Brown, C., Foster, J. and Wagner, L.D., 2013. Australian renewable energy policy: Barriers and challenges. Renewable Energy, 60, pp.711-721.

Cheng, Z., Wang, S., Jiang, J., Fu, Q., Chen, C., Xu, B., Yu, J., Fu, X. and Hao, J., 2013. Long-term trend of haze pollution and impact of particulate matter in the Yangtze River Delta, China. Environmental pollution, 182, pp.101-110.

Chipperfield, M.P., Dhomse, S.S., Feng, W., McKenzie, R.L., Velders, G.J. and Pyle, J.A., 2015. Quantifying the ozone and ultraviolet benefits already achieved by the Montreal Protocol. Nature communications, 6, p.7233.

Department of the Environment and Energy. 2018. Department of the Environment and Energy. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/resource/state-air-national-ambient-air-quality-status-and-trends-report-1991-2001 [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].

Ellabban, O., Abu-Rub, H. and Blaabjerg, F., 2014. Renewable energy resources: Current status, future prospects and their enabling technology. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 39, pp.748-764.

Elsom, D., 2014. Smog alert: managing urban air quality. Routledge.

Fuzzi, S., Baltensperger, U., Carslaw, K., Decesari, S., Denier Van Der Gon, H., Facchini, M.C., Fowler, D., Koren, I., Langford, B., Lohmann, U. and Nemitz, E., 2015. Particulate matter, air quality and climate: lessons learned and future needs. Atmospheric chemistry and physics, 15(14), pp.8217-8299.

Kim, K.H., Kabir, E. and Kabir, S., 2015. A review on the human health impact of airborne particulate matter. Environment international, 74, pp.136-143.

Martens, P., 2013. Health and climate change: modelling the impacts of global warming and ozone depletion. Routledge.

Raaschou-Nielsen, O., Andersen, Z.J., Beelen, R., Samoli, E., Stafoggia, M., Weinmayr, G., Hoffmann, B., Fischer, P., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., Brunekreef, B. and Xun, W.W., 2013. Air pollution and lung cancer incidence in 17 European cohorts: prospective analyses from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE). The lancet oncology, 14(9), pp.813-822.

Silva, R.A., West, J.J., Zhang, Y., Anenberg, S.C., Lamarque, J.F., Shindell, D.T., Collins, W.J., Dalsoren, S., Faluvegi, G., Folberth, G. and Horowitz, L.W., 2013. Global premature mortality due to anthropogenic outdoor air pollution and the contribution of past climate change. Environmental Research Letters, 8(3), p.034005.

Volk, H.E., Lurmann, F., Penfold, B., Hertz-Picciotto, I. and McConnell, R., 2013. Traffic-related air pollution, particulate matter, and autism. JAMA psychiatry, 70(1), pp.71-77.

Worrest, R.C. and Caldwell, M.M. eds., 2013. Stratospheric ozone reduction, solar ultraviolet radiation and plant life (Vol. 8). Springer Science & Business Media.

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