Pollution's Effects on Us

The atmosphere is one of the few resources shared among all Earthís inhabitants. As a consequence, the pollution that spews from a factory in Asia, a fire in Australia, a dust storm in Africa, or car emissions in North America can have a detrimental impact on people and the environment locally or an ocean away.

Scientists have researched and documented many of the local hazards from ozone to atmospheric chemicals that cause acid rain. They have also studied impacts from airborne particles of dust, soot, and other particulate pollutants. From actual events and scientific research, we now know that air pollution can impact human health; that atmospheric haze or smog reduces visibility; and that the acid rain from sulfur dioxide emissions damages property, pollutes water resources, and can harm forests, wildlife, and entire ecosystems.

But what are the regional and global impacts of air pollution? Through large scientific field campaigns such as MILAGRO scientists are focusing on the entire life cycle of air pollution. Their goal is to track its transport from large cities into regional and global environments to better understand the full scope of the problem. In doing so, they will be able to determine pollutionís impact on large natural systems such as Earthís climate.

Is air pollution an example of the "Tragedy of the Commons" ĖĖ a concept that states that any resource open to everyone will eventually be destroyed? While the evidence of human-produced air pollution lends truth to the statement, it is also true that air becomes a Tragedy of the Commons only if people choose not to preserve the atmosphere for themselves and future generations. Much has been done to improve air quality in recent decades, but we still have a long way to go.

Last modified February 17, 2006 by Teri Eastburn.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Air Pollution Sources

Air pollution comes from many different sources. Natural processes that affect air quality include volcanic activity, which produce sulfur, chlorine, and ash particulates, and wildfires, which produce...more

Air Pollution and Atmospheric Visibility

Have you ever spent time in a large city? If so, the odds are youíve seen the sky engulfed in a brownish-yellow or grayish-white haze due to air pollution. Such haze can reduce visibility from miles (kilometers)...more

Scientists to Assess Beijing Olympics Air Pollution Control Efforts

As the Summer Olympics in Beijing kicks off this week, the event is giving scientists a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe how the atmosphere responds when a heavily populated region substantially...more

Health Standards Exceeded by Ozone Pollution in Wildfires

Wildfires can boost ozone pollution to levels that violate U.S. health standards, a new study concludes. The research, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.,...more

Acid Rain

Acid rain is a general term used to describe different kinds of acidic air pollution. Although some acidic air pollutants return directly back to Earth, a lot of it returns in rain, snow, sleet, hail,...more

Industry in the Southeast Pacific region

What does industry have to do with all of the clouds that form over Southeast Pacific Ocean? While the connection might not be obvious to most of us, scientists in the VOCALS research project are especially...more

Air Pollution

What do smog, acid rain, carbon monoxide, fossil fuel exhausts, and tropospheric ozone have in common? They are all examples of air pollution. Air pollution is not new. As far back as the 13 th century,...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA