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Ambient Air NR.pdf - Ambient Air Clean air Clean air is an...

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Ambient Air Clean air Clean air is an important factor in the quality of our life and our health. We take air into our lungs where gases in are exchanged at the lung surface and absorbed into our blood stream to disseminate oxygen (and other gases with it) to various tissues and organs in our body. In this manner, any substance present in the air we breathe has an instant access route to our body. Whilst this is vital for the introduction of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide, it has the potential to introduce agents that serve no biological function or have the capacity to harm us. However, air is never 100 per cent clean, i.e. it never comprises of just oxygen, nitrogen carbon dioxide and the inert gases; there has and always will be pollution whether it is natural or anthropogenic. Thus, impure air only becomes problematic when the contaminants develop into a nuisance, either aesthetically or physiologically. Air quality was one of the first health issues ever to be addressed in government legislation. In Elizabethan England laws were introduced to try and curb smoke emissions in the city of London, whilst in 1863, the British government passed the Alkali Act 1863 in an attempt to control hydrochloric acid emissions by industry. However, it was the extended smog episode in London of 1952, when there was an increase in the normal death toll by almost 4000 people, which eventually led to the introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1956. Since this time, pollution issues and their subsequent impacts on health and the environment have increasingly been dealt with by legislation. Australia has tended to follow the lead, firstly of the United Kingdom, and in more recent decades of the United States in this trend. Sources and types of air pollution Ambient air pollution comes from a number of sources; these can be natural, industrial or domestic. Natural processes that result in atmospheric pollution are volcanic eruptions, dust storms, ocean spray, pollen production, biogenic hydrocarbons and forest fires. Industrial materials, wastes and processes produce a variety of pollutants including particulates, and hydrocarbon, acid, sulphur, and chlorinated compounds. Domestic sources are dominated by combustion, i.e. heaters (wood, gas or other) and cars. The combustion of fossil fuels in cars, heaters or power stations, for the production of energy remains one of the largest sources of air pollution today. By-products from combustion include particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic organic micro pollutants (TOMPs), nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides carbon monoxide and heavy metals. Air pollution exists almost everywhere humans have settled or work. Smog can be seen in most cities around the world. Although Australia, by virtue of our less extensive history, smaller population and limited manufacturing base, has escaped some of the worse problems that ravage cities in Europe and America, it is increasingly obvious that our cities do have air pollution problems. Virtually all our major cities face smog problems, and continued impacts from air pollution can only increase unless action is taken.
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