General Air Pollution
Objectives
Describe the causes, effects, and solutions for general air pollution.
It is time to conclude this Unit with a look at Air Pollution in general. (Special Note: The information in this unit and subsequent units will be tested at the end of the "Environments and People / Resource Management Module".)

General Air Pollution

Sources
- cars, buildings, and industry

Gases Produced
- carbon monoxide
- nitrogen oxides
- ground level ozone
- particulate matter due in large part to incomplete combustion
- volatile organic compounds
- sulphur dioxide

Causes
- these gases accumulate near the ground especially during relatively calm, clear conditions to produce smog

- temperature inversion: this is the reverse of the normal state of the lower atmosphere. Instead of the temperature decreasing with increased elevation, the temperature rises with increased elevation. Warm air above acts as a cap on pollutants that accumulate in the cooler layer of air. In order to break the inversion, a weather system needs to pass through with wind to stir up the atmosphere and disperse the pollutants.


- local topography and prevailing winds can exacerbate air quality problems. For example, in the case of the lower Fraser Valley area , most of the pollutants come from the Greater Vancouver Regional District and are blown eastward into the valley where they become concentrated and trapped by the narrowing valley and surrounding mountain sides. Hence, communities such as Abbotsford and Chilliwack often have significantly poorer air quality than the City of Vancouver.


Courtesy: Geological Survey of Canada

Impacts
- respiratory problems i.e. asthma
- irritation of eyes, nose, throat, and skin
- increased hospital visits and school absences
- in extreme cases, higher death rates

Solutions
- lower emission vehicles (i.e. hybrids) and eventually zero emission vehicles (zevs) with the use of fuel cells
- AirCare
- carpool, take transit, ride a bike
- plant more trees, preserve green spaces
- implement the Kyoto Protocol
- “ Think Globally, Act Locally"

Case Study: Is Air Quality Getting Better or Worse in the Greater Vancouver Area?

Answer: It depends whom one asks and how one assesses the situation.


Trends for Specific Pollutants in Vancouver (1974 to 1999)

Pollutant and % Change

Sulphur Dioxide (-67.0)
Nitrogen Dioxide (-25.3)
Suspended Particulate (-62.8)
Carbon Monoxide (-65.7)
Lead (-98.5)
Ground Level Ozone (+17.8)

Source: Environment Canada from an article in the Vancouver Sun entitled "We can breathe a little easier" (April 22, 2002 p.A14)

With the exception of ground level ozone, these are encouraging statistics due in large part to improved vehicle emission standards, changes to gasoline content, and AirCare.

However, the following video suggests continued concerns:
Video: Air Quality in the Region
Courtesy: gvtv



Assignment Work

A) Carefully read the information given above and view the links as well. Answer the following questions in your notebook.

1) Using the link provided above, explain how ground level ozone is produced.

2) Using the link provided above, how does a fuel cell work?

3) Go to the AirCare website and look under the "Air Pollution Info." link at the top and click on "How AirCare Works" to find the answers to the following:

a) When did the AirCare program first start?
b) AirCare is credited with identifying how many excess vehicle emitters?
c) What % of these vehicles have been repaired or removed from the road?

d) Since the year AirCare started, overall light-duty vehicle emissions have been reduced by how much?
e) What % of this reduction is credited to AirCare?
f) Besides AirCare, what other key factor has contributed to a reduction in emissions?

4a) What other specific evidence is there that air quality has improved in the Greater Vancouver area over the last three decades? (see notes above)

b) What evidence is there to suggest that air quality and vehicle use should still be major concerns (see Video)?

c) If you live in the Greater Vancouver area, what do you think about the region's air quality? If you live outside the area, how do you find the air quality in your community?

5) Download the following document file and fill in the answers utilizing point form notes from the information from the Mexico City Case Study link above.

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