Air Quality Concerns Today
Despite great advances in consumer awareness and air
quality controls, there are several areas that remain of particular
Internal Combustion Engine: In spite of the many
improvements to the engines of cars and trucks, vehicles are still a
major contributor to air pollution in Alberta. This is
because of the increasing numbers of vehicles in use. Exhaust
fumes contain carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and
particulate matter. A single engine gives off relatively
small amounts of pollutants. However, there are so many cars and
trucks that the small amounts add up to a significant pollution problem.
Commonly referred to as acid rain, this situation arises when sulphur
dioxide and oxides of nitrogen are dispersed into the atmosphere.
They mix with water in the atmosphere and then fall to earth in precipitation. Sometimes
gases mix with particles in the air and
fall to earth as dry deposition. These become acids when they
contact soil moisture. Sources of acid forming particles include
the internal combustion engine, oil and natural gas processing and the
burning of coal.
Indoor Air Pollution:
In some industries, the manufacturing process can produce smoke, dust
particles, chemical fumes and poisonous gases. Proper ventilation
and filtration can remove these hazards from the air. However, in
many homes and offices air pollution is a definite hazard. New
homes, schools, and buildings are often constructed to conserve
heat. This can result in the air becoming stale and the build-up
of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.
Some building products also give off harmful gases.
Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation releases formaldehyde gas which can
cause severe illness. Radioactive radon gas is given off by
concrete, brick, stone and soil. High concentrations of radon gas
can cause lung cancer. Other substances that change indoor air
quality include adhesives and glues used in building panels, paints,
carpets, furniture and aerosols. Smokers add to these emissions by
putting carbon monoxide, particulate matter, carcinogens, and carbon
dioxide into indoor air.
All buildings should have adequate ventilation to
reduce harmful emissions. Air for furnaces or fireplaces should be
drawn from the outside. Smokers should smoke only in well
ventilated areas where their emissions will not become part of the
building's air circulation.
Reprinted from Focus On Air Quality (1993) with permission of