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Sources and effects
Pollutant Sources Effects
Nitrogen Oxides Nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2, are collectively referred to as Nitrogen Oxides NOx. They are caused by the combustion of fossil fuels; major sources include road vehicles, power generators, heating plants and industrial processes. Nitrogen dioxide is an irritant gas that affects lung function and increases the risk of respiratory problems; it may exacerbate asthma and increase susceptibility to infections.
Particulates Particulate matter are fine particles dispersed in the air and arise from a variety of sources both natural and man made – including coal and diesel smoke, ash, sulphates, dust and pollen. These particles are less than 10 microns in diameter about 1/7th the thickness of a human hair- and are known as PM10. They can be divided into three main categories:

Primary Particulates: Emitted directly by combustion processes, including road traffic, power stations, industrial processes and are generally less than 2.5µm in diameter.

Secondary Particulates: These are formed by chemical reactions in the atmosphere and comprise mainly of nitrates and sulphates.

Course particles: Comprise of emissions from a wide range of sources, including re-suspended dust from road traffic, construction work, mineral extraction processes, soils, sea salt and biological particles.
PM10 particles are small enough to be breathed into the deepest part of the lungs, whereas larger particles are filtered out in the upper respiratory tract. Particulates are amongst the most harmful of air pollutants to human health, this is especially the case for people with pre-existing heart and lung problems for whom exposure may trigger asthma attacks or cause hospitalisation.
Sulphur Dioxide Sulphur dioxide is a corrosive gas produced by the combustion of fuel for power stations, domestic heating, industrial boilers, diesel vehicles and waste incinerators. It combines with water vapour in the atmosphere to produce acid rain. Exposure to high concentrations may affect those suffering from asthma and chronic bronchitis, causing coughing and tightness of the chest, but is unlikely to have an effect on the well being of healthy people.
Carbon Monoxide Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. The main outdoor source of carbon monoxide in the UK is currently road transport. Carbon monoxide reduces the transport of oxygen around the body by the blood, blocking essential biochemical reactions in cells. At typical environmental concentrations CO will have little effect in healthy people; however those suffering from angina and coronary heart disease may suffer more serious effects.
Ozone Ground level Ozone is a secondary pollutant resulting in a chemical reaction between nitrogen dioxide (NO) volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and sunlight in the atmosphere. Due to these reactions ozone is highest in rural areas than in towns and cities, especially in hot, still sunny weather conditions giving rise to Summer Smog. Once formed ozone can remain in the atmosphere for many days and is often transported long distances. Ozone can irritate the respiratory system and cause coughing and tightness of the chest, it can also aggravate asthma.
Benzene Benzene is an aromatic organic compound and a minor constituent of petrol. The main sources are therefore vehicle exhausts, petrol pumps and fuel tanks. Long term exposure to benzene has been linked to leukaemia and cancer.
1,3 Butadiene 1,3 Butadiene is an organic compound like benzene and is emitted into the atmosphere from the combustion of petrol and diesel fuels, it is also an important chemical associated with the manufacture of synthetic rubber. 1,3 Butadiene is a known potent, human carcinogen.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons PAHs belong to a large group of organic compounds, which are naturally occurring or man-made chemicals. They are commonly found in petroleum fuels, coal products and tar. They are formed by the incomplete combustion of these fuels and are absorbed onto the particles of dust emitted from combustion sources. Several individual PAHs have been shown to be carcinogenic, but more recently concern has turned to their interference with hormones and the reproductive system as well as their ability to depress immune function.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) VOCs are organic compounds that emit pungent gases or vapours into the air. They largely originate from fuel such as petrol and diesel so road traffic emissions and industrial processes are major sources. They also contribute to the formation of smog. Besides petrol other examples of products containing VOCs include, paints, glues, adhesives, building materials and furniture. Several individual VOCs have been known to be carcinogenic.










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