Air Pollution

By: Taryn Lindaman

Sources of Air Pollution

  • burning fossil fuels that release carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulates
  • motor vehicle emissions
  • second hand smoke, gas appliances, furnaces, and stoves
  • building materials such as formaldehyde
  • radon (radioactive gas released from rocks and soil)

Air Pollution and Health Effects

Exposure to air pollution can cause health problems such as reduced lung function, asthma, cardiovascular disease, or even premature death. Particle pollution in particular can cause problems such as eye, lung, and throat irritation, trouble breathing, lung cancer, or even problems with babies when they are born. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, claimed that particle pollution could be a cause of lung cancer. The IARC backed this claim up after reviewing the research and adding that the risk of lung cancer is increaded with higher particle levels.

Risk Factors for Air Pollution Health Problems

People who live near busy highways, rail yards, marine ports, or industries where pollutants are released from multiple sources are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases. Also, particle pollution has a greater effect on people with heart or lung diseases, older adults, and babies and children.

Pollution in Iowa and the U.S.

The air quality report states that the Des Moines area is one of the cleanest cities for ozone pollution, but Muscatine County is the 23rd worst county in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution. Christy Hillman, a speaker for the American Lung Association in Iowa says that Iowa is making progress on air pollution, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Iowa's new proposal for decreasing the amount of smog in the air could prevent between 320,000-960,000 asthma attacks. Studies on six U.S. cities show evidence that, with cleaner air quality, 34,000 premature deaths could be avoided every year in the U.S. alone.

Cost of Air Pollution

Ozone air pollution is estimated to cost $6.5 billion in health-related costs.

Air Pollution Solutions

One way to help stop air pollution is to shut down coal-powered plants that release harmful fumes into the air. Dr Harald Heubaum, lecturer in global energy and climate policy at the London-based School of Oriental and African Studies, says Beijing's decision to shut down another coal-powered plant was motivated by the local pollution that is making the people of Beijing sick. Actually, an air quality study showed that cleaner air can add about 4 months to your life expectancy, and women and people in very populated cities saw the most benefit. Other solutions for air pollution are not smoking, avoiding driving at high speeds, and not burning trash or yard waste.


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Gaffey, Conor. "Beijing Shuts Down Coal Power Plants as Air Pollution Costs Economy." Newsweek. IBT Media, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

"Particle Pollution - State of the Air 2014 | American Lung Association." State of the Air 2014. 2015 American Lung Association, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

"Particle Pollution." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Patane, Matthew. "Iowa Counties Expected to Meet New Smog Standards by 2025." Des Moines Register. N.p., 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

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