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Air is often referred to as the essence of life on Earth. Most creatures on our beautiful biosphere require air to respire and breathe. With a composition of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% other gases, clean air is highly coveted by humanity especially with countries experiencing an industrial boom, leading to record levels of air pollution on Mother Earth.

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is unwanted, harmful substances that may come about due to natural processess such as volcanic eruptions or human activities such as industrialism. Air pollution can be measured by the amount of physical pollutants in the atmosphere at a given area. Urban areas tend to be more polluted than rural ones and with a global shift towards modernisation, air pollution is a pertinent issue that we must learn to overcome.


Industrialism is a social or economic system in which manufacturing industries are prevalent. With factories growing every single day, much of our air is polluted by smoke and emmissions from factories. These fumes contains oxides of nitrogen and photochemical smog.

Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)

NOx is produces from the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen gases in the air during combustion, especially at high temperatures. In areas of high motor vehicle traffic, such as large cities, the amount of NOx emitted into the atmosphere as air pollution can be significant. NOx gases are formed whenever combustion occurs in the presence of nitrogen, for example, in car engines.

Photochemical Smog

Photochemical smog is the haze in the atmosphere accompanied by high levels of ozone and nitrogen oxides, caused by the action of sunlight on pollutants. It is a mixture of pollutants that are formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds(VOCs) react to sunlight, creating a brown haze above cities.

It causes harmful effects on plants as the chemicals can reduce or even stop growth in plants by reducing photosynthesis. Here is a table on effects of the smog on our health.

Pollutant Effects
Nitrogen oxides
  • can contribute to problems with heart and lungs
  • links to decreased resistance to infection
  • eye irritation
  • respiratory problems
  • some compounds are carcinogens
  • eye irritation
  • respiratory problems
  • coughing and wheezing
Peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN)
  • eye irritation
  • respiratory problems