Air Pollution

Increases in airborne pollutants due to vehicular and industrial emissions pose a serious threat to wildlife and ecosystems. Plants and wildlife exposed to pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide can develop serious health problems. Amphibians or other species with thin skin are especially vulnerable to absorbing these chemicals.

Pollutants inhaled by animals can hurt them in several ways:

  • Carbon monoxide inhibits the blood’s ability to transport oxygen through the bloodstream.
  • Lead can cause serious damage to an animal’s heart, kidneys and nervous system.
  • Pollutants can cause diseases in animals, such as lung and skin cancer.
  • Continued exposure to lead and other metals in particulate matter may cause bioaccumulation, the accumulation of toxic substances in animal tissues.
  • Damage to plants and habitats from acid rain

Sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere combines with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form acid rain. Exposure to acid rain can damage plant communities by disrupting the processes involved in photosynthesis. Plants weakened by acid rain are more likely to develop root rot and suffer from insect damage and disease. The weakening of plant communities is very detrimental to the overall health of the ecosystem and the animals that inhabit it.

Air pollution and global warming

Another serious environmental threat caused by air pollution is global warming. Even slight increases in temperatures can drastically affect sensitive ecosystems like coral reefs. Carbon dioxide is the main culprit behind global warming, and is a by-product of burning fossil fuels. The main sources of carbon dioxide include cars, planes, factories and power plants.


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