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Pollutants Vehicles Emit

This section describes common pollutants that vehicles emit. For information on the health impacts of these pollutants, see How Vehicle Emissions Affect Us, and to see how different transportation options compare, see Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Different Modes of Transportation. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) These are created during combustion. Vehicle engines burn a small proportion of the nitrogen that is present in the air plus nitrogen compounds found in vehicle fuels. Diesel engines generally produce much larger amounts of NOx than gasoline engines due to the higher combustion temperatures. Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Some of these tiny particles are formed during combustion (primary PM). Others are formed in the atmosphere through chemical reactions between the various pollutants found in exhaust (secondary PM). PM2.5 may contain many substances including metals, acids, carbon,

and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Diesel engines emit far greater amounts of PM than do gasoline engines. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) VOCs are a large class of carbon-containing compounds. In vehicle exhaust, VOCs come from unburned or partially-burned fuel. Additional VOC emissions come from evaporation of fuel (particularly during refuelling). Gasoline engines emit a higher proportion of VOCs than diesel engines, due to the greater volatility of the fuel. Carbon Monoxide (CO) CO results from the incomplete combustion of vehicle fuels. Gasoline engines emit a higher proportion of CO than diesel engines, due to the lower combustion temperature. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) SO2 is emitted from the combustion of sulphur contained in the fuel. Most SO2 is from diesel engines as diesel has much more sulphur than gasoline. Air Toxics Vehicles emit toxic air pollutants such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acrolein, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Some of these components are VOCs, while others are contained in particles. Coolants Older vehicles may have air conditioning systems using Freon, an ozone depleting substance, as a refrigerant. This Freon could be emitted through leaks, or during repairs. Newer vehicles use non-ozonedepleting coolant. The coolants in newer vehicles are still pollutants as they act as greenhouse gases. Other emissions The production, distribution, storage and marketing of transport fuels also cause air pollution emissions. An example is the emission of hydrocarbon vapours during refuelling of vehicles.

Pollution from Factories


Common factory-emitted water pollutants include phosphates, asbestos, mercury, nitrates, grit, caustic soda and other sodium compounds, sulfuric acid, sulfur, oils and petrochemicals. Additionally, many manufacturing factories discharge undiluted poisons, corrosives and other completely noxious substances. Construction related factory discharge includes gypsum, metals, cement, abrasives and poisonous solvents. One dangerous type of contaminant that has been entering the food chains are the polychlorinated biphenyl compounds, which are components in adhesives, plastic wrap and various lubricants. In other findings, power plants cause thermal pollution when they increase water temperatures. These increases of temperature affect the amounts of oxygen that are suspended in a volume of water. Changing the oxygen levels of water disrupts the ecological balance of a body of water. This can kill of animal and plant species, at the same time it encourages the overgrowth of other plant and animal species.

Contaminants of the air are classified as gases and particulates. Particulates are tiny particles which are further grouped by their sizes. Generally speaking, the smaller the particulates are of a noxious substance, the more dangerous it is because it will be able to travel more deeply into the airways of those that breath it in. Factory pollution includes carbon monoxide, which is mainly produced in combustion processes. Though most carbon monoxide pollution comes from motorized vehicles, there are also many combustion driven power plants still in operation today. Factory pollution also includes chlorofluorocarbons, which have been shown to destroy the ozone layer. Hydrocarbon gases and nitrogen oxides are also frequently emitted by industrial factories. Nitrogen oxides combine with hydrocarbon gases to produce what is known as smog. Sulfur oxides cause acid rain and comes from the burning of fuel that contains sulfur. Sulfur oxides are mostly produced at power plants or even combustion-driven power plants. There has been a 33% decrease in sulfur oxides emissions between the years of 1983 and 2002. This reduction in sulfur oxide pollution is believed to be due to state restrictions. Tropospheric ozone is another type of pollutant that is another product of two factory pollutants. This type of ozone is created when nitrogen oxides interact with hydrocarbon gases. In the stratospheric level, ozone reduces the amount of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earths surface. Yet at lower levels it is an irritating gas. Other types of pollutants that are known products of factory waste include volatile organic compounds like solvents, gasoline, petroleum products and cleaning solutions. Over time, the typical industrial factory has been fitted with various types of pollution control devices that are designed to minimize the amount of contaminants that are released into the air or water. While these and other means of decreasing pollution are somewhat effective, the pollution problem continues to be an increasing area of concern.

How Does Acid Rain Affect Fish and Other Aquatic Organisms?
Acid rain causes a cascade of effects that harm or kill individual fish, reduce fish population numbers, completely eliminate fish species from a waterbody, and decrease biodiversity. As acid rain flows through soils in a watershed, aluminum is released from soils into the lakes and streams located in that watershed. So, as pH in a lake or stream decreases, aluminum levels increase. Both low pH and increased aluminum levels are directly toxic to fish. In addition, low pH and increased aluminum levels cause chronic stress that may not kill individual fish, but leads to lower body weight and smaller size and makes fish less able to compete for food and habitat. Some types of plants and animals are able to tolerate acidic waters. Others, however, are acid-sensitive and will be lost as the pH declines. Generally, the young of most species are more sensitive to environmental conditions than adults. At pH 5, most fish eggs cannot hatch. At lower pH levels, some adult fish die. Some acid lakes have no fish. The chart below shows that not all fish, shellfish, or the insects that they eat can tolerate the same amount of acid; for example, frogs can tolerate water that is more acidic (i.e., has a lower pH) than trout.

Acid Snow
The impact of acid precipitation on aquatic ecosystems may be intensified by melting snow. When snow melts rapidly in the spring, the stream or lake may be "shocked" with an excessive amount of acid. In the spring, at the time of acid snow melting, the various aquatic organisms are reproducing and are the most sensitive increases in acid. Little Moose Lake: During the winter of 1976-77, there was no significant snow melt from mid-December through February at Little Moose Lake, New York. The highest depth was 130 cm. (top graph). The snow had an average pH of 4.4 in Feb. (middle graph). The snow started to melt in early March.(bottom graph).

Effects of Acid Rain - Forests


Over the years, scientists, foresters, and others have noted a slowed growth of some forests. Leaves and needles turn brown and fall off when they should be green and healthy. In extreme cases, individual trees or entire areas of the forest simply die off without an obvious reason. After much analysis, researchers now know that acid rain causes slower growth, injury, or death of forests. Acid rain has been implicated in forest and soil degradation in many areas of the eastern U.S., particularly high elevation forests of the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia that include areas such as the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Parks. Of course, acid rain is not the only cause of such conditions. Other factors contribute to the overall stress of these areas, including air pollutants, insects, disease, drought, or very cold weather. In most cases, in fact, the impacts of acid rain on trees are due to the combined effects of acid rain and these other environmental stressors. After many years of collecting information on the chemistry and biology of forests, researchers are beginning to understand how acid rain works on the forest soil, trees, and other plants.