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ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

INTRODUCTION

THEORY

Air Pollution

Air is what we breathe. Air supplies us oxygen which is essential for our bodies to live. Air is 99.9%
nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Human activities can release substances into the air,
some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals.
There are several main types of pollution and well-known effects of pollution which are commonly
discussed. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and "holes" in the ozone layer. Each of
these problems has serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole
environment.
One type of air pollution is the release of particles into the air from burning fuel for energy. Diesel
smoke is a good example of this particulate matter. The particles are very small pieces of matter
measuring about 2.5 microns or about .0001 inches. This type of pollution is sometimes referred to as
"black carbon" pollution. The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes, and industries is a
major source of pollution in the air. Some authorities believe that even the burning of wood and
charcoal in fireplaces and barbeques can release significant quantities of soot into the air.
Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide,
nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in
the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain.

Sources of Air Pollution


Air pollution is the presence of substances in air in sufficient concentration and for sufficient time, so as
to be, or threaten to be injurious to human, plant or animal life, or to property, or which reasonably
interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property.
Air pollutants arise from both man-made and natural processes. Pollutants are also defined as primary
pollutants resulting from combustion of fuels and industrial operations and secondary pollutants, those
which are produced due to reaction of primary pollutants in the atmosphere.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

No Pollutants

INTRODUCTION

Common pollutants and their sources.


Sources

Suspended particulate Matter,


1 SPM
2 Chlorine
3 Fluoride
4 Sulphur dioxide
5 Lead
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13

Oxides of nitrogen
Peroxyacetyl nitrate, PAN
Formaldehyde
Ozone
Carbon monoxide
Hydrogen sulphide
Hydrocarbons
Ammonia

THEORY

Automobile, power plants, boilers, Industries requiring crushing and


grinding such as quarry, cement.
Chlor-alkali plants.
Fertilizer, aluminum refining
Power plants, boilers, sulphuric acid manufacture, ore refining,
petroleum refining.
Ore refining, battery manufacturing, automobiles.
Automobiles, power plants, nitric acid manufacture, also a secondary
pollutant
Secondary pollutant
Secondary pollutant
Secondary pollutant
Automobiles
Pulp and paper, petroleum refining
Automobiles, petroleum refining
Fertilizer plant

Air Pollution through Combustion sources


By combustion sources is meant operations where primarily fossil fuels, coal, natural gas, petrol, diesel
and furnace oil are burnt to obtain energy. This includes power plants, industrial boilers, domestic
heating and automobiles.
Thermal power pants
Thermal power plants are major sources of SPM, Sulphur dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen.
Depending upon the type of fuel used, emission of one or more of these pollutants may be of
environmental significance.
A large amount of SPM as fly ash is emitted from coal fired plants, particularly if the ash content
of coal is high and a fly ash removal unit, such as, an electrostatic precipitation (ESP) is not used.
Automobiles
In urban areas automobiles form a significant source of a number of air pollutants, namely,
particulates, Nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and lead. These pollutants are
produced when fuel is burnt under less than ideal conditions. Non-uniform oxygen supply within

ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

INTRODUCTION

THEORY

the combustion chamber and lower flame temperature leads to incomplete combustion
releasing Hydro-Carbons and un-burnt particles in the exhaust.

Industrial sources
Only two sources are discussed here as illustrative examples.
1. Cement manufacture
Raw materials include lime, silica, aluminum and iron. Lime is obtained from calcium carbonate.
Other raw materials are introduced as sand, clay, shale, iron are and blast furnace slag. The process
consist of mining, crushing, grinding, and calcining in a long cylindrically shaped oven or kiln. Air
pollutants can originate at several operations as listed below.
No

Source
Raw material crushing,
1 grinding
Kiln operation and
2 cooling
Product grinding and
3 packaging

Emission
Particulates
Particulates, Carbon Oxides, Sulphur oxides, Nitrogen
oxides, Hydrocarbons
Particulates

2. Sulphuric acid manufacture


Sulphuric acid is produced from sulphur, which is burnt to obtain Sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide is
converted to trioxide in presence of vanadium pentaoxide catalyst. The sulphur trioxide is absorbed
in recycling concentrated sulfuric acid. Unreacted Sulphur dioxide escapes with the flue gas. New
large plants now a days use double conversion double absorption (DCDA) process realizing above 99
percent efficiency.

The combustion of gasoline and other hydrocarbon fuels in automobiles, trucks, and jet airplanes
produces several primary pollutants: nitrogen oxides, gaseous hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide, as
well as large quantities of particulates, chiefly lead. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides combine
with hydrocarbons to form a secondary class of pollutants, the photochemical oxidants, among them
ozone and the eye-stinging peroxyacetylnitrate (PAN). Nitrogen oxides also react with oxygen in the air
to form nitrogen dioxide, a foul-smelling brown gas. In urban areas where transportation is the main
cause of air pollution, nitrogen dioxide tints the air, blending with other contaminants and the
atmospheric water vapor to produce brown smog. Although the use of catalytic converters has reduced
smog-producing compounds in motor vehicle exhaust emissions, recent studies have shown that in so
doing the converters produce nitrous oxide, which contributes substantially to global warming.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

INTRODUCTION

THEORY

In cities, air may be severely polluted not only by transportation but also by the burning of fossil fuels
(oil and coal) in generating stations, factories, office buildings, and homes and by the incineration of
garbage. The massive combustion produces tons of ash, soot, and other particulates responsible for the
gray smog of cities, along with enormous quantities of sulfur oxides (which also may be result from
burning coal and oil). These oxides rust iron, damage building stone, decompose nylon, tarnish silver,
and kill plants. Air pollution from cities also affects rural areas for many miles downwind.
Every industrial process exhibits its own pattern of air pollution. Petroleum refineries are responsible for
extensive hydrocarbon and particulate pollution. Iron and steel mills, metal smelters, pulp and paper
mills, chemical plants, cement and asphalt plantsall discharge vast amounts of various particulates.
Uninsulated high-voltage power lines ionize the adjacent air, forming ozone and other hazardous
pollutants. Airborne pollutants from other sources include insecticides, herbicides, radioactive fallout,
and dust from fertilizers, mining operations, and livestock feedlots.
Agricultural practices can also be a significant source of nuisance, contributing both to local levels of air
pollution and causing odour problems. The main sources of pollution are the burning of agricultural
waste, or of crops in the field and large intensive livestock units. Depending on soil type and fertilisation,
the nitrogen in the dung and urine of grazing cattle contributes 20-40% of nitrous oxide emissions from
agricultural land; methane is also emitted by cattle and other ruminants; nitrous oxide and methane are
of course both greenhouse gases.