What Causes Air Pollution in the World?

What are you Breathing?


Years of healthy life lost from air pollution

Globally, this year

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TheWorldCounts, 15 April, 2014

What are you Breathing?

Breathing is so natural to humans that we take it for granted. We breathe 11,000 liters of air a day and it’s essential to our continuity as a species. 

Hundreds of years ago, before the industrial age, we didn’t worry about our air, but with the industrial boom, humanity’s concern about air pollution increased - and with good reason. 

Nowadays, we can no longer take breathing for granted. Air pollution has become a household word and we are more conscious about the air we are breathing. How can we not be aware? We see it visibly covering our cities in the form of smog. Global warming and ozone layer depletion are both direct results of Air Pollution.

What causes Air Pollution?

There are different kinds of pollution, some visible and some invisible, some directly caused by humans, some by nature. Any substance that we introduce to the atmosphere which disrupts the balance and has damaging effects to our environment is called Air Pollution.

What Causes Air Pollution in the World?

Exhaust from Factories

Factories and petroleum refineries release large amounts of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and other chemicals into the atmosphere. 

Burning of Fossil Fuels

Every vehicle you see on the road and in the air is emitting Carbon Monoxide, which is a major air pollutant. This is very hard to manage since the number of vehicles on the road grow with the population of the planet.

Sulfur Dioxide, another major pollutant, is emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. This causes Acid Rain.

Farming Chemicals

Insecticides, Pesticides and fertilizers emit harmful chemicals in the air. Ammonia, which is a byproduct of our agricultural processes, is one of the most dangerous chemicals in our atmosphere.

Household Products

Your hairspray, household cleaning products and even paint release chemicals that are harmful to your health. Some of these chemicals are lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium, just to name a few.

Natural Causes

Volcanic eruptions can release large amounts of Sulfur Dioxide in the atmosphere which blocks the sunlight, causing our planet to cool down for years. This has happened many times in our history.

Air Pollution Facts

  • Transportation such as buses, cars, trucks, ships and trains account for 90% of Cancer risks caused by Air Pollution.
  • Diesel exhaust from vehicles have over 40 substances listed as harmful by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Breathing polluted air can lower your life expectancy by 2 to 3 years.
  • Every 13 seconds, someone dies from air pollution, which makes it the 4th most lethal killer.
  • Air pollution can cause lung cancer, asthma, heart problems and skin diseases.

Solving the Air Pollution Crisis

It’s such a global crisis that you might think there’s nothing that one person can do to solve it. But you can make a difference. Here’s what we can all do to help clean up the air we breathe.

  • Patronize clean energy sources such as solar power, wind power and hydro power. We need to encourage the development of these alternative energy sources.
  • Use public modes of transportation when you can. Every car off the street is one less vehicle emitting carbon monoxide.
  • Buy Electric Vehicles when you can.
  • Conserve energy. The less energy we consume, the less need for fossil fuels to be burned.
  • Use household products that are Eco-Friendly.
  • Buy energy efficient devices. 

There is a worldwide effort on all levels to reduce the rise of Air Pollution. Governments are supporting technological advances that will give us a cleaner source of energy. Let’s all do our share and keep the air we breathe clean for us and for future generations.


  1. Conserve Energy Future: What is Air Pollution?
  2. National Geographic: Air Pollution
  3. Coalition for Clean Air: Fast Facts

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Deaths from air pollution in cities

Worldwide, this year

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Percent of time spent indoors

In the Western world

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Liters of air that you have inhaled

So far, today

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