2.6 Air pollution

Due to industrialisation trends worldwide, particularly in developed countries, the pollution level in the atmosphere has increased significantly. Air pollution can lead to disease. In particular, polluted air can irritate a person’s trachea (windpipe) and lungs, which may affect breathing.

Air pollution is caused by the release of small particles and gases into the surrounding air. For example, motor vehicles release significant amounts of carbon monoxide and particulate material. Smoke from domestic fires, coal-based power generation and heavy industries (see Figure 2.8), and methane from waste disposal sites, all contribute to air pollution.

Figure 2.8 Smoke is a common air pollutant from many sources.

In urban areas, the air contains more pollutants than in rural areas because the day-to-day activities in urban areas are continually releasing pollutants into the atmosphere. For example the increase in motor vehicles and construction activities has led to Addis Ababa becoming noticeably more smoggy than it was five or ten years ago. Older vehicles that are poorly maintained are particularly likely to produce clouds of black smoke – as you have probably seen!

At the household level, using wood and charcoal for cooking purposes can contribute to indoor air pollution, which may result in some individuals being exposed to highly polluted air.

2.5 Excreta and faecal sludge

2.7 Major health risks associated with environmental pollution