Did you know that the transportation sector emits more than half of the nitrogen oxides in the air? With this kind of emission, we can say that cars, buses, and trucks contribute to human health problems and environmental pollution. The emission from vehicles also adds to the causes of global warming, now a threat to many regions in the world.
So, how do vehicles cause air pollution?
The air pollution vehicles cause in the air can be categorized into two types of pollution:
• Primary pollution – This occurs when pollutants are released directly from the vehicle to the air either during the manufacturing and disposal process of vehicles or during the burning of fuels as vehicles move. The emission released during the refining of these fuels to the air can also be included in this category.
• Secondary pollution – This is not a standalone category as it occurs only if primary pollution occurs. This is the kind of pollution occurs when the compounds released in the air react with each other.
Now let's look at the ingredients of air pollution that emanate from vehicles:
As mentioned above, vehicles release a large proportion of greenhouse gases and especially carbon dioxide into the air. The problem with these gases is that they cause, among other things, too high temperatures due to the destruction of the ozone layer that blocks some of the sun rays from reaching the earth’s surface.
These are notorious compounds released on the burning of fossil fuels by vehicles into the air. Nitrogen oxides are known for causing respiratory infections in humans. Through a secondary reaction with particulate matter, the oxides form compounds capable of causing even more harm.
Now that vehicles release carbon dioxide, it is obvious that they release carbon monoxide when there is insufficient air during fuel combustion. This compound is mainly released by cars and trucks and when inhaled, it is capable of combining with oxygen to form carboxyhemoglobin, a compound that alters the normal flow of blood in the human body.
Sulfur is one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust. This means that it is present in fossils fuels in high amounts and hence it will find its way into the air when these fuels are burnt. The problem with this ingredient is that it reacts with other pollutants to form even finer particles capable of causing more health problems to humans.
These are the fine particles mainly in the form of soot released from vehicle exhaust. The fine particles cause primary pollution in the air as they travel deep into the lungs when inhaled. Particulate matter can also cause secondary pollution in reaction to most of the compounds discussed above.
Air pollutants in the form of smoke, smog, soot, and toxic substances from vehicles are now a significant problem worldwide. So far, we have seen inventions such as the introduction of electric and solar cars with the goal of cutting pollution from fuel burning.
However, a lot more has to be done to ensure that this pollution is reduced to an acceptable level. Luckily, if utilized well, modern technology and inventions have the capability to make the air cleaner and safer for every living creature.