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Air Quality Essay

1. Identify and describe the nature of this issue, the spatial and ecological dimension? Air quality is a measure of the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere and the dispersion potential of an area to dilute those pollutants. It is a massive problem of urban living and remains one of the largest environmental concerns. Spatial dimension relates to how air quality differs between places at different times and under different weather patterns. Increasing population and demand for more goods puts greater pressure on air quality. The human population’s interaction with the environment relates to the ecological dimension.

In terms of air quality this relates to the impacts of increased gases and particles associated with transportation, industrial activities, smoking, dust storms from over grazing on marginal land, bush fires and the burning fossil fuels. Many of these activities cause increases in carbon monoxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and particles in the atmosphere. People get health problems due to these increases. For example, excessive carbon monoxide levels in the blood stream reduce its ability to transport oxygen. This in turn causes headaches and tiredness.

2. Explain the geographic processes causing the issue

Humans are exposed to a number of pollutants , air toxics and particulate matter in the air we breathe and live in. A number of organisations have worked on standards that identify those levels that are safe and those that are not and how these impact on a human’s well being. Pollutants are substances which at high enough levels can cause harm to people and the environment (including plants and animals). Things like sulphur dioxide is from coal, oil burning power stations, mineral ore processing and chemical manufacture. With Sulfur dioxide health issues like the throat and lungs are attacked. People with breathing problems can suffer severe illness

. Nitrogen dioxide Is caused from fuel combustion. The throat and lungs are affected with increased levels in the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels and motor vehicle emissions increase carbon monoxide levels. Excessive carbon monoxide levels in the blood stream reduce its ability to transport oxygen. This in turn causes headaches and tiredness. Volatile organic compounds are caused by combustion of fuel, motor vehicles and solvent use. With increased levels of VOCs skin irritation, eye irritation and nausea may be caused. It can also be a cancer causing issue. Ozone is formed from nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in sunny conditions.

It is also released by motor vehicles and industry. The tissues of the throat, lungs and eyes may be irritated. Increased lead levels are as a result of exhaust gases from motor vehicles that use leaded petrol, as well as emissions from smelters. In lead it can get into your lungs and go into your blood stream. It can affect you by shutting down your nervous system and the body will stop producing blood and you will die. Motor vehicles, burning of plant materials and bush fires increase levels of particles in the atmosphere. Breathing difficulties and respiratory diseases may worsen. Some particles may contain cancer causing agents. Air toxics are pollutants that are also hazardous to humans. Air toxics are hydrocarbons and heavy metals.

They are of high concern when emitted close to the source. Examples include at industrial sites and heavily used roads. There is a connection with high levels of air toxics to cancer, birth defects, genetic damage and respiratory and nervous system disorders. Particles are liquids or solids found in the air. They can be natural substances all those from fuel burning processes. The most damaging particle is known as PM10. This is due to the fact it can stay in the atmosphere for long periods and also be carried large distances is has been known to increase death rates in areas of high concentrations.

3.Outline some contrasting views of different groups involved in the issue? A major issue associated with air quality is related to traffic congestion. Traffic congestion in Sydney has forced roads to go underground in tunnels. Exhaust fumes are then sent above ground via ‘stacks.’ These stacks are of major concern in the areas where they are located, in particular for the health of humans and animals, as well as the environment. The M5 East tunnel, in particular, has had strong feelings from a number of groups. Originally 3 stacks were to be built on high ground to rid the tunnel of fumes. There were many people against this, so only one 35 metre stack was built without a pollution filter. Some contrasting views are summarised below, from a number of groups: Residents against pollution stacks: (RAPS):

Protest, court cases, inquiries, petitions and letters have been written to voice concern about pollution, but little has been done. This group believes they are unhealthy, expensive to run and that the government is not caring about the publics health and safety.

Minister for roads (state parliament 2006): The Minster believes that the public’s health is not at risk, because of fresh air is put into the tunnels and air quality levels are always met. He believes standards are constantly monitored and that it is well used by motorists.

DR Raymond Kearney- associate professor in dept. of Infectious diseases/Immunology: Acess to clean sir is a human need and right. Your lungs me a barrier between the outside world and your body, the tosic substances from the air that is leaving the tunnel and the air that is in side the tunnels reaches your body via the lungs. The burning of petrol, diesel is one of the most toxic sources.

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