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Air Pollution

2 Pages 593 Words

Air Pollution

Air pollution also has a dramatic effect on natural resources. Ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, coral reefs, and rivers perform many important services for Earth's environment. They enhance water and air quality, provide habitat for plants and animals, and provide food and medicines. Any or all of these ecosystem functions may be impaired or destroyed by air pollution. Moreover, because of the complex relationships among the many types of organisms and ecosystems, environmental contamination may have far-reaching consequences that are not immediately obvious or that are difficult to predict. For instance, scientists can only speculate on some of the potential impacts of the depletion of the ozone layer, the protective layer in the atmosphere that shields Earth from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.

Another major effect of air pollution is the tremendous cost of air pollution cleanup and prevention. The global effort to control emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas produced from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal or oil, or of other organic materials like wood, is one such example. The cost of maintaining annual national carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels is estimated to be 2 percent of the gross domestic product for developed countries. Expenditures to reduce pollution in the United States in 1993 totaled $109 billion: $105.4 billion on reduction, $1.9 billion on regulation, and $1.7 billion on research and development. Twenty-nine percent of the total cost went toward air pollution, 36 percent to water pollution, and 36 percent to solid waste management.

Eventually most pollutants are washed out of the air by rain, snow, fog, or mist, but only after traveling large distances, sometimes across continents. As pollutants build up in the atmosphere, sulfur and nitrogen oxides are converted into acids that mix with rain. This acid rain falls in lakes and on forests, where it can lead to the death of...

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