The Harmful 4 Letter Word – SMOG
|   Nov 07, 2016
The Harmful 4 Letter Word – SMOG

What is Smog?

Smog is basically derived from the merging of two words; smoke and fog. Smog is also used to describe the type of fog which has smoke or soot in it. Smog is a yellowish or blackish fog formed mainly by a mixture of pollutants in the atmosphere which consists of fine particles and ground level ozone. These emissions include:

  • industrial pollutants
  • car and other vehicle pollutants
  • open burning
  • incinerators

Summer smog is also known as photochemical smog. This smog is created when sunlight mixes with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which are chemicals in the atmosphere.

Ozone, a colorless, odorless gas, can be good when in the upper atmosphere but harmful when found near ground level. Ozone formed in the Earth’s lower atmosphere can lead to smog and affect your health when you breathe it.

How Smog is formed?

The atmospheric pollutants or gases that form smog are released in the air when fuels are burnt. When sunlight and its heat react with these gases and fine particles in the atmosphere, smog is formed. It is purely caused by air pollution. Ground level ozone and fine particles are released in the air due to complex photochemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These VOC, SO2 and NOx are called precursors. The main sources of these precursors are pollutants released directly into the air by gasoline and diesel-run vehicles, industrial plants and activities, and heating due to human activities.

Smog is often caused by heavy traffic, high temperatures, sunshine and calm winds. These are few of the factors behind increasing level of air pollution in atmosphere. During the winter months when the wind speeds are low, it helps the smoke and fog to become stagnate at a place forming smog and increasing pollution levels near the ground closer to where people are respiring. It hampers visibility and disturbs the environment.

The time that smog takes to form depends directly on the temperature. Temperature inversions are situations when warm air does not rise instead stays near the ground. During situations of temperature inversions if the wind is calm, smog may get trapped and remain over a place for days.

But it is also true that smog is more severe when it occurs farther away from the sources of release of pollutants. This is because the photo chemical reactions that cause smog take place in the air when the released pollutants from heavy traffic drift due to the wind. Smog can thus affect and prove to be dangerous for suburbs, rural areas as well as urban areas or large cities.

How can smog affect my family’s health?

Smog is harmful and it is evident from the components that form it. When a city or town gets covered in smog, the effects are felt immediately. Smog can be responsible for any ailment from minor pains to deadly pulmonary diseases such as lung cancer. Smog is well known for causing irritation in the eye. It may also result in inflammation in the tissues of lungs; giving rise to pain in the chest. Other issues or illnesses such as cold and pneumonia are also related to smog. The human body faces great difficulty in defending itself against the harmful effects of smog.

Minor exposure to smog can lead to greater threats of asthma attacks; people suffering from asthma problems must avoid exposure. Smog also causes pre-mature deaths and affects densely populated areas building it up to dangerous levels. The highly affected people include old people, kids and those with cardiac and respiratory complications as they have easy tendency to be at disadvantage of asthma.

The ground level ozone present in the smog also inhibits plant growth and causes immense damage to crops and forests. Crops, vegetables like soybeans, wheat, tomatoes, peanuts, and cotton are subject to infection when they are exposed to smog. The smog results in mortifying impacts on environment by killing innumerable animal species and green life as these take time to adapt to breathing and surviving in such toxic environments.

So how should you fight with the forceful impact of smog? It can be reduced by implementing modifications in your lifestyle, decreasing the consumption of fuels that are non-renewable and by replacing them with alternate sources of fuel which will reduce toxic emissions from vehicles.

Who is most at risk from smog?                                                                   

Anyone who engages in strenuous outdoor activity—from jogging to manual labor—may suffer smog-related health effects. Physical activity causes people to breathe faster and more deeply, exposing their lungs to more ozone and other pollutants. Four groups of people are particularly sensitive to ozone and other air pollutants in smog:

  • Children—Active children run the highest risks from exposure to smog, as children spend a lot of time playing outside. As a group, children are also more prone to asthma—the most common chronic disease for children—and other respiratory ailments than adults.
  • Adults who are active outdoors—Healthy adults of any age who exercise or work outdoors are considered at higher risk from smog.
  • People with respiratory diseases—People with asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases are more sensitive and vulnerable to the effects of ozone. Typically, they will experience adverse effects sooner and at lower levels of exposure than those who are less sensitive.
  • People with unusual susceptibility to ozone—Some otherwise healthy people are simply more sensitive to the pollutants in smog than other people, and may experience more adverse health effects from exposure.

Elderly people are often warned to stay indoors on heavy smog days. Elderly people are probably not at increased risk of adverse health effects from smog because of their age. Like any other adults, however, elderly people will be at higher risk from exposure to smog if they already suffer from respiratory diseases, are active outdoors, or are unusually susceptible to ozone.

How can you recognize or detect smog where you live? 

The EPA (Environmental protection agency) has developed the Air Quality Index (AQI) (formerly known as the Pollutant Standards Index) for reporting concentrations of ground-level ozone and other common air pollutants.

How can we prevent the negative impacts of smog?

Avoid outdoor exercise in the afternoons and early evenings on smoggy days, especially if you are elderly or suffer from any heart or lung ailments. If you have young children, limit the amount of time they play outside.

Avoid exercising near areas of heavy traffic, especially during rush hour, in order to minimize your exposure to the contaminants produced by motorized vehicles.

And lastly, follow measures to reduce the emission of pollutants. There are many things you can do to help curb the production of ground-level ozone and other components of smog.

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