Particulate Pollution Explained

Particulate pollution is a term used to sum up all forms of pollution. Pollution comes naturally from volcanoes, forest fires, dust storms, and even ocean spray. Particulate pollution is simply a term which refers to tiny particles of matter in gaseous or liquid form floating through the air we breathe. Not all pollutants are harmful, for example microscopic drops of water are pollutants since water and air do not mix. Not all water is harmful, yet it is a pollutant. That said most harmful particulate pollution comes from fossil fuel, coal, natural gas, and oil. These fuels are refined by man to use for energy to heat and cool homes and businesses, run factories, fuel automobiles, and a host of other applications.

Fossil fuels are the most dangerous particulate pollutants and do the most damage to the Earth’s atmosphere. Emissions called nitrogen oxides increased 690% from 1900-1970, due to the increase of vehicles in operation. Particulate pollution does not evaporate, instead it floats through the air, often becoming a part of the ecosystem, which evaporate into rain clouds becoming acid rain, or snow. Acid rain affects the plant life, rivers and oceans, sea life, and humans. Particulate pollution can cause cancer and other illnesses in humans, as well as a variety of abnormalities and diseases in plant, sea, and animal life.

Chlorofluorocarbons, (CFC), which is a common emission from things such as air conditioners, is a pollutant that will not break down until it is high in the atmosphere. It is only then that it broken down by ultraviolet radiation. When the atom begins to break apart, chlorine gas emits into the atmosphere and begins to break down the ozone layer. Even one chlorine atom is capable of destroying as many as 100,000 molecules in the ozone.

Chemicals called volatile organic chemicals enter the atmosphere when they only burn partially. These particulates come from household waste, landfills, or more commonly as a byproduct of solid waste products. Methane which is a colorless, odorless, flammable gas made up of carbon and hydrogen, is often described as swamp gas since when decomposition happens in the swamplands this is the gas that is produced. It also is the chemical the white fluffy clouds in the sky are primarily composed of. Methane gas is also often responsible for miners losing their lives in the mineshafts as it is both odorless and toxic. Without color or odor, miners are not aware of the deadly gas until it is too late. In some locales it is still common to carry along a canary to monitor if methane is present in a mineshaft. As a canary is small it will succumb to the gas early enough to allow the miners to escape.

Particulate pollution, although tiny and often unable to be seen by the naked eye, is normally dangerous to all living things. Carried by the wind and rain, poisonous gases are the cause of allergies, illness, and death around the world, some even claim they cause of global warming, if in fact there is such a thing.


Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, (2008), Air Pollution. Retrieved January 29, 2009. From: