The harmful effects of smog


Smog, a name coined from the words smoke and fog, is a kind of air contamination produced by the photochemical interaction of light with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides that are dispensed into the atmosphere by vehicular emissions and postindustrial gas. Studies have found that the effects of smog can be serious and lasting. 

While several people recognize smog as a form of air pollution, others may call it as a haze in the ambiance or assimilation of gases. Perhaps the most apparent evidence of cities stifled by smog is the colored and soot-covered windows, walls, drapes and curtains, and other open surfaces.

The earth’s atmosphere is naturally consist of 78.08 percent nitrogen, 20.95 percent gas, 0.93 percent argon, 0.03 percent element pollutant, and 0-4 percent irrigate suspension.  There are also small amounts of more or less twoscore trace gases such as ozone, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and neon in the atmosphere.

The existence of minimal amounts of these trace gases is relatively harmless, until the balance is tipped and its accumulation rises beyond tolerable levels that makes the air we breathe toxic.

Generally, there are two types of smog.  One is called industrial smog, which is typified by vast achromatic smokestacks emanating from chimneys of factories.  Its primary pollutant is sulfur dioxide, a compound that causes acid rain.

The other type of smog is called photochemical smog, which primarily comes from the combustion process of moving vehicles, and the constant use of fossil fuels for heating, industry and transport.

Moreover, slashing and burning of trees, and agricultural organic wastes cause enormous emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides. These are two of the main air pollutants.

When these direct pollutants interact with sun, they create various dangerous chemicals, peroxyacetyl nitrates (PAN) and tropospheric or ground-level ozone, which are notoriously known as auxiliary pollutants.

In addition, the unabated accumulation of smog in the air has increasingly become alarming significantly because of its hazardous chemical content. For one, it compromises human health by considerably weakening our respiratory and immune system. Though its effects may differ according to certain factors like age, state of health, extent of exposure, and dosage, its typical symptoms involve coughing, sneezing, headaches, tiredness, irritation, nausea, and hoarseness of the throat, nose, and eyes, and chest constrictions.  These effects, withal, are only short-term.  Once exposure to smog stops, the symptoms also stop.

It is the long-term impact of air pollutants that are likely to put human health at high risk since these are ofttimes the gravest.  The most serious effects of smog are associated with the respiratory system.

Smog components have been proven to cause damages to the mucociliary system.  Besides, smog causes, and even aggravates, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.  It also causes eye irritation and weakens the body’s defense system against colds and lung infection.

People who are more prone to acquire smog-related ailments are the

  • aged
  • children
  • expectant women
  • those with heart and lung conditions
  • smokers
  • those who exercise outdoors
  • those with allergies

Aside from adding stress to the human body, smog particularly reduces the lung’s working capacity of the asthmatics and those suffering from chronic ailments.

Moreover, toddlers and young children are vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are not yet fully developed. Since they breathe more air per unit of body weight than their adult counterparts, they are prone to greater risk of getting sick and acquiring long-term damage to their lungs.

Besides, since children ofttimes breathe through their mouths, much smog enters their lungs because the mouth, unlike the nose, has no natural filtering system that reduces the amount of hazardous chemicals.

Such ailments are rather common in urban centers, where postindustrial emissions from automobiles and factories are extensive.

Urbanization is beside the question. But the irony of this is that, along with progress comes also deterioration. However, all is not lost yet.  We still have time, although not that much anymore, to do something to reverse the situation.  We can actively participate in programs and activities that support sustainable development.

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