SECTION 2 Air, Noise, and Light Pollution - BEATS INFOmh Chapter 12 Air The Health Effects ... Section…

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  • Section 2 Air, Noise, and Light Pollution 309

    Air pollution can cause serious health problems. People who arevery young or very old and people who have heart or lung prob-lems can be most affected by air pollutants. Decades of researchhave shown convincing evidence linking air pollution to disease.But because pollution adds to the effects of existing diseases, nodeath certificates list the cause of death as air pollution. Instead,diseases such as emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer arecited as causes of death. The American Lung Association has esti-mated that Americans pay tens of billions of dollars a year inhealth costs to treat respiratory diseases caused by air pollution.

    Short-Term Effects of Air Pollution on HealthMany of the effects of air pollution on peoples health are short-term and are reversible if their exposure to air pollution decreases.The short-term effects of air pollution on peoples health includeheadache; nausea; irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat; tightnessin the chest; coughing; and upper respiratory infections, such asbronchitis and pneumonia. Pollution can also make the conditionof individuals who suffer from asthma and emphysema worse.

    Long-Term Health Effects of Air PollutionLong-term effects on health that have been linked to air pollutioninclude emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease. Long-termexposure to air pollution may worsen medical conditions sufferedby older people and may damage the lungs of children.

    Objectives Describe three possible short-term

    effects and long-term effects of airpollution on human health.

    Explain what causes indoor air pol-lution and how it can be prevented.

    Describe three human health prob-lems caused by noise pollution.

    Describe solutions to energy wastecaused by light pollution.

    Key Termssick-building syndromeasbestosdecibel (dB)

    S E C T I O N 2

    Air, Noise, and Light Pollution

    Figure 8 This police officer wearsa smog mask as he directs traffic inBangkok, Thailand.

    www.scilinks.orgTopic: Respiratory DisordersSciLinks code: HE4094

    Copyright by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.

  • Indoor Air PollutionThe quality of air inside a home or a building is sometimes worsethan the quality of the air outside. Plastics and other industrialchemicals are major sources of pollution. These compounds canbe found in carpets, building materials, paints, and furniture, par-ticularly when these items are new. Figure 9 shows examples ofsome indoor air pollutants.

    Buildings that have very poor air quality have a conditioncalled Sick-building syndrome is mostcommon in hot places where buildings are tightly sealed to keepout the heat. In Florida, for example, a new, tightly sealed countycourthouse had to be abandoned. Half of the people who workedthere developed allergic reactions to fungi that were growing inthe air-conditioning ducts, ceiling tiles, carpets, and furniture.

    Identifying and removing the sources of indoor air pollutionis the most effective way to maintain good indoor air quality.Ventilation, or mixing outdoor air with indoor air, is also neces-sary for good air quality. When activities such as renovation andpainting, which cause indoor air pollution, are undertaken, venti-lation should be increased.

    sick-building syndrome.

    310 Chapter 12 Air

    The Health Effects of Ground-Level Ozone

    You have learned that the ozonelayer in the stratosphere shields theEarth from the harmful effects ofultraviolet radiation from the sun.At the surface of the Earth, how-ever, ozone is a human-made airpollutant that at certain concentra-tions may affect human health.

    Ozone forms from the reaction ofvolatile organic compounds (VOCs)and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in thepresence of heat and sunlight. Highconcentrations of ozone form in theatmosphere on sunny days that havehigh temperatures in the late spring,summer, and early fall. The sources ofVOCs and NOx emissions are largelymotor vehicles, power plants, gaso-line vapors, and chemical solvents.Most ozone pollution forms in urban

    ChemistryConnection to

    Formaldehyde Formaldehyde isa colorless gas that has a strongodor. It is a very common indus-trial and commercial chemicalthat is used to make buildingmaterials and household prod-ucts. In the home, significantamounts of formaldehyde arefound in adhesives in plywood,particle board, furniture, and car-pet. Other sources of formalde-hyde may be foam insulation, gasstoves, tobacco smoke, and dry-cleaned clothing. The healtheffects of formaldehyde mayinclude eye irritation, burningsensations in the throat, nausea,and difficulty breathing.

    Children who engage in vigorousoutdoor activities where pollutantconcentrations are often high mayhave a greater risk of developingasthma or other respiratory illnesses.

    and suburban areas. However, pollu-tants may be transported hundredsof kilometers from their source.

    As ozone concentrations in theatmosphere increase, greater num-bers of people may experienceharmful health effects of ozone onthe lungs. Some of the short-termeffects of ozone on health includeirritation of the respiratory system,a reduction in lung function, theaggravation of asthma, and inflam-mation to the lining of the lungs.Scientists believe that ozone may

    have other damaging effects onhuman health. Lung diseases suchas bronchitis and emphysema maybe aggravated by ozone. Scientists

    Copyright by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.

  • Section 2 Air, Noise, and Light Pollution 311

    believe that permanent lung injurymay result from repeated short-term exposure to ozone pollution.Children who are regularly exposedto high concentrations of ozone

    Those who are most at riskfrom ozone include children, adultswho exercise or work outdoors,older people, and people who sufferfrom respiratory diseases. In addi-tion, there are some healthy individ-uals who have unusually highsusceptibility to ozone.


    1. Making Decisions Write a briefparagraph explaining whether ornot lung-function tests should bemandatory for children who live inurban areas where high concentra-tions of ozone are frequent.

    2. Making Decisions If lung-function tests become mandatory,who will pay for these tests, and whowill provide the equipment? Wouldthese tests be performed at school,in a doctors office, or at a hospital?


    may have reduced lung function asadults. Exposure to ozone may alsoaccelerate the natural decline inlung function that is part of theaging process.

    A therapist performs a lung-function test on a patient by usinga machine that measures various aspects of lung function.

    Figure 9 Someindoor air pollutantsand their sources areshown here.

    Copyright by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.

  • Radon Gas Radon gas is colorless, tasteless, and odorless. It isalso radioactive. Radon is one of the elements produced by thedecay of uranium, a radioactive element that occurs naturally inthe Earths crust. Radon can seep through cracks and holes infoundations into homes, offices, and schools, where it adheres todust particles. When people inhale the dust, radon enters theirlungs. In the lungs, radon can destroy the genetic material in cellsthat line the air passages. Such damage can lead to cancer, espe-cially among people who smoke. Radon is the second-leadingcause of lung cancer in the United States.

    Asbestos Several minerals that form in long, thin fibers andthat are valued for their strength and resistance to heat are

    called Asbestos is primarily used as an insula-tor and as a fire retardant, and it was used exten-

    sively in building materials. The U.S.government banned the use of most asbestos

    products in the early 1970s. Exposure toasbestos in the air is dangerous. Asbestosfibers that are inhaled can cut and scar thelungs, which causes the disease asbestosis.Victims of the disease have more and more

    difficulty breathing and may eventually dieof heart failure. Schools in the United States

    have taken this threat seriously. Billions of dol-lars have been spent to remove asbestos from school

    buildings. Figure 10 shows asbestos fibers and asbestosremoval from a building.

    Noise PollutionA sound of any kind is called a noise. However, some noises areunnecessary and can cause noise pollution. Noise is a pollutantthat affects human health and the quality of human life.Airplanes, construction equipment, city traffic, factories, homeappliances, and lawnmowers are some of the examples of thingsthat make unnecessary sounds that commonly travel through theair. Health problems that can be caused by noise pollution includeloss of hearing, high blood pressure, and stress. Noise can alsocause loss of sleep, which may lead to decreased productivity atwork and in the classroom.

    The intensity of sound is measured in units calledThe lowest point on the decibel scale is 0 dB and the highest pointis 180 dB. For each increase in decibel intensity, the decibel level is10 times higher than the previous level. For example, 20 dB is 10times the intensity of 10 dB, 30 dB is 100 times the intensity of 10dB, and 40 dB is 1,000 times the intensity of 10 dB. Table 2 showsthe intensity of some common sounds. A sound of 120 dB is at thethreshold of pain. Permanent deafness may come as a result of con-tinuous exposure to sounds over 120 dB.

    decibels (dB).


    312 Chapter 12 Air

    Figure 10 Asbestos (right) formsin long, thin fibers. Theworker above is removingdebris from a structure that wasbuilt with asbestos.

    Intensity of Common Noises

    Noise Intensity (dB)

    Rocket engine 180

    Jet engine 140

    Rock-and-rollconcert 120

    Car horn 110

    Chainsaw 100

    Lawnmower 90

    Doorbell 80