Climate Change and Air Pollution

ozone part 5

By now you probably know that Climate Change is having an impact on all of our lives. In our last page we touched on how climate change can have an effect on air pollution, but here we want to show you how.



ozone part 4

What about climate change?

Ozone Pollution

Ozone is more commonly associated with fossil fuel combustion through automobile exhaust or pollution from power plants or manufacturing facilities.  And although these are major sources of ozone pollution, it may surprise you to know that the climate also has a big role to play in both ozone production and its danger.

Ozone is a highly unstable and reactive molecule.  Just like a strong acid reacting with and dissolving something placed in it, ozone reacts with and tries to break down almost anything that it comes in contact with. If it comes in contact with you, or especially your more vulnerable areas such as your eyes or lungs, you can feel the intense irritation it is causing, especially if it is present in large quantities.

So what is it about the climate that increases the danger of ozone?  Two things:

  • Warmer weather improves the conditions under which ozone forms.  Ozone is a byproduct of automobile exhaust, and in hot weather, these byproducts react with each other to produce ozone.
  • Ozone can safely be dispersed and diluted by the wind.  But if Climate conditions result in stagnant air with little to no breeze, ozone can sit around at ground level and build up to very unsafe levels.  If you happen to be living in, or passing through the areas where this is occurring, you are going to be at risk.

Places at risk

Ground Level Particle Pollution

We’ve mentioned allergens and particulate pollution as well.  But most people don’t realize how bad particle pollution can get as a result of climate change.  Hot weather and reduced rainfall cause droughts.  Dry soil increases the amount of dust in the air when the wind blows, and also contributes to wildfires that can send dust and particles into the air for hundreds of miles.  

Many people have heard of the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression.  This was a period of more than a decade where enormous dust storms would block out the sun for hundreds of miles. Winds as high as those from a hurricane would whip the land with airborne dirt and particles. Like a sandblaster spraying paint off of metal, anything exposed, especially living things, would not survive for long.  While human agricultural practices contributed to the problem, the primary recognized factor was a decades long severe drought which caused crops to fail and millions of acres of dry dirt to be exposed to the wind.

While there are few people alive today who lived through the Dust Bowl, there are billions currently living through similarly dangerous levels of Particle Pollution in countries such as China.  High pollution, changes in climate, and dust storms that blow dirt and sand east from the Gobi desert, causes major cities to be enveloped in a choking darkness of airborne particles.

Although going outside can be difficult in these conditions, one should wear a face mask capable of filtering out ultra fine airborne particles.  A simple painters mask is often not sufficient.  Eye protection is also recommended.  In the home, a high quality hepa air purifier such as the ones on our Top 10 list are more than capable of keeping the onslaught of airborne particles at bay.