The earth’s atmosphere is negatively affected by air pollution from human activity. In fact, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. World Health Organization (WHO) data shows 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
Different forms of atmospheric pollution have different consequences. First, factories, power plants and vehicles produce sulfur and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants can cause respiratory ailments and aggravate conditions such as asthma. They can also cause acid rain, or acid deposition, which harms trees, lakes and streams and the wildlife that live there. Second, industrial processes and explosions may release harmful particulate matter into the atmosphere, which the wind then spreads around the world. This is of particular concern when winds spread pesticides, radioactivity, or other hazardous material. Third, the stratospheric ozone layer is needed to absorb most of the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Some manmade chemicals, especially refrigerants, can rise into the stratosphere, react chemically with the ozone molecules, and eat away at the earth’s ozone layer. Increased UV rays can cause increases in certain types of skin cancers, eye cataracts, and immune deficiency disorders. They also affect plant growth, reducing agricultural productivity.