What is air and air pollution?

Air can be polluted and some basic pollutants that we usually discuss in IGCSE chemistry that we need to discuss.

What are the constituents of air?

Air is a mixture just like other mixtures like alloys(brass, bronze), blood it has constituents not chemically bound together.,

The constituents of a and the percentage composition

Constituents of AirPercentage compositionUses
Nitrogen78%Used as a diluent
Oxygen21%Supports combustion  
Carbon iv oxide0.03-0.04%Carbon iv oxide used by fire extinguishers
Noble gases1%Neon used in entertainment Argon is used to fill lamps Helium is used to fill balloons for weather studies and deep sea divers Krypton is used in headlamps Radon is used in radioactive research    

What are air pollutants? Air pollutants are gaseous substances introduced into the air or atmosphere that make air unsuitable for humans to take in.

There are some basic air pollutants that I will talk about here and I will mention their causes and effects.

Carbon monoxide or carbon II oxide

Sources: Carbon monoxide is formed by incomplete combustion  of carbon

Equation: 2C + O2 è  2CO

Effect: it is toxic or poisonous to humans (combines with hemoglobin)

Carbon dioxide or carbon ii oxide

Sources: Carbon dioxide is formed by the complete combustion of carbon

Equation: C +O2 èCO2

Effect: carbon dioxide causes greenhouse effect/global warming

leaded compounds

Sources: Some petrol contains lead compounds as additives. The leaded compound is lead iv tetraethyl which is usually added to increase the octane number rating of petrol and increase ultimately the quality of petrol.

Effect: when petrol burns in oxygen, the lead compound causes a lot of damage to humans because it is difficult to remove lead compounds from our body.


Methane is another pollutant found in the atmosphere.

Sources: methane is formed from natural gas

Effects: it causes global warming /greenhouse effect

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s)

Sources: refrigerators, air conditioners, and fire extinguishers

Effect: It causes ozone layer depletion

Oxides of nitrogen (nitrogen ii oxide and nitrogen iv oxide)

Sources: oxides of nitrogen are formed when the air surrounding the engine combines with the nitrogen at high temperature and pressure.

Also in the atmosphere, nitrogen only combines with oxygen when there is a thunderstorm or lightning.


N2 +  O2 è2NO

N2 + O2 èNO2

Effects: Nitrogen II(NO) causes photochemical; smog formation and global warming or the greenhouse effect.

Nitrogen iv oxide causes acid rain formation

  • Oxides of Sulfur: (Sulphur iv oxide and sulfur vi oxide)

Sources: formed by the combustion of sulfur-containing ores in oxygen  

Also from power stations and volcanic eruptions

Equation: 2ZnS +3O2 è 2ZnO + 2SO2

Effects: sulfur iv oxide and sulfur vi oxide cause acid rain formation

How do you convert poisonous gases to less poisonous gases?

To convert very poisonous gases to less poisonous gases, we use a catalytic converter with the aid of catalysts Rhodium, Palladium, and Platinum.

There are various reactions that happen in the converter that we need to take note of and see how they are converted to less poisonous gases.

Complete combustion of carbon

2CO + O2 è2CO2

Decomposition of oxides of nitrogen

2NO2 èN2 + 2O2

2NO è N2 + O2

Combination of oxides of nitrogen and carbon

CO + NO è CO2 + N2

2CO + 2NO2 è 2CO2 + N2

What are the effects of long-term air pollution?

1. Global warming and greenhouse effect: Global warming and greenhouse effect are caused by the effect of gases

Global warming is the gradual increase in the temperature caused by the effect of some gases that traps the infrared rays leaving the earth’s surface.

2. Depletion of ozone layer:  Depletion of the ozone layer causes or creates holes in the ozone layer making it easier for ultraviolet rays to heat the earth with much intensity.

     O3 è O2 + {O}

3. Acid rain formation: Acid rain formation is caused by some gases that are usually gotten from the flaring of gases that happen in some petroleum industries.

SO3 + H2O è H2SO4

NO2 + H2O è HNO2 + HNO3

4. Respiratory diseases like asthma: when poisonous gases are inhaled, they can cause some reparatory problems like asthma.

5. Toxic to humans: Carbon monoxide is toxic to humans and can cause death because it can displace oxygen from the blood causing carboxyhemoglobin which is dangerous to humans.

In conclusion, there are so many diseases associated with air pollution and there is a need to solve this problem by controlling the activities of industries and reducing the air pollution level.

Air pollution causes a lot of respiratory diseases like emphysema, eye irritations,

Air pollution causes global warming, acid rain formation, depletion of the ozone layer

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