Samples Nature Environmental Biology

Environmental Biology

906 words 4 page(s)

Question 1. Compare Acid Deposition to Air Born Particulate pollution. Acid Deposition (which includes Acid Rain, Snow, Fog and Dry Deposition) is a large-scale regional air pollution problem. In the U.S., it impacts mainly the Northeast Region and higher elevation areas of the Southeast. Nitrogen and sulfur oxides are emitted from power plants with tall smokestacks in the upper Ohio River Valley and then combine with water in the atmosphere to form nitric and sulfuric acids. These acids are secondary pollutants (changed from the chemical forms that are emitted into the atmosphere) and are transported great distances by the prevailing winds. Acid Deposition is especially damaging for the environment as compared to air born particulates. Acid Deposition, especially over long spans of time, damages soil chemistry and crops, aquatic ecosystems, buildings and statues, and decline of number and health of forest tree species.

Air Born particulates are primary pollutants – that is, particulates are harmful in the chemical form they are emitted directly into the atmosphere. Particulates are from coal-burning power plants, motor vehicles and natural causes. The smaller the particle, the longer it stays suspended in the air. These particles irritate the throat, nose, damage lungs, and aggravate asthma and bronchitis. Because of the potential for serious, chronic and permanent damage to the upper respiratory organs, particulates are a severe human health threat. Studies show a significant increase in mortality from respiratory and heart malfunction caused by particulates (Cuningham and Cuningham 351-2).

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Question 2. Which do you feel is more potentially harmful to human health – indoor pollutants or outdoor pollutants?
In general, indoor pollutants are potentially more harmful to human health than outdoor pollutants. People spend a lot of time in their homes and offices, much more than in the outdoor air (with the exception of people who work primarily outdoors). In addition to a longer exposure time, indoor air pollutants are often “trapped” indoors because of weatherproofing done to make buildings more energy efficient. Indoor air can be much higher in pollutant concentrations than those in outdoor air, sometimes as much as 100 times higher (Miller and Spoolman 484). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one-fifth to one-third of office buildings contains unhealthy levels of indoor pollutants (EPA). Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants can result in “sick building syndrome”, a variety of health effects resulting from exposure to indoor pollutants – chronic respiratory ailments, dizziness, nausea and skin irritations (American Lung Association).

Question 3. Of these three indoor pollutants – radon, carbon Monoxide or Formaldehyde – which pollutant causes the most human health damage and why?

Radon, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde are all toxic pollutants that can cause human health damage . The amount of damage done depends on the concentration of the pollutant and the time a person is exposed to the pollutant. Each of the pollutants, under certain circumstances, can be lethal. Some special notes:

Radon is a gas emitted from radium, a radioactive element found in certain rocks and soil. Certain soils in the U.S. have high radium concentrations. When radon is emitted in open air, the radon concentration is negligible. When radon seeps into basements and cement foundations, it can build to high concentrations and over time can cause lung cancer in the building residents (Chiras and Reginald, 497-8).

Carbon monoxide can also be a deadly gas. It binds with red blood cells preferentially over oxygen. At low does it causes headaches, at high doses it can cause death (Chiras and Reginald, 485).

Formaldehyde is a common indoor air pollutant, especially in newer buildings. The furniture, carpets, paneling and flooring can all “outgas” formaldehyde.

Essay 2. “Acid Rain is like AIDS, to the environment.”
After decades of acid deposition the buffering capacity of soils in impacted areas is depleted . The most sensitive areas are where thin, acidic soils provide no buffering capacity because important nutrients have been leached out of the soil. Similar to an AIDS patient that has a badly damaged immune system, ecosystems which are continually pounded by Acid Deposition, are at risk for opportunistic infections such as insects or disease which weaken and eventually destroy ecosystem components. Here are three specific examples of acid deposition on ecosystems:

1) Aquatic Effects. Lakes and streams can be especially sensitive to acid deposition where bedrock makes them naturally acidic to start with. Acid rain washes the calcium and magnesium out of the watershed soil. Aluminum is also mobilized which is directly toxic to fish and other aquatic life (Baker et al. 1151).

2) Forests Damage. In high elevation spruce-fir forests showed a decline in tree density and seedling reproduction and an increase in mortality when those forests were downind from acid rain sources (Cunningham and Cunningham 363). This is directly similar to an AIDS patient – an increase in vulnerability to insects and disease.

3) Soil and Crop Damage. Acid Deposition changes the chemistry of the soil and directly impacts plant growth.Acids leach minerals directly from leaves and stunt tree growth (Chiras and Reganold 513-6).

  • American Lung Association. Healthy Air at Home. 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
  • EPA Environmental Protection Agency. An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
  • Baker L.A. et al. 1991. Acdic Lakes and Streams in the United States. Science. 252 (5007): 1151-5. Print.
  • Chiras, Daniel D. and J.P.Reganold. Natural Resource Conservation 9e. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.
  • Cunningham, Wiilliam P. and MaryAnn Cunningham. Environmental Science: A Global Concern. NewYork: 2o12. Print.
  • Miller , G. Tyler and Scott E. Spoolman. Living in the Environment 16e. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning. Canada:2009. Print.