The Smog We Breathe

What is smog?

Smog is a combination of two words ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’. Smog is a hazy smoke like substance that is caused by air pollution. It occurs when gases, dust or other particulates and water vapor combine and is usually worse on a hot sunny day. Most occurrences of smog are caused by the burning of fossil fuels, gas and diesel powered vehicles and industrial activities, all of which release the precursor compounds for the formation of smog.

How does smog affect people?

Depending on the severity of smog the affects can range from mild to extreme. Smog can cause visibility issues just like normal fog would.  It can also affect vitamin D production by obscuring sunlight. Living in an area that is often plagued by smog can lead to breathing issues such as asthma, lung diseases, colds or pneumonia. Children, the elderly and those who already have breathing or heart issues are most likely to be affected. In some cities where smog is especially intense the benefits of exercising outdoors can actually be negated by the harm caused from breathing the air.

How does smog affect the environment?

Smog can inhibit the growth of plants and thus reduce crop yields. It can cause chlorosis in plants which is a yellowing of the leaves due to lack of sufficient sunlight. Some crops are susceptible to infections from smog such as soy, wheat, peanuts, tomatoes and cotton. Smog can kill off plants and animal species that are unable to adapt to the poor air quality.

What can be done to reduce smog?

Even if you don’t live in an area affected by smog there are still many things you can do to help. Driving is a major cause of air pollution so choosing to bus, walk or bike is a healthy choice for you, the environment and others. If you do have to drive try to maintain your car so that it is as fuel efficient as possible or maybe think about trading in the gas guzzling hummer for a smaller compact car or an electric or hybrid option.

Buy local. Most of the food at the grocery store travel further than we do each day. By choosing to buy local or maybe even growing some of our own we are choosing to support our local communities and help keep pollution out of our environment.

Be energy efficient at home, especially if your electricity or heating comes from a fossil fuel source.

Do your research and boycott products from industries that heavily contribute to air pollution. Make your voice heard and share what you know with others.

Finally we can absorb some of that pollution by planting trees and other plants that help absorb greenhouse gases. Some plants are well adapted to dealing with air pollution such as Gingko which is a great tree to plant on cities boulevards.


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