Air pollution occurs when harmful particles, molecules, and compounds enter the Earth’s atmosphere; it is detrimental to the environment and all living organisms, including humans. Areas with heavy air pollution normally contain smog, a fog composed of large amounts of smoke and air pollutants. The main contributors of smog are ozone, O3, and soot.
Pollution, specifically that of the air, has been increasing since the 1800s, after the start of the Industrial Revolution. During this period, new technologies and industrial processes, which release chemicals and compounds into the environment, were invented. Since then, pollution levels have been increasing rapidly as more fossil fuels are burned, and more greenhouse gases and particles are released into the atmosphere.
Over time, China became the country with the highest levels of air pollution and smog. This was evident at the 34th Beijing International Marathon, which began at Tiananmen Square, on Sunday October 19th, 2014. During the race, the US Embassy’s monitor measured that the pollution level peaked at around 400 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter. This is much higher than the World Health Organization’s daily limit of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. The air quality was determined to be hazardous to humans, if exposed for a 24-hour period, because the particulate matter can enter the body and flow in the bloodstream and into the lungs. Many athletes wore gas masks to protect themselves during the marathon, and many others dropped out during the race because the conditions were too strenuous. Some even said that the air smelled of burnt coal, and it was hard for them to see and breathe. Although the air quality during the marathon was reported to be better than that of last year, only slightly, it is still very hazardous and needs to be regulated better. (BBC News)
-by Sara Wallam