The North ot Italy is a very industrialized area and consequently it suffers from pollution. Pollution is the contamination of air, water, or earth by harmful substances.
In particular I’d like to talk about the main typesof air pollution and its well-known effects. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect and the global warming, and “holes” in the ozone layer. Each of these problems have serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole environment.
Adverse air quality can hurt many organisms including humans, because air supplies us with oxygenwhich is essential for our bodies to live. Air pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throath inflammation and chest pain.
The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes, and industries is a major source of pollution in the air. Some authorities believe that even the burning of wood and charcoal in fireplaces and barbeques can release significant quantities of soot into the air.
The burning of fossil fuels releases particulate matter (very small pieces of matter measuring about 2.5 microns or about 0.0001 inches) and noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These gases can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain.
When a pollutant, such as sulfuric acid combines with droplets of water in the air, the water (or snow) can become acidified . The effects of acid rain on the environment can be very serious. It damages plants by destroying their leaves, it poisons the soil, and it changes the chemistry (by reducing the pH value) of lakes and streams. Damage due to acid rain kills trees and harms animals, fish, and other wildlife. Acid rains also gradually destroy calcareous and marble monuments.
Depending on the geographical location, temperature, wind and weather factors, particulate matter and carbon oxide is dispersed differently. However, sometimes this does not happen and the pollution can build up to dangerous levels. This happens in our North Italy cities, when the weather is sunny and without wind. Pollution levels are measured every day, and if they overstep the security limit for more than 10 days, authorities decide for the vehicular traffic to stop. This is what we call “blocco del traffico” and this usually happens on sundays, when people doesn’t have to go to work. So in these days there is silence and families go out for a walk or by bike without danger, because there aren’t cars on the streets.
In my opinion, this resolution doesn’t solve the pollution problem, but it’s just a way to show the people that something is being done!
Discussion: What about the cities in USA and UK? How do they solve smog problems?
Do they adopt any resolution like that?
Another big problem due to air pollution is greenhouse effect. This effect depends on gases present in atmosphere that strongly absorb radiation. These gases, called greenhouse gases, doesn’t allow radiation to escape into space, just as glasses do in a greenhouse. The greater amount of a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the higher the temperature. The result is a changing in the climate that is called the global warming: the earth is becaming hotter and hotter. The consequences are changing in flora and fauna, sea-level rising, desertification and lacking of water.
The hole in the ozone layer is another result of pollution. The ozone layer in the atmosphere protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiationfrom the sun. Release of chlorofluorocarbons(CFC’s) from aerosol cans, cooling systems and refrigerator equipment removes some of the ozone, causing “holes” and allowing the radiation to reach the earth. Ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin cancer and has damaging effects on plants and wildlife.
Even if steps are being taken to stop the damage to our environment from air pollution, I think that some drastic decision is being needed.
Mankind has become so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels (petroleum products, coal, and natural gas) that the sum total of all combustion-related emissions now constitutes a serious and widespread problem, not only to human health, but also to the entire global environment.
We need to change the supply of energy by using renewable energy sources from the sun, wind and water and even biomass (dead trees, tree branches, left-over crops and so on).
These include solar, wind, geothermal and hydro.
Unlike fossil fuels, which dirties the atmosphere, renewable energy has less impact on the environment. Renewable energy development will also result in jobs and less oil imported from foreign countries. For example the sunlight falling on the United States in one day contains more than twice the energy they consume in an entire year.
Renewable energy production has some drawbacks, mainly associated with the use of large tracts of land that affects animal habitats and outdoor scenery.
In Italy we do need a new energy plan for our increasing requires. Since italian citizens has voted against the nuclear in the 1987, anything has been done. Now we are obliged to buy oil: we spend a lot of money and increase air pollution!
Prevention is another key to controlling air pollution.
In your home, you can save energy by turning off appliances, TVs and radios that are not being used, watched or listened to. You can turn off lights when no one is in the room.
We can reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat or cool our homes by putting insulation in walls and attics. Insulating a home is like putting on a sweater or jacket when we’re cold…instead of turning up the heat. The outer layers trap the heat inside, keeping it nice and warm.
Discussion: How do you save energy at school and at home?