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Anthropogenic causes of air pollution: Factories and Industries Exhaust

In the world there are thousands of factories freely creating a negative environmental impact. Foundries, metal smelters, food processors and clothing manufacturers are just some examples for you to think how huge is the industrial infrastructure worldwide.

Refineries, which emit several pollutants into the air, also make a huge impact on the land. There are cities like Tarragona (north Spain) where Repsol occupies more than 500 hectares, which is a surface equivalent to the urban area.

The point is you can find factories and industries everywhere, and these deteriorating the quality of the air people breath. You can find them throw these long chimneys erected high into the air, with non-stop smokes and fumes coming out of them. This is why factories and industries are considered main sources of air pollution.

Related phenomena

On air quality regulations, factories have huge advantage because, as the effects of air pollution are often widespread, it is difficult to calculate the number of emissions. Moreover, exhaust gases can drift great distances and cause dangerous phenomena like acid rain in populations far away from the origin of the problem.

Another situation where you can find yourself in a very polluted environment in the petrochemical smog. Factory processes include a wide range of activities like cleaning, panting or others. Chemicals used in these processes evaporate, but they can react with sunlight and other pollutants, creating the peroxyacetyl nitrates, or commonly known as petrochemical smog. This toxic fog is very dangerous because it can last days or even weeks.

city smog

Air pollution from factories and industries

Industrial pollution is one of the primary sources of environmental contamination. This human-made source have profound effects on the health of living organisms and the entire planet.

A wide range of pollutants are emitted by the human activity on factories and industries, like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, particulate matter, lead, hydrocarbons, organic compounds and other chemicals.

Inhaling factories and industries fumes is very dangerous for humans health, increasing the probability of several diseases like asthma or bronchitis. However, the world is in permanent disease due to this issue, and climate change is not going to stop if manufacturing industries aren’t regulated.

factories exhaust

Regulations to air pollution

Emissions from factory processes globally are increasing year by year, and although it has become a public health issue, countries resist to regulate these tremendous industries. Lack of control policies, usage of old technologies and inefficient waste disposal drive this process of massive pollution.

An exemplary government on this issue is the Danish government, as danish companies are obliged to use the best available technology (BAT). BAT means that overall pollution is minimized, but not eradicated, reducing the possible impacts of air pollution.

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Anthropogenic causes of air pollution: Agricultural activities

Agriculture was originated thousands of years ago and since then it has been a crucial activity for the humanity’s survival and evolution. Currently, it is defined as the science or practice of farming, including the cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.

Our modern agriculture is based on finding new ways of getting the perfect product without taking into account how dangerous these activities are to the atmosphere. Two facts have prevailed: price and final result. Many pesticides, insecticides, fumigators and fertilizers are used without restriction, emitting harmful chemicals into the air and making it one of the main air pollution causes.

According to the use of land and resources, agricultural activities can be classified into different types: commercial, subsistence, intensive and extensive. The type of agriculture used in each area depends on the land conditions, the weather and the needs of that population. For example: in the middle of the Amazon basin, it must be subsistence agriculture since the closest village is usually hundreds of kilometers far away.

Moreover, world’s population increases year by year, meaning that every time we need more food, so more and more efficient agricultural and livestock activities are performed, emitting more harmful pollutants to the atmosphere. At the end, it has become one of the major pollution sources in Europe, the United States, Asia and Russia, creating massive impact on live beings, biodiversity and ecosystems.

agriculture pesticides

Animal waste drift

Ammonia, a very powerful pollutant which we will talk later on, is found on animal waste, mainly from livestock excretions. However, animal waste is mainly affecting water pollution and not air pollution, and plenty of regulations have been made to control it since water suitable for human consumption is fewer every year.

Nitrogen compounds from fertilisers

Production of artificial fertilizers has skyrocketed from about 20 million tons in 1950 to more than 200 million tons in 2018, and about a third of them are nitrogen-based. Nitrogen compounds from fertilizers are the real issue here, these gases drift over industrial regions and combined with industry and exhaust fumes from vehicles form fine particulate pollution (mainly PM2.5).

agriculture fertilisers

These solid particles created can stick in the fine lung tissue of children and adults, causing breathing difficulties, impaired lungs, heart function and eventually premature death. In fact, it is estimated these types of pollutants kill almost 3.3 million people worldwide every year.

A study from the Courtesy U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than half of the aerosol ingredients in much of the eastern and central United States comes from farming, which is an alarming statistic taking into account that these could easily combine with exhaust fumes in the region.


Ammonia, whose chemical composition is nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3), is a byproduct both of fertilized fields and animal waste, as it can come from the breakdown of livestock excretions.


When ammonia is placed into the atmosphere, it often reaches industrial or urban areas, where this gas can find pollutants like nitrogen oxides and sulphur compounds, and the combination of both creates PM2.5 pollution particles.

As these particles are invisible to human eyes, they penetrate deeply into our lungs to generate several health problems, especially for vulnerable segments like children or elder people. In the UK it has become a public health emergency, killing more than 40.000 people per year.

Some experts say that controlling the sources of industrial pollution, which are the agents that turn agricultural pollution into its harmful forms, must be a priority. The world is going to need more food, and therefore more fertilizers, so the focus should be on eradicating those compounds that combined with ammonia generate dangerous pollutants.