7 Environmental Effects of Smoke Pollution

The various environmental effects of smoke pollution are extremely hazardous. Smoke pollution contaminates the environment through chemical, material, and biological waste altering its state.

Smoke pollution can come from activities as crucial as transportation to something as trivial and unnecessary as smoking. It can also have natural causes such as volcanoes and wild forest fires. However, no matter the source, smoke pollution must be curbed if the integrity of our planet will remain or be prolonged.

Smoke pollution releases pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, ammonia, methane, chloride, and sulfur dioxide amongst others. Smoke pollution has in fact been linked to effects as deadly as drought, climate change, ozone depletion, respiratory problems, soil degradation, and many others.

What is Smoke Pollution?

Smoke pollution is an intense form of air pollution specifically caused by harmful gases escaping into the atmosphere. It can be seen as the insidious contamination of the atmosphere by harmful substances that have negative effects on humans, animals, and plants alike, in some cases, it also causes damage to the environment and the climate and materials.

Besides our health, there are numerous horrendous environmental effects of smoke pollution. Smoke pollution is also a major factor affecting air pollution globally.

Factors that Contribute To Smoke Pollution

Certain factors are responsible for the environmental effects of smoke pollution, and those are the factors that cause smoke pollution which are categorized under two subtopics.

  • Natural Factors
  • Anthropogenic (manmade) Factors

Natural Factors

  • Volcanic Eruptions
  • Forest Fires

1. Volcanic Eruptions

During volcanic eruptions, volcanic gases are released such as carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, and hydrogen fluoride causing smoke pollution. For example, sulfur oxides released from the volcanoes mix with aerosols, sunlight, and other gases producing invisible fine particles.

Vulcanic Eruption - environmental effects of smoke pollution
Volcanic Eruption

2. Forest Fires

Forest fires can either be a natural disasters or manmade. This kind of wildfire contains air pollutants that can affect the environment. The most is the concentration of fine particulate matter in the environment degrading local, regional, and even global air quality.

2. Anthropogenic (Man-made) Factors

  • Burning Waste
  • Extensive use of Fossil Fuels
  • Smoking
  • Exhaust Fumes
  • Factories

1. Burning waste

This causes smoke pollution. Pollution from waste especially burning plastics is one of the lead causes of smoke pollution.

2. Extensive use of fossil fuel

Burning excessive amounts of fossil fuel has been a major cause of an increase in environmental smoke pollution since pre-industrial times and will continue to rise if this practice is not curbed.

3. Smoking

Smoking cigarettes harms the planet. They add loads of air pollutants to the atmosphere. Abundant evidence has shown that in areas where smoking was banned, the level in the air decreased significantly. For example, the state of New york.

4. Exhaust fumes

Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and particulate matter are some of the smoke pollutants that come from transport vehicles. They become airborne, seep into the soil near the highways or linger in the atmosphere and contaminate water bodies.

5. Factories

Factories remain one of the leading causes of smoke pollution daily releasing volumes of various air pollutants into the atmosphere.

Environmental Effects of Smoke Pollution

  • Air Pollution
  • Land Degradation
  • Water Pollution
  • Crop Death
  • Global Warming
  • Acid Rain
  • Depletion of Ozone Layer

1. Air Pollution

Air quality can be directly linked to the activities of humans. From activities such as breathing that seem trivial to those deliberate and complex such as manufacturing, the air around us is somehow affected. Among human activities that cause air pollution, smoke pollution is one of the most infamous.

Smoke pollution carries particles of different compositions and sizes into the air that pollutes it. This then makes the air unfit for photosynthesis for plants, unfit for breathing for humans and animals, and less than ideal for the earth’s temperature balance. 

Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, chloride, and methane are only a few of many pollutants smoke contains.

This makes the air unfit for plants, wildlife, and humans.  

2. Land Degradation

One of the environmental effects of smoke pollution is land degradation, when particulate matter or smoke pollutants(e.g soot) fall to the earth, it alters the PH balance of the soil making it unfit for crop farming and plants. For example, alkaline dust increases soil pH and affects the ability of plants to utilize nutrients. 

3. Water Pollution

One of the environmental effects of smoke pollution is water pollution, though the effect is not exactly direct, when we count the environmental effects of smoke pollution, we can’t overlook water pollution. This malady goes beyond contaminating surface water such as seas, rivers, and lakes to affecting underground water.

Water Pollution - environmental effects of smoke pollution
Water Pollution

This makes it unsafe for human consumption and affects sea life (animals and plants).

Read more on the 9 Types of Water Pollution

15 Main Causes of Water Pollution

4. Crop Death

The environmental effects of smoke pollution even adversely affect crops and plants. They affect the growth of plants by altering the natural resource allocation. For example, dioxins, one of the chemicals created when plastics burn, stick to the surface of leaves.

Crop Death - environmental effects of smoke pollution
Crop Death (source: Getty Images)

This reduces the penetration of light and sometimes even blocks the stomata. Smaller particles even enter the stomata and disrupt the plant’s metabolism and photosynthesis. The flowering period of fruit trees may become shortened and drop too soon. like peaches and cherries. 

It also causes injury to foliage, which may be visible in a short time and may also appear as necrotic lesions (dead tissues), it can also manifest as yellowing of the leaf. The plants may be killed outright but that is not likely until the plant has suffered a recurrent injury.

5. Global Warming

One of the environmental effects of smoke pollution is of course global warming (which is also called climate change). Global warming is primarily caused by smoke pollutants that trap heat within the stratosphere. These smoke pollutants come from factories, homes, cars, and also power plants that burn plastics, oil, coal, and fossil fuels.

environmental effects of smoke pollution - global warming
Global Warming (source: Conserve Energy Future)

It has recently been discovered even by the 2007 intergovernmental panel of climate change that black carbon, the soot particles in smoke, contributes about twice as much to global warming as previously estimated.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the environment and cause the earth’s temperature to rise. Normally, greenhouse gases regulate the temperature of the earth making sure heat is retained and warming the earth.

So, when there’s excess greenhouse captured in the earth, the earth becomes overheated affecting sea level, agriculture, and wildlife.

6. Acid Rain

Acid rain is among the most deadly environmental effects of smoke pollution. It causes acidic water droplets to rain instead of water because of pollution in the atmosphere.

When gases from smoke pollution such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide released by cars and industrial processes enter the atmosphere, they mix with water and other gases in the atmosphere to form ammonium nitrate, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid.

These acids spread and fall like rain, snow, fog, hail, or even dust.

Acid Rain - environmental effects of smoke pollution
Acid Rain

They also lower the PH in water and soil and destroy trees, crops, plants, and even entire forests. They corrode buildings and can even weaken stones.

7. Depletion of the Ozone Layer

Ozone layer depletion is one of the worst environmental effects of smoke pollution because smoke contains dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide which is the main cause of ozone layer depletion

The ozone layer acts as a shield for the earth against harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, nitrous oxide contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer by causing a hole especially when chemicals contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) chlorine atoms destroy the ozone layer, according to scientists, a single atom of chlorine can destroy thousands of ozone molecules, this can cause climate change, impede plant growth and cause plant diseases and reduce the reproductivity capacity of some organisms and animals in the marine ecosystem. 

Ozone Layer Depletion - environmental effects of smoke pollution
Ozone Layer Depletion

The ozone hole causes the ultraviolet rays that penetrate the earth to increase, thereby putting all living things on earth at risk, it causes skin cancer, and reduces the growth of plants and also aquatic life forms. It also causes the breakdown of natural and synthetic materials.

You can read about the effects of ozone layer depletion here


As you have seen in this article the 7 environmental effects of smoke pollution, it is so dangerous that we all need to put our hands together to make the earth green again, promote the use of electric vehicles, and reduce carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Environmental Effects of Smoke Pollution – FAQs

Why is smoke pollution bad for the environment?

Smoke pollution can contaminate entire water bodies, affecting sea life. It can kill crops, and entire forests, causing acid rain. In general, the impact of smoke pollution expands to cover the land, water, and air.

How is smoke pollution prevented?

Cars should be properly maintained to reduce the emission of fumes. Reduce the number of trips in private cars opting for public transport or walks or bikes. Use environmentally safe paints. Leave leaves and yard waste to decompose instead of burning. Avoid burning wood as much as possible instead of opting for gas stoves. Encourage the use of electric vehicles and Eco-friendly initiatives.


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