The environmental impacts of smog over time have become an issue of concern, as it not only affects the environment but also the life forms found in the environment.
Smog is a specific type of air pollution. It is a mixture of dangerous pollutants that are released into the atmosphere by both natural and man-made processes. These pollutants frequently appear relatively low to the ground as a yellow-brown haze.
Smog was first described over 5 decades ago as a mixture of smoke and fog, hence the name “smog” but today it has a more specific definition and composition.
Just as stated above, smog is derived from the merging of two words: smoke and fog. Smog is also used to describe the type of fog that has smoke or soot in it.
It is a yellowish or blackish fog formed mainly by a mixture of pollutants in the atmosphere, which consists of fine particles and ground-level ozone. Smog can also be defined as a mixture of various gases, dust, and water vapour. It also refers to hazy air that makes breathing difficult.
Smog is made up of many chemicals, including nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs, SOx, and NOx are called precursors.
The primary sources of these precursors are air pollutants emitted into the atmosphere by automobiles powered by petrol or diesel, industrial facilities and operations, and human-caused heating.
Particulate matter and ground-level ozone are the two main components of Smog. Smog as an air pollution reduces visibility because it is like a dark cloud or fog.
Smog is made up of two types: normal smog (London-type smog), which is mainly a product of burning large amounts of high-sulfur coal. Photochemical smog (Los Angeles smog) is a more modern phenomenon commonly produced by vehicle emissions in contact with sunlight, mostly from burning gasoline and diesel.
Smog is common in industrial areas and remains a familiar sight in some cities today.
In this article, we are going to explore the impacts of smog on the environment.
Table of Contents
9 Environmental Impacts of Smog
As already noted, smog is a major by-product of air pollution, which to a large extent has caused disorder in our environment, and this is a major environmental issue. Hence, discussed below are some of the impacts of smog on the environment.
- Impact on Plants
- Poor Visibility
- Impact on Health
- Impact on Animals
- Water Pollution
- Air Pollution
- Creates an Ugly Environment
- Impact of Temperature
- Acid Rain
1. Impact on Plants
Smog can damage plant cells and inhibit the proper growth of plants by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, it damages forests and crops and shortens their life span.
It also causes stunted growth and degrades the quality of crops. Which results in reduced agricultural yields in all sorts of crops, degrading their ability to fight various infections and weakening them.
This makes the plants highly vulnerable to diseases, thus shortening their life span. It can easily infect vegetables such as soybeans, tomatoes, wheat, or peanuts. It can also affect synthetic materials like rubber, cotton, and other materials, causing deterioration and even disintegration.
2. Poor Visibility
Particulate matter causes the presence of haze in the atmosphere, thus reducing the clarity and colour of what can be seen. The humidity of the surrounding air also plays a role in its hazy effect.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, visibility is reduced from 144 kilometers to around 30 kilometers in certain parts of the United States.
3. Impact on Health
Smog affects human health on a large scale. The health effects from smog and its components can be severe, and depend on many variables.
Smog is harmful when inhaled, with the severity of it depending on the amount inhaled, the types of pollutants contained in it, as well as the individual’s age, weight, activity level, and well-being.
However, studies show that any exposure to these pollutants is harmful, with extended exposure and higher doses causing the most damage.
Types of health impacts of smog include:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation.
- Wheezing and coughing.
- Lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
- Headaches, mental damage, and dizziness can also occur due to smog and poor air quality.
- Asthma and miscarriages.
- Chances of road accidents and premature deaths.
4. Impact on Animals
Certain animal species find it very difficult to breathe and survive during the presence of Smog in the atmosphere. It is very toxic for them, and as a result, many animal species and green life die.
Too much Smog reduces Ultraviolet Rays (UV Rays) significantly. It reduces the natural source of vitamin D, which animals require for their survival. It harms the ecosystem and causes devastating results on the ecosystem. And this may lead to the extinction of species.
5. Water Pollution
Smog causes water pollution through the release of acid rain, which contaminates lakes, oceans, rivers, aquifers, streams, and other water bodies, making them acidic.
It withers the nutrient balance of these water bodies and degrades their quality, rendering them toxic to humans or the environment.
6. Air Pollution
Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. Smog is a devastating problem especially due to the fast modernization or industrialization as the hazardous chemicals involved in smog formation are highly reactive is spread around in the atmosphere.
Tropospheric Ozone is also one of the major causes of air pollution. When this gas mixes with the air, it leads to smog.
7. Creates an Ugly Environment
Smog is also ugly. It makes the sky brown or gray. Smog is common in big cities with a lot of industry and traffic.
Cities located in basins surrounded by mountains may have smog problems because the smog is trapped in the valley and cannot be carried away by wind.
8. Impact of Temperature
smog can reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface. The pollutants in smog scatter and absorb sunlight, creating a haze that dims sunlight.
This can lead to cooler temperatures at the surface, while the upper atmosphere becomes warmer due to the trapped heat and it may also increase precipitation.
9. Acid Rain
Smog can cause severe damage to the environment in the form of acid rain. Acid rain is caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air.
These substances can rise very high into the atmosphere, where they mix and react with water droplets, oxygen, and other chemicals to form more acidic pollutants, known as acid rain.
In this article, we have x-rayed the various impacts of smog on the environment. Which is a resultant effect of air pollution.
Majorly caused by human activities, it is advised that to save our environment, we need to reduce the rate of air pollution triggering activities such as industrialization, fossil fuels, overpopulation, urbanisation, etc., or in other words, find more environmentally friendly means to undertake these activities.
Smog can have devastating effects on us as well as the environment. Therefore, we must be careful, protect ourselves, and prevent smog as much as we can.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.