Air Pollutants – Their Cause and its Effect

Beside the gases, the atmosphere contains liquid and solid substances which appear in different concentrations. These present a complex mixture of chemical, organic, and inorganic substances which are specified as “airborne particles”. These particles being carried in the air are often named by the English specification PM, “Particulate Matter”.

We are continuously confronted with air pollutants by the surrounding air. The origin of these particles is most the time the domestic heating system, the industry, the intensive agriculture, and last but not least the combustion process of fuels which means the automotive traffic.
The emissions originating from automotive motors are complex and their composition is very variable. The particles consist of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, soot, sulphates, and metals. The qualitative and quantitative composition of the exhaust gases depends on the used fuels, on the type of the motor and its age, on the level of the technical settings and the maintenance of the motor, on the waste gas purification system and on the usage of the car. Especially the fact if the latter is driven often or rarely, quickly or slowly or for shorter or longer distances.

The exhaust gases of diesel motors without emission control system or with a restricted system contain more fine dusts. Two studies of the IARC International Agency for Cancer Research show an increasing tendency for the risk of lung and bladder cancer which is allied with a strong  increase in exhaust gases from diesel motors.

The risk potential of air pollutants is not only limited to lung cancer. Depending on their volume, they penetrate more deeply the breathing system. The PM 2.5 particles, for example, advance to the pulmonary alveoli where they cause an inflammation which can lead to lung complaints like bronchitis, asthma, and finally also to cancer. The larger particles (PM10) remain in the upper airways where they can cause diseases as there are pharyngitis or inflammation of the trachea. Especially children are endangered.