Before we state each of the main sources of air pollution and list the respective best environmental practices for managing each of them, it is important to point out that prevention has to be pursued at all costs and with as much effort as possible, instead of allowing things to get out of hand and to such a point that we would have to employ best environmental practices to get things a bit or totally under control.
What is pollution prevention?
Pollution prevention is any practical method used to prevent or reduce the production or creation of wastes and eventually cut down air pollutants, solid wastes, hazardous wastes, and water pollutants.
Pollution prevention increases efficiency and enhances environmental protection; in addition, it helps reduce the toxicity and quantity of pollutants when:
- spills and leakages are prevented from occurring.
- reusable material is substituted for single-use material, where practicable.
- less hazardous materials are substituted for more hazardous materials.
- pollutants from leakages are captured, recycled, and treated before discharge into water or air.
- solvents are cleaned and reused.
- raw materials are efficiently utilized in a timely manner in order to avoid and reduce waste.
- people and society are taught, properly trained, or directed on how to effectively tackle pollution.
- materials are periodically inspected, serviced, or maintained, and unusable raw materials are rejected or returned.
The main sources of air pollution and the best environmental practices appropriate for each are as follows:
1. General pollutant sources of air pollution
The six criteria pollutants, hazardous air pollutants, and greenhouse gases originate from stationary sources, area sources, and mobile sources which are all different types of sources of air pollution.
Best environmental practices would be needed to manage the sources of air pollution and their respective pollutants which may mix or interact with each other and form completely new or complex pollutants that can be highly toxic at low concentrations and linger around for long periods of time.
The pollutants categorized under general pollutant sources may include the six criteria air pollutants, greenhouse gases, acid rain sources, and hazardous air pollutants.
Best environmental practices for general pollutant sources of air pollution
The best environmental practices for general pollutant sources—which are the same as the best environmental practices for all sources of air pollution—include the following:
- Cleaning up all spills as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
- Conducting surveillance on any part of the environment to determine where pollutants are being released into the air, the number and quantity of pollutants being released, and the exact times of their release.
- Cleaning all HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems on rooftops and replacing all essential filters if they are incorporated to help prevent the growth and spread of Legionella organisms which cause Legionnaires disease.
- Regularly replacing carbon absorbent materials and filters.
- Searching for leaks using leak detectors, especially around vents, valves, sampling points, trainers, gaskets, ductwork, lint bags, seals, condensing coils, exhaust dampers, and pipe fittings.
- Reusing and recycling substances, wherever or whenever possible.
- Substituting less hazardous materials and chemicals for more hazardous materials and chemicals, whenever possible or appropriate.
- Ensuring that general housekeeping, all operating equipment, sampling equipment, control devices, and storage vessels operate the right way and are maintained in a well-timed manner.
- Keeping written records of all maintenance works carried out on facilities and equipment, and highlighting notable problems and the solutions that have been used to solve them.
- Training employees to do their jobs properly, test their proficiency, continuously build their knowledge or education, and upgrade their skills on a periodic basis.
2. Stationary sources of air pollution
Stationary sources are point sources of air pollution, and some of the important information about them also applies to many aspects such as electric power plants, chemical plants, wastewater treatment plants, and a variety of industries.
Other examples of stationary sources of air pollution include areas or locations for mining of raw materials, storage points of raw materials, positions where fuel is stored for heating at industrial sites, etc.
Best environmental practices for stationary sources of air pollution
- Ensuring that industrial operations are more efficient. Higher efficiency also generates greater profits.
- Removing the sources of problems caused by the air pollution that is generated by industrial processes.
- Altering industrial operations in order to reduce the number and quantity of air pollutants.
- Ensuring that the industrial boilers that use fossil fuels are properly maintained and all leaks are eliminated and pipes are thoroughly insulated.
- Adjusting various parts of equipment such as boiler doors and burners in order to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides they discharge.
- Controlling and properly handling gaseous emissions and employing the use of equipment such as absorbers, bio-filters, thermal oxidizers, boilers and process heaters, flares, catalytic reactors, flares, carbon absorbers, and condensers.
- Using generated heat and power to distil much of the energy available in fuel.
- Producing electric motors that are more efficient in various industrial applications: utilizing modern flat belts instead of V belts, and properly adjusting the components of motors—or replacing them with energy-efficient motors.
- Using less-polluting materials in place of more-polluting materials.
- Preventing pollutants from being carried downwind to other areas that may be easily affected by them, and using smokestacks that have appropriate sizes to dilute small quantities of pollutants.
- Pre-treating raw materials before using them to reduce the concentrations of potential pollutants released during industrial processes.
- Using fabric filters, cyclones, wet and dry electrostatic precipitators, venture scrubbers, and settling chambers to collect and control particulate matter.
3. Mobile sources of air pollution
Mobile sources of air pollution are categorized into on-road sources and off-road sources which discharge pollutants into the atmosphere after fuel evaporation and fuel combustion take place and produce hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter along with greenhouse gases and air toxics.
The mobile sources of air pollution that are regulated by the environmental protection agency (EPA) include: buses, cars, heavy-duty vehicles, commercial aircraft, recreational vehicles, minivans, semi-trailers, light-duty vehicles, SUVs, motorcycles, diesel-powered engines on locomotives, agricultural and construction equipment, lawn and garden equipment, propane and gasoline industrial equipment, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, a variety of boats and ships, etc.
Best environmental practices for mobile sources of air pollution
- Using redeveloped gasoline to cut down emissions of toluene, benzene, and other toxic pollutants.
- Ensuring that people who sell engines and vehicles prove they comply with any environmental laws that govern limits on emissions from fuel combustion.
- Establishing standards for certain types of air pollutants emitted by mobile sources of air pollution, and combustible products such as on-road diesel fuel, off-road diesel fuel, and gasoline which are used to power mobile sources.
- Ensuring that manufacturers design and implement efficient vapor recovery systems, combustion systems, and use computer technology to observe the performance of catalytic converters, engines, and use filters to efficiently remove pollutants from exhausts.
- Establishing and enforcing limits for emissions from the tailpipe located at the rear end of cars.
4. Acid rain sources of air pollution
The wet forms of acid deposition/deposit such as acid rain, acid fog, acid snow, and acid mist, and the dry forms of acid deposition are all produced up in the atmosphere and fall down to the earth.
The wet and dry forms of acid deposition can change the chemistry of the soil and bodies of water, destroy or change alter ecosystems, cause health problems, create misty or foggy skies, damage property and goods, and affect the natural functioning of agricultural crops.
Acid precipitation is formed when nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are discharged into the atmosphere and react with water vapor and other chemicals to form acids.
Best environmental practices for acid rain sources of air pollution
- Carrying out adequate and appropriate maintenance on all motor vehicles and the diverse range of motorized tools and equipment.
- Cutting down the quantity of emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from automobiles and power plants.
- Reducing thermostat usage during winter and economizing its usage during the summer. This helps to reduce fuel consumption and save money as well.
- Purchasing and using only energy-efficient appliances and discarding those that aren’t energy-efficient.
- Reducing the quantity of wasted electricity by switching off televisions, lights, computers, and appliances that aren’t being used or won’t be used for a certain time period.