Source of air born particulate matter
Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. But human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes, and incinerating wastes generate the majority amount of particulates.
The source and the composition of particulates pollution is not the same around the world. When examining the individual sources of air pollution. “It is generally assumed that industry and transport are the worst air polluters. But that is evidently not the case on a global scale,” says Lelieveld. Much of the smog in India and China is caused by small domestic fires. “Although these are low-key activities, they add up, particularly if the majority of the population uses them,” he says. Overall, one-third of premature deaths worldwide are attributable to this inefficient form of combustion.
In 2015, it was detected that Indonesia cumulated more than 120,000 forest fires and in October more than 20,000 fire fighters were battling blazes across the country. Such an enormous amount of carbon emitted in the atmosphere does not have only made Indonesia suffer but effected the whole Asian region. In the worst hit areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan the levels of the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) have pushed toward 2,000 – anything above 300 is considered hazardous.
By contrast, a leading cause of air pollution in Europe, Russia, Turkey, Japan and the eastern United States is, surprisingly, agriculture. Ammonia enters the atmosphere as a result of the use of fertilizers and intensive livestock farming. It then undergoes a number of reactions to form ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate. These substances, in turn, are a major factor in the formation of small airborne particles. In fact, agriculture is the cause of one-fifth of all deaths due to air pollution. In some countries, for example in the Ukraine, Russia and Germany, this figure is over 40 percent.
Other major sources are fossil-fuel fired power plants, industry, biomass combustion and motor vehicles. Taken together, they account for another third of premature deaths. Just under a fifth of premature deaths are attributed to natural dust sources, particularly desert dust in North Africa and the Middle East.
Keep in mind that around twice as many people die from the effects of vehicle emissions than from road accidents!