The Negative Effects of Automobile Emissions Pollution
Charles Dickens wrote about the dirty conditions of London, England by saying, "Smoke lowering down from chimney pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun . . . Fog everywhere . . . fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city" (Qtd. Langone 28). The problem with the air back in Dickens’ day was all of the coal that was burned for heat and power. Today, we do not often use coal in our individual homes or businesses, but we still have a big problem with our air. Automobiles are our main problem today. In almost every large metropolitan area in the world, the effects of the pollution released from the cars can be seen, smelt and felt by the average person. When science and technology step in and actually measure the amounts of pollution present, the effects become even more shocking.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measures the amount of pollution in our air on a scale they call the Pollution Standards Index or the PSI. This scale measures several different pollutants including: carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide (EPA 2). Automobiles contribute to four of the six pollutants measured on the scale: Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (Patterson 6). The scale also explains at what levels the pollutants become unhealthy and what we should do to protect ourselves. At the Good and Moderate levels of the scale, there are no serious health effects found. At the Unhealthful level, people with heart or respiratory problems are advised to reduce physical exertion, and the general population should avoid vigorous outdoor activity. The Very Unhealthful level advises people to avoid outdoor activity and people with heart and lung problems should stay indoors and avoid all activity. At this level, there are widespread irritation symptoms among the healthy population. The last level, Hazardous, can cause many serious health problems, including the early onset of disease. It advises that everyone should stay indoors with all doors and windows shut and avoid physical activity of any kind. This level can also cause premature death in the ill and elderly (EPA 4).
The negative effects of automobile emissions pollution were recognized long ago. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare estimated in the late 1950’s that nationwide, cars contribute 48 percent of the carbon monoxide, 4 percent of the sulfur dioxide, 32 percent of the nitrogen oxides, 59 percent of hydrocarbons and 8 percent of the particulate matter in our atmosphere. With all of these figures together, it meant that the automobile was by far the nations largest polluter, being responsible for 43 percent of all air pollution...