Properties & Effects of Atmospheric Pollutants

Carbon Monoxide

  • Carbon monoxide is an extremely poisonous gas as it combines with hemoglobin in blood and prevents it from carrying oxygen.
  • It is particularly malevolent as it is colourless, odourless and tasteless, making it difficult to detect.
  • A lack of oxygen supply to the brain can lead to fainting, coma or in worst case scenarios, even death.
  • The carbon particles released clump together to form soot which gradually falls back to the ground.
  • Soot causes respiratory problems and covers buildings and statues, making them look unclean.

Soot Statue, Edexcel GCSE Chemistry

Statues and monuments in densely populated areas become blackened over time from soot

Sulfur Dioxide

  • Sulfur dioxide is the main air pollutant responsible for acid rain.
  • The sulfur dioxide released mixes with clouds and dissolves in rainwater.
  • SO2 is a non-metal oxide so it forms an acidic solution in water, hence forming acid rain.
  • Acid rain causes corrosion to metal structures, buildings and statues made of carbonate rocks.
  • It causes damage to aquatic organisms, pollutes crops and water supplies, and irritates lungs, throats and eyes.

Acid Rain Lake, Edexcel GCSE Chemistry

The unfortunate effect of acid rain as it lowers lake water pH to dangerous levels

Oxides of Nitrogen

  • Nitric oxides produce acid rain in a similar process as sulfur dioxide and with similar effects.
  • As for SO2, oxides of nitrogen produce photochemical smog and breathing difficulties, in particular for people suffering from asthma.

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Morgan Curtin Chemistry

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.