Fuels and Earth Science: Pollutants

Fuels and Earth Science: Pollutants

  • Pollutants are substances that contaminate the environment and can cause harm to living organisms and the natural environment.

  • The main pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels are carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates.

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas, contributing to global warming and climate change.

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is produced when fuels containing sulphur impurities are burnt. It can react with water to form sulfuric acid, contributing to acid rain.

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx), including nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, are produced from the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen in the air at high temperatures. Similar to sulphur dioxide, they can react with water to produce nitric acid and contribute to acid rain.

  • Particulates are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in the air, they can cause health issues such as respiratory problems when inhaled.

  • Methane, although not a pollutant produced by burning fossil fuels, is also a greenhouse gas. It is released during the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels, as well as from agriculture and waste landfill sites.

  • Carbon monoxide, an incomplete combustion product, is toxic as it can bind with the haemoglobin in red blood cells and prevent them from transporting oxygen effectively.

  • Pollution can be controlled and reduced in several ways such as using fuels that contain fewer sulphur impurities, installing philtres and scrubbers in factories to reduce the emission of particulates, and using catalysts in car engines to convert harmful gases into less harmful substances.