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SmokestackAir Pollution


Air pollution is the presence of “one or more chemicals in high enough concentrations in the air to harm humans, other animals, vegetation, or materials” (Miller G1).

Air pollution comes from many different sources, such as motor vehicles, industry, small businesses, farming, and everyday products like cleaning solutions, paints, thinners, and lawn and garden equipment. Cars and trucks release carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and air toxins into the atmosphere. In 2000, it was calculated that every Hoosier over the age of eighteen drove an average of forty-three miles a day, every day. Automobiles are one of the major causes of air pollution in Indiana.

Another problem area in Indiana is the release of dangerous ozone. There are two major types of ozone. “Good” ozone resides in the upper atmosphere and protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. “Bad” ozone is ground-level, and can cause health problems such as increased respiratory problems, coughing, nausea, and chest pain. Bad ozone is formed by certain pollutants that are directly related to air pollution, such as gasoline vapors from automobiles, chemical solvents, and the burning of fuels such as coal, oil, or wood. Currently, twenty Indiana counties are at risk of not meeting the existing ozone standards.

burning plastic
Photo by Dean Smith
Air pollution from plastic burning

The problems of air pollution in Indiana became evident during the Industrial Revolution, when factories began emitting large amounts of dangerous toxins into the air, through the burning of coal for energy. According to the Encyclopedia of Sustainable Development, "The burning of fossil fuels led to a massive increase in urban air pollution although most people felt that such a disadvantage was not significant in the context of their new found prosperity" (aric). Coal usage today is cleaner than in the Industrial Revolution because of new standards for coal burning. The state of Indiana has implemented "clean coal technology." This technology is classified as such because it decreases the amount of pollutants released into the air by the combustion of coal. The state offers incentives to companies who use clean coal technology, such as funding and grants for alternate energy research.

Over the past ten years, Indiana’s air has become considerably cleaner, but there are still areas of concern that need to be improved upon. The use of vehicles is still a major cause of air pollution, as is coal burning. While laws dealing with air pollution are becoming more stringent, the quality of air rises.


"Fossil Fuels." Encyclopedia of Sustainable Development. 2002. Atmospheric Research & Information Centre. 27 June 2004 <http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/esd> .

"Industrial Revolution" Encyclopedia of Sustainable Development. 2002. Atmospheric Research & Information Centre. 27 June 2004 <http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/esd>.

Miller, G. Tyler. Environmental Science: Working with the Earth. 8th edition. Australia: Brooks/Cole, 2001.

State of Indiana. Department of Environmental Management. "Air Quality." 2002 State of the Environment Report. 2002. 16 Oct. 2002 <http://www.in.gov/idem/soe2002/air/>.

State of Indiana. Indiana General Assembly. "Clean Coal Technology" Indiana Code, title 8, article 1, chap 8.7. 2002. 20 Nov. 2002. <http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title8/ar1/

---. "Utility Generation and Clean Coal Technology." Indiana Code, title 8, article 1, chap 8.8. 2002. 20 Nov. 2002 <http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title8/ar1/ch8.8.html>.