Different extends of air pollution
Local and regional pollution take place in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, the troposphere, which extends from the earth's surface to about 16 km (about 10 mi). The troposphere is the region in which most weather occurs. If the load of pollutants added to the troposphere were equally distributed, the pollutants would be spread over vast areas and the air pollution might almost escape our notice. Pollution sources tend to be concentrated, however, especially in cities. In the weather phenomenon known as thermal inversion, a layer of cooler air is trapped near the ground by a layer of warmer air above. When this occurs, normal air mixing almost ceases and pollutants are trapped in the lower layer. Local topography, or the shape of the land, can worsen this effect in area ringed by mountains, for example, can become a pollution trap.
Air pollution can expand beyond a regional area to cause global effects. The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere between 16 km (10 mi) and 50 km (30 mi) above sea level. It is rich in ozone, the same molecule that acts as a pollutant when found at lower levels of the atmosphere in urban smog. Up at the stratospheric level, however, ozone forms a protective layer that serves a vital function: it absorbs the wavelength of solar radiation known as ultraviolet-B (UV-B). UV-B damages deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the genetic molecule found in every living cell, increasing the risk of such problems as cancer in humans. Because of its protective function, the ozone layer is essential to life on earth.
DNA is a double-stranded molecule twisted into a helix
(think of a spiral staircase). Each spiraling strand, comprised of a
sugar-phosphate backbone and attached bases, is connected to a complementary
strand by non-covalent hydrogen bonding between paired bases. The bases are
adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C) and guanine (G).
Pollution is perhaps most harmful at an often unrecognized siteˇXinside the homes and buildings where we spend most of our time. Indoor pollutants include tobacco smoke; radon, an invisible radioactive gas that enters homes from the ground in some regions; and chemicals released from synthetic carpets and furniture, pesticides, and household cleaners. When disturbed, asbestos, a nonflammable material once commonly used in insulation, sheds airborne fibers that can produce a lung disease called asbestosis.
Pollutants may accumulate to reach much higher levels than they do outside, where natural air currents disperse them. Indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2 to 5 times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are especially harmful because people spend as much as 90 percent of their time living, working, and playing indoors. Inefficient or improperly vented heaters are particularly dangerous.