Air Pollution


Ahoy, matey! My name is George and we are about to set sail and begin an adventure, so step aboard and join me on a treasure hunt to cleaner air. Along the way you will learn some important facts about the air you breathe and about how you can help keep it clean. Click on me or my friends to see what we look like in real life!

The Atmosphere

What is the Atmosphere?

The atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding the earth, the layer closest to the surface of the earth is known as the Troposphere. Humans, plants and animals breathe and exist in this lower layer.

Why is the atmosphere so important?

The atmosphere supports life on our planet by providing oxygen, an essential gas, to all living creatures, protecting us from harmful UV rays from the sun. Water in the atmosphere helps to from clouds and is responsible for life giving rain that fills our rivers and dams.

Air Pollution

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is the release of harmful chemicals and gases into the air we breathe (the atmosphere). There are two main types of air pollution they are known as greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases are very bad for the environment, they cause global warming and climate change. Examples of greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and methane. The reason these gases are so harmful is because they are very good at absorbing energy, in the form of heat, that originates from the sun. This means the more of these gases there are in the atmosphere, the higher the temperatures are going to be at earths surface in the future.

Criteria Pollutants

There are seven different kinds of criteria pollutants, they are carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, ozone, lead and benzene. When these pollutants are released into the air and we breathe them into our lungs they make people very sick. Two of the criteria pollutants, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, are also bad for the environment because they pollute our water and damage the homes of many animals and plants.

Air pollution comes from many different places, but it is all bad for yours and my health. Aye, lets read further to find out what we can do to help our planet.

What causes air pollution?

There are many sources of air pollution.


Factories process materials from their natural/ simplest forms into products or consumables that are more useful to us. Many of the processes used by these factories release greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants into the atmosphere. Some examples of such factories include, motor vehicle and furniture manufacturers, steel works, oil refineries and food processors.


Cars, motorbikes, trucks, trains, aeroplanes and ships all use fuel which are made from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are things like coal and oil, they are found underground and took millions and millions of years to form. When fossil fuels are burned or are used in engines of things like cars or aeroplanes they release greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants into the atmosphere.


Certain types of farms like animal farms (cows and sheep) and farms that grow crops (rice paddies) emit greenhouse gases. In particular cattle and rice farms emit large amounts of methane. Removing natural plants and trees to make space for these farms also damages the environment because trees and plants help remove the harmful gases from the atmosphere when they grow.


Dust particles and gases that are harmful to humans and the environment are released during some mining operations.


The rubbish that you throw away is taken to dump sites where it then starts to break down (decompose), this process releases greenhouse gases.


To make electricity power stations have to burn fossil fuels such as coal and oil. These fossil fuels release criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases when they are burnt, which are potentially bad for our health and the environment.

Why is air pollution not good for the planet?

Air pollution as already discussed affects the planet in two major ways, the first is destruction of the environment and the second is damage to people's health. As we know there are two major contributors to these effects, both greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants.

When greenhouse gases are released in large amounts into the air, heat that originates from the sun is absorbed by these gases and increases the temperature of the atmosphere around our planet for us and other living things. This is what scientists call global warming or climate change. This increase in temperature is likely to lead more extreme droughts, floods and wild fires, melting of ice-caps at the poles and even desertification (the process by which land becomes more like a desert).

Criteria pollutants on the other hand are mainly responsible for making people sick. If you would like to know more about these pollutants and how they effect the different parts of your body as well as ecosystems click the link below.


Ahoy, I am Peggy the Pirate Penguin! I am an Emperor Penguin and I live in Antarctica where it is really cold and there is a lot of ice and snow. Climate change and the rising temperatures destroy my home and makes it difficult for me to survive and adapt to these changes.

What are the affects of global warming?

Wild fires

Wild fires happen naturally in places all over the world. These fires are worsened by climate change which makes temperatures very high and causes the ground and plants to become dry and burn easily. These fires are very dangerous, they destroy animals as well as humans homes and have in some cases even taken lives. Examples where these fires have occurred are in Australia, the Amazon and California.


When temperatures rise we know that weather patterns change, we call this climate change. When weather patterns change, the amount of rain that a place experiences could potentially also change. Sometimes this means more rainfall than normal, which could result in floods. Floods can be very dangerous as they wash houses, cars and buildings away, sometimes if people can not swim or if the water currents are very strong they can drown. Floods are also bad for farmers as they destroy crops and therefore reduces the amount of food available for us to eat. Places like Durban and the Eastern Cape have experienced floods.

Melting polar ice-caps

Because temperatures have increased so much, the large pieces and islands of ice (glaciers) at the poles melt much faster. Animals like polar bears and seals live on this ice, and when it disappears they struggle to survive. The melting of this ice also means there is more water in the oceans and this causes sea levels to rise. Rising sea levels may result in places close to the coast being flooded. Islands countries such as the Maldives are particularly vulnerable.


Changes in weather patterns as a result of rising temperatures can result in less rainfall than normal which causes droughts. This causes some very bad effects such as crops wilting and dying, animals struggling to survive from dehydration and if these conditions continue for long periods of time people start to suffer from dehydration and starvation. Cape Town recently experienced a very severe drought. To ensure all citizens had water, restrictions were implemented and families were limited to small amounts of water for their daily household chores.

How can we fix it?

Governments need to budget so that clean energy sources can be built, for example solar panels use energy from the sun to make electricity and do not cause air pollution.

Using electric cars instead of cars that use petrol (that release greenhouse gases) means that less carbon dioxide will be produced.

Governments can also make rules or laws that control how much of a certain greenhouse gas a business, factory or energy producer is allowed to release into the atmosphere. If they do not follow these rules the government can then punish them by making them pay large amounts of money in the form of tax.

Shiver me timbers, things here on our planet don't seem to be going so well! My name is White, Captain Great White, I am a shark and the ocean is my home. Help us make a change and save our planet, read below to find out what a wee young lassie or laddie such as yourself can do.

What can you do?

Save Electricity

Power stations are the places where we make electricity. Fossil fuel burning power stations release large amounts harmful greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants. So when you are done using lights or anything that uses electricity, turn them off. This will reduce the amount of energy power stations need to produce.


When you recycle you make sure that new products are made out of materials that already exist. This means that new materials do not have to be made again and this saves electricity and energy and means less harmful gases are released.

Plant Trees

Trees and plants use up harmful gases like carbon dioxide when they respirate and grow. Therefore, the more trees we plant the more carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, decreasing the potential for global warming.

Walk or ride your bicycle whenever you can

Cars also release harmful gases into the atmosphere because they run on fossil fuels. When you ride your bike, walk, use public transport or get a lift with a friend (carpool) you decrease the amount of gases that are released into the air.

Spend less time on electronics

Spend less time in front of the television and on your devices, these things use electricity. The more electricity you use, the higher the amount of harmful gases will be released into the air.

Save water

When water is cleaned (made safe to drink) and pumped through pipes into your homes and schools, it uses electricity and releases more harmful gases into the air we breathe.

Yo- ho- ho, congratulations you have made it to the end of the treasure map! The treasure you have found at the end of this exciting voyage is a world with clean air and a bright future. Always remember that knowledge is the precious and irreplaceable treasure that you will need to help you through the great journey that is life, never stop looking for it.