The Causes & Effects of Smog

Written by john mack
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The Causes & Effects of Smog
A higher concentration of factories make cities more polluted than rural areas (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

There are many factors that produce smog, an environmental hazard with many consequences. Smog is mainly caused by emissions from human creations such as cars and factories, though natural occurrences such as forest fires partially contribute to smog in some areas. Nonetheless, it is up to every individual to determine if she wants to make a conscientious effort to reduce smog levels, especially in cities with dense populations and many cars and industries.

Anthropogenic Causes

Most outdoor pollutants in urban areas exists because of the burning of fossil fuels in factories and in cars. Smog is typically associated with cities for good reason. Cities generally have high levels and concentrations of cars and factories. The high levels of car and factory emissions help explain why cities like Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Bangkok have some of the highest smog and pollution levels in the world. Lead, industrial solvents and paint also contribute to the production of smog. The population density, amount of industry and the fuels used in industry, heating and transportation all have an impact on smog levels within a city.

The Causes & Effects of Smog
Car emissions are one of the largest causes of smog. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Natural Causes

The local climate and topography of a city can have significant impact on its ability to foster smog. Dust and other forms of suspended particulate matter from windstorms and soil contribute to smog. The extent of contribution is not as great as it is from cars, for instance, but it does have some responsibility for smog. Also, the sulphur oxides that volcanoes emit contributes to smog. Carbon oxides and nitrogen oxides from forest fires are another natural source of smog. Surprisingly, hydrocarbons and pollen from plants can contribute to smog in a minimal way. The important thing to understand about natural sources of smog is that this kind of pollution is spread out over large distances and rarely, if ever, reaches harmful pollution levels except in volcanic eruptions.

The Causes & Effects of Smog
Rio de Janeiro's mountains help trap smog in the city (Hemera Technologies/ Images)


Smog has some serious consequences that you should not take lightly. Smog can cause lung cancer much like frequent smoking. Smog can also damage pulmonary membranes in your heart causing pain, discomfort, coughing and throat irritation. Smog also can cause breathing problems especially in people who have asthma.

Other Effects

Smog is not just dangerous to the people who live in the city where it originally forms. Except in cities where mountains surround it on several sides, winds can cause smog to travel to other cities and towns where it can harm other people. This is one of many reasons why fog should concern everyone. Also, smog causes a lower quality of life and even can increase temperatures in a city, especially during summer months.

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