Air pollution is the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. There are many different types of air pollutants, such as gases (including ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons), particulates (both organic and inorganic), and biological molecules. Air pollution may cause diseases, allergies and even death to humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural environment (for example, climate change, ozone depletion or habitat degradation) or built environment (for example, acid rain). Both human activity and natural processes can generate air pollution.
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Air pollution is a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases, including respiratory infections, heart disease, COPD, stroke and lung cancer. Growing evidence suggests that air pollution exposure may be associated with reduced IQ scores and increase risk for psychiatric disorders such as depression. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body's respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, and the individual's health status and genetics. Indoor air pollution and poor urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst toxic pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Polluted Places report. Outdoor air pollution alone causes 2.1 to 4.21 million deaths annually. Overall, air pollution causes the deaths of around 7 million people worldwide each year, and is the world's largest single environmental health risk. The scope of the air pollution crisis is enormous: 90% of the world's population breathes dirty air to some degree. Although the health consequences are extensive, the way the problem is handled is often haphazard.
Productivity losses and degraded quality of life caused by air pollution are estimated to cost the world economy $5 trillion per year. Various pollution control technologies and strategies are available to reduce air pollution. To reduce the impacts of air pollution, both international and national legislation and regulation have been implemented to regulate air pollution. Local laws, where well enforced, have led to strong public health improvements. At the international level some of these efforts have been successful, for example the Montreal Protocol which successful at reducing release of harmful ozone depleting chemicals or 1985 Helsinki Protocol which reduced sulfur emissions, while other attempts have been less rapid in implementation, such as international action on climate change.