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What is air pollution?

The air we breathe is a mixture of different gases and chemical compounds. The most important gas to humans and animals is oxygen, which we all need to survive.

Humans and other mammals have lungs, which we use to breathe. When we breathe air into our lungs, the oxygen from the air is absorbed into the bloodstream. It is then carried around our body in the blood, which is pumped around by the heart. This happens 24 hours per day and 365 days per year! If the atmosphere didn’t have oxygen, neither humans nor animals would be able to survive. This makes the air we breathe really important.

Some days, you may hear on the news that there is “poor air quality”.  This means that in the atmosphere there is air pollution. There can be different amounts of air pollution and we will explain that later. So what is air pollution?

When we say the air is polluted, we mean that it has become dirty. The sorts of things that make our air dirty are gases, dust, fumes or smoke that have been let out into the air around us.  These things can be harmful to humans, animals or plants.

Have you ever been near a busy road with lots of traffic? You might have noticed smoke or dust, and the smell that comes from the traffic. That is an example of air pollution - horrible isn't it?

When the air we breathe gets very polluted it can even make it difficult for us to breathe.

The things that cause air pollution are known as pollutants. There are different types of pollutants and we will tell you more about them too.  The one thing that they all have in common is that they're bad for us and bad for the animals and plants that share our planet with us.