Published on : 23 May 20194 min reading time

The air we breathe is made up of 99% oxygen and nitrogen but also different pollutants of different origin and nature and which may have more or less long-term impacts on our health. Here is an overview of the main air pollutants.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

What is it? It is a suffocating and irritating gas. It has a characteristic odor, pungent and pungent. It is easily recognized by its red-brown color.

Where is he from? Mainly combustion (heating, electricity production, engines of motor vehicles and boats) of which 50% is due to road traffic.

What are the risks? It is responsible for bronchitis and asthma, especially in children, and can also contribute to a decrease in lung function in case of high concentration.

Fine particles

What is it? These are small aerosol solid particles that can enter the airways and lungs. The thinnest can even attach to the blood vessels. PM10 (PM, particulate matter) is used to refer to particles less than 10 microns in diameter and PM2.5 for those not exceeding 2.5 microns.

Where do they come from? They come from human activities such as road traffic and energy processing, or of natural origin such as volcanic eruptions. The concentration of fine particles in the air depends on the temperature and wind speed. They are particularly present in case of extreme cold and no wind, which prevents the particles from dispersing.

What are the risks? Fine particles are the cause of many nasal allergies. Chronic exposure to fine particles is a risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.

Ozone (O3)

What is it? Ozone is one of the main constituents of smog. Do not confuse pollutant ozone found at the ground level with ozone in the upper atmosphere layer, which protects us from UV rays from the sun.

Where is he from? The concentration of ozone is particularly high in case of significant sun.

What are the risks? Ozone causes asthma attacks and eye irritation and can cause respiratory diseases and heart disease.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

What is it? These are molecules (mainly based on carbon) that are found in the form of gas in the air that we breathe. They are very volatile and spread very far from their places of emission.

Where do they come from? VOCs are emitted by car traffic, industry, the residential sector, domestic use of solvents, but also vegetation.

What are the risks? They can cause irritation or a decrease in respiratory capacity in case of high concentration. Some VOCs are classified as carcinogens.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

What is it? SO2 is a colorless gas that smells like a burnt match. Combined with oxygen and water, it is responsible for acid rain.

Where do they come from? SO2 comes mainly from thermal power plants, foundries and refineries.

What are the risks? It can irritate the skin and the respiratory tract. In high concentrations, it can even cause respiratory disorders and diseases and change the defense mechanism of the lungs.

Carbon monoxide (CO)

What is it? It is a colorless gas, odorless and tasteless. It is therefore very difficult to detect it!

Where is he from? It comes mainly from incomplete combustions of heating appliances and especially exhausts fumes from vehicles.

What are the risks? In high concentrations, carbon monoxide can lead to poisoning that is characterized by headaches, nausea and vomiting. Carbon monoxide is particularly present and dangerous indoors because of some boilers and can, in case of prolonged exposure, cause coma and death.

And the most complicated is that the concentration of pollutants is constantly changing…

A small gust of wind or a ray of sunshine, a traffic jam, a peak of domestic heating … and the quality of the air is modified in a few minutes, for better or for worse! Hence, the importance remains in following closely its evolution. Of course, you do not have the time to look at the air quality indexes all the time … but with our Plume Air Report app, you can be less exposed to pollution by receiving real-time alerts, by adapting your activities to pollution.