Air Pollution and Health Ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfates, lead and fine particulate sources, effects, prevention, and control ARB Fact Sheet

Updated October 29, 2001
Where does air pollution come from? How does it effect people and the environment? How can we control, or better yet, prevent it?
The following table summarizes the sources, effects, and prevention and control methods for ten of the most important air pollutants in California.




Prevention and Control

Ozone (O3)

Formed when reactive organic gases (ROG) and nitrogen oxides react in the presence of sunlight. ROG sources include any source that burns fuels (e.g., gasoline, natural gas, wood, oil);solvents; petroleum processing and storage; and pesticides

Breathing difficulties, lung tissue damage, damage to rubber and some plastics.

Reduce motor vehicle reactive organic gas (ROG) and nitrogen oxide emissions through emissions standards, reformulated fuels, inspections programs, and reduced vehicle use. Limit ROG emissions from commercial operations and consumer products. Limit ROG and NOx emissions from industrial sources such as power plants and refineries. Conserve energy

Respirable Particulate Matter (PM10)

Road dust, windblown dust, agriculture and construction, fireplaces. Also formed from other pollutants (acid rain, NOx, SOx, organics). Incomplete combustion of any fuel.

Increased respiratory disease, lung damage, cancer, premature death, reduced visibility, surface soiling.

Control dust sources, industrial particulate emissions, wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Reduce secondary pollutants which react to form PM10. Conserve energy

Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5)

Fuel combustion in motor vehicles, equipment, and industrial sources; residential and agricultural burning. Also formed from reaction of other pollutants (acid rain, NOx, SOx, organics).

Increases respiratory disease, lung damage, cancer, premature death; reduced visibility; surface soiling.

Reduce combustion emissions from motor vehicles, equipment, industries, and agriculture and residential burning. Precursor controls, like those for ozone, reduce fine particle formation in the atmosphere.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Any source that burns fuel such as automobiles,trucks, heavy construction equipment and farming equipment, residential heating.

Chest pain in heart patients, headaches, reduced mental alertness

Control motor vehicle and industrial emissions. Use oxygenated gasoline during winter months. Conserve energy.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

See Carbon Monoxide

Lung irritation and damage. Reacts in the atmosphere to form ozone and acid rain

Control motor vehicle and industrial combustion emissions.Conserve energy.


Metal smelters, resource recovery, leaded gasoline, deterioration of lead paint

Learning disabilities, brain and kidney damage

Control metal smelters, No lead in gasoline. Replace leaded paint with non-lead substitutes.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Coal or oil burning power plants and industries, refineries, diesel engines

Increases lung disease and breathing problems for asthmatics. Reacts in the atmosphere to form acid rain.

Reduce the use of high sulfer fuels (e.g., use low sulfer reformulated diesel or natural gas). Conserve energy.

Visibility Reducing Particles

See PM2.5

Reduces visibility ( e.g., obscures mountains and other scenery), reduced airport safety, lower real estate value, discourages tourism

See PM2.5


Produced by the reaction in the air of SO2 ( see SO2 sources), a component of acid rain

Breathing difficulties, aggravates asthma, reduced visibility

See SO2

Hydrogen Sulfide

Geothermal power plants, petroleum production and refining, sewer gas

Nuisance odor (rotten egg smell), headache and breathing difficulties (higher concentrations)

Control emissions from geothermal power plants, petroleum production and refining, sewers, sewage treatment plants