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The 6 Most Dangerous Pollutants

Posted on 29th May 2018

At Parsons, we understand the importance of dealing with dangerous gases and pollutants effectively and professionally. In 1977 we began to specialise in gas-scrubbing and pollution control, building our first Hydrochloric Acid Fume Scrubber. Since then we have gained over forty years of experience dealing with harmful and pollutive substances.

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We’ve previously discussed the 10 most polluted places in the world, so we know how devastating and lethal pollutants can be.

Air pollution is the biggest health risk in the world, claiming millions of lives every year. In this article, we will run through 6 of the most dangerous pollutants humans face every day.

  1. Black carbon

Black carbon is one of the many pollutants in soot, formed by fossil fuels burning incompletely. Not only does it have negative

impacts on health, it even contributes to global warming. Black carbon is a type of particulate matter and is extremely dangerous – the small size of the particles means   that they can find their way into your lungs and bloodstream easily, causing heart disease and respiratory problems. Black carbon even has a detrimental effect on the Arctic, where it pollutes the ice and hastens the melting of polar ice caps.

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  1. Carbon Monoxide

You’ve probably heard of carbon monoxide as it’s one of the most common causes of accidental poisoning, responsible for 393 deaths in 2015 alone. The main danger of carbon monoxide lies in that it is colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating, meaning that those who are exposed to it often do not know and are not diagnosed until it’s too late.

Many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur because areas are either poorly-ventilated or not ventilated at all. Sources of carbon monoxide include stoves and internal combustion engines (such as in cars).

  1. Persistent Organic Pollutants

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a group of various toxins resulting from industry and agriculture. The danger of these is not simply in how harmful they are, but how easily they can impact human or animal lives. The spread of POPs is so extreme that they often contaminate our food. For example, in 2008, it was found that animal feed in Ireland had been contaminated with a POP called dioxin, having a huge impact on the Irish pork industry – 1,800 people lost their jobs within just two days of the announcement. The health impact of POPs includes thyroid effects, obesity, diabetes and disruption to the endocrine system.

  1. Mercury

One of the most commonly known pollutants is mercury. The extent of mercury pollution in the ocean is so bad that it’s recommended that parents restrict the consumption of tinned tuna for their children. The health implications of mercury poisoning can include damage to the nervous system, kidney failure, cancer and an increased incidence of heart disease. The mercury present in the ocean is a result of various sources including the mining and burning of coal, natural releases of mercury emissions from the Earth’s crust, cement-production and oil refining.

  1. Ozone

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Ozone is a compound made of three oxygen atoms. Being exposed to ozone for two hours could create symptoms that lead to heart attack and even death. ‘Bad’ ozone, (not to be confused with the ‘good’ ozone that forms a protective layer in the upper atmosphere), is created when pollutants react with sunlight.

In the US, 128.9 million people currently live in areas that earned an ‘F’ for ozone pollution. Smog is primarily made of ozone – the ozone pollution in China is so severe that it even has an impact on other countries, affecting pollution levels as far as the American West Coast.

  •  Benzene

Benzene is a chemical that occurs both naturally and from human activities and is widely used in the manufacturing of products such as lubricants, detergents and drugs. It is extremely harmful to human health – in the short-term, it causes respiratory problems, vomiting, seizure and rapid heart rate. In the long-term, benzene exposure causes damage to the central nervous system, as well as causing many blood disorders. Benzene exposure can occur from damage to chemical plants, for example, in 2017 an oil refinery in the US was damaged by Hurricane Harvey, causing a large number of chemicals including benzene to leak, releasing large amounts of toxins that put local residents at risk.

At Parsons, we know how dangerous pollutants can be. We’ve been dedicated to dealing with pollution and other environmental issues since 1977 and will always strive to protect the environment.

Our chemical scrubbers and exhaust systems protect human life from harmful toxins and pollutants. If you deal with pollutants and want more information on our services, speak to our expert team today:


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