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The Different Types of Smog

By Ted Marten ; Updated July 27, 2017

Smog is an air pollutant that forms in the atmosphere when gases and chemicals interact with sunlight. Smog can have damaging effects on a person’s health and the environment, because of the chemicals found in many types of smog. While smog can be seen as a haze over cities, it can also reach ground levels and cause visibility problems for drivers.

Volcanic Smog

Volcanic smog is a type of smog that forms when gases and particles are released from an erupting volcano and mix with sunlight, oxygen and moisture. Some of the chemicals in volcanic smog can be damaging to the environment, including animals, plants and humans. Humans can experience difficulty breathing, watery eyes and a sore throat. This type of smog commonly takes place in the Hawaiian Islands, as the Kilauea volcano has been erupting everyday since 1983.

Photochemical Smog

Photochemical smog is a type of air pollution caused by nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons and sunlight. Nitrogen oxide is commonly produced from the internal combustion of engines. Photochemical smog is often prevalent in some of the sunnier U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles. This smog can have ill effects on the body and cause coughing, heart palpitations, pneumonia and even lung cancer.

Sulfurous Smog

Sulfurous smog results from a high concentration of sulfur oxides being released into the air, because of burning fossil fuels. This type of smog is prevalent in London and is sometimes referred to as “London smog.” While the burning of coal is the major reason why sulfur oxides are released into the air, the other causes stem from the production of crude oil and metallic ore. Sulfurous smog had been known to cause respiratory problems and can be a particular concern for those who have asthma.

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