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List of Common Outdoor Pollutants

Pollutant Name 
and Description

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

A gas that is colorless, odorless, and at high levels, poisonous.

Blurred vision, reduced work capacity, reduced manual dexterity, poor learning ability, and difficulty in completing tasks.  CO forms when carbon in fuel is not burned completely.  It is found in motor vehicle exhausts, industrial processes, non-transportation fuel combustion, and natural sources such as wild fires.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Irritated lungs and less resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza.  Acute respiratory disease too in children. Light brown gas.  Usually enters the air as a result of high temperature combustion processes, home heaters, and gas stores are also sources of NO2.
Ozone (troposphere) (O3) Shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, and coughing. Bacterial pneumonia results from long term, repeated exposure to high levels of ozone.   Highly reactive gas in form of oxygen.  Main component of air pollution known as smog.  Forms by action of sunlight on carbon-based chemicals, acting in combination with oxides of nitrogen.
Particulate Matter (PM) Can trigger asthma attacks and cause wheezing, coughing, and respiratory irritation in individuals with sensitive airways. Generic term for a type of air pollution that consists of complex and various mixture of particles. These solids include dirt, soil dust, pollens, molds, ashes, and soot.  
Sulfur Monoxide (SO) Respiratory illness, alterations in the lung's defenses, and aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease. Formed when fuel containing sulfur (mainly coal and oil) is burned.  Large industrial facilities have the highest monitored concentration of SO.
Benzene Chronic exposure to a low dose can cause leukemia. Acute effects from a high dose are drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness.  Death can occur from inhaling a very high level of benzene.  Used in industrial plant as starting chemical for synthesis of plastic, nylon components, and synthetic detergents.  Also released into the environment from volcanoes and forest fires.  Gasoline pumps and tobacco smoke also discharge benzene into the air. 
Xylene  Headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, impaired sense of balance, irritation of the skin, eye, nose, and throat, vomiting, and irritation of the stomach. Colorless , sweet smelling gas.  Mostly a synthetic chemical produced from petroleum.  Also, a natural product of forest fires.  Found in airplane fuel, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
Styrene Dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and weakness.  Liquid that is colorless to yellow. Burning styrene produces toxic fumes.
Farmer's Lung Disease (Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis) Breathlessness, dry irritating cough,  sneezing spells, runny nose, congestion, itchy/watery eyes and wheezing are all symptoms of this disease.  Allergic disease usually caused by breathing dust from moldy hay.  Can be caused by corn, silage, wheat, or even tobacco.
Aflatoxin Liver damage or even liver cancer could result. Mold that grows on crops such as peanuts, tree nuts, corn, wheat, and oil seeds.

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