Shower vs Bathtub Resale Value: How Important Is It?

Make no mistake—remodeling your bathroom is one of the best investments you can make as a homeowner. 

There are many good reasons to renovate a bathroom. It adds storage space, improves energy efficiency, adds more functionality, and fixes any existing problems. 

More importantly, it adds to the resale value of your home.

One thing that can significantly impact your home’s resale value is having to choose between a shower and a bathtub.

It’s a tough decision to make. To let you decide, let’s go over their respective pros and cons.

Advantages of installing a shower

Thinking of installing a shower? Here are several good reasons why you should go through with it.

Showers require less space

Showers take up less space, at least if you’re going with a standard-sized shower stall, which measures nine square feet. A standard tub, on the other hand, takes up around 13 square feet. Big difference there!

You guessed it: you’re better off installing a shower if your bathroom is small—especially if you want to make more room for other bathroom fixtures. You can even have some wiggle room for a walk-in shower or a double vanity if you like.

Showers use less water

Are you always worried about your water bill? Then you might want to go with a shower instead. Think about it: did you know that using a standard-sized tub consumes between 25 to 40 gallons of water? If you think that’s a lot, wait till you use a whirlpool tub, which consumes between 80 to 100 gallons. 

You don’t have to worry over losing that amount of water if you’re using a shower. According to Home Water Works, the average American consumes 17.2 gallons when using the shower for 8.2 minutes (the average shower length). Now go over the figures again and convert them to monthly (or yearly). Done? As you can already tell, the difference is staggering.

Showers are easier to access

Entering a shower is an effortless thing. You just open the door (or curtain), adjust the heat regulator, pull on the nozzle, and you’re off to the races. Showers can also come in with grab bars, non-slip tiles, and benches, making them more user-friendly.

Stepping into a bathtub, on the other hand, requires more physical work. You have to climb in to use and climb out when you’re done. Entering a tub can also be dangerous for the elderly. According to a study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, a third of the elderly struggle getting in and out of the bath

Showers offer many features

Showers offer many features that make bathing more user-friendly, practical, and luxurious. Steam options, custom wallpapers, benches,  rain showers. Heck, even small tables. The point is this: with the right additions, your shower can offer so much more than a bathtub.

Advantages of installing a bathtub

On the other side of the argument, here are the advantages of installing a bathtub instead of a shower.

Bathtubs are cheaper to install

If you’re on a tight budget, you’re probably better off installing a bathtub. While prices vary, a regular bathtub can cost between $500 and $8000, while a shower can cost you between $600 and $12,000. Of course, materials and design factor into the equation. For example, a walk-in shower will typically cost you $6,000 to $7,000, including labor and materials. It can reach up to $10,000 if you want one that is custom-tiled. To customize your tiles, you may want to hire a professional shower tile repair contractor near you.

Bathtubs have more resale value

Bathtubs add that “special sauce” that appeals to a wide range of homebuyers. While there’s increasing interest in big, feature-heavy, walk-in showers, many buyers are still likely to want a bathtub. 

That’s not to say that bathrooms without tubs are difficult to sell. Homes with smaller bathrooms, for starters, go better with showers. 

But overall? Potential homeowners are likely to ask, “But is there a bathtub?” and we have to get used to it.

Bathtubs are safer for small children

Stephanie Mallios, a sales rep for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, says that most parents want a traditional tub because it’s safer for children. Better yet, there are many ways for you to babyproof your tub. You can install a non-slip bath mat made of rubber, for starters. If you’re a parent, chances are you’re worried about that spout sticking out of the wall. Thankfully, you can put a cover on it to protect your little one in case she knocks her head against it. You can also prevent your baby from scalding accidents by installing anti-scald faucets.

Bathtubs have more health benefits

Bathtubs offer many health benefits. In fact, studies show that taking a hot bath has health benefits similar to exercise.  Taking  a hot bath can also boost your mood, help with cold and flu symptoms, and even give your immune system the boost it needs to fight off viruses. 

To top it off, nothing beats the feeling of a relaxing bath after a long day. Throw in additives like Epsom salts, ginger, essential oils, and other additives and you get the perfect recipe for even more relaxing, soothing baths.

3/4 Bath vs Full Bath: What gives you more value? 

We briefly discussed how significant bathtubs are for increasing a home’s resale value. Of course, the amount of features your bathtub has is a big part of that. 

But before we proceed, let’s get something out of the way. When talking about bathtubs with home improvement companies and potential buyers, you may encounter the terms “¾ bath” and “full bath.” The confusing part is that people often mention any of these terms but are in truth referring to the other. 

To avoid any confusion, let’s do a short breakdown of what each one is comprised of.

Full Bathroom

A full bathroom is comprised of four components: a bathtub, a toilet, a shower, and a sink. Without any of these key items, a room has no right to be called a full bathroom. 

Three-Quarter Bathroom

A ¾ bath, on the other hand, comes with three of the previously mentioned components. If your bathroom consists of a toilet, a tub, a sink, then you have a ¾ bath. If you take that same bathroom and replace the tub with a shower, then you still have a ¾ bath.

So which one provides more value?

Since a full bathroom is often bigger than a ¾ bath, many would think it’s the more expensive one. In reality? Not really. The value of a bathroom, regardless of whether it’s a full bath or a ¾ bath, depends on so many factors, most notably the preferences of potential buyers. 

Most of the time, it comes down to whether a potential homebuyer prefers a bathtub or a shower.

How important is a bathtub for your home’s resale value?

To give you a better idea of how a bathtub can boost a home’s resale value, let’s take a deep dive into why most potential homeowners are always on the lookout for bathtubs when buying  a new home.

A home’s resale value is mostly dependent on trends. Over the last few years, oversized walk-in showers were the rage, though many buyers still want to own a tub in their home. Most homeowners, particularly young families with children and homeowners with multiple bathrooms, still view tubs as a required fixture in the home. 

So, should you install a bathtub for the sole purpose of boosting your home’s resale value? 

Our answer is a resounding yes. However, you may want to reconsider if your bathroom is small or if you have small children. 

Does replacing a bathtub with a shower decrease your home’s resale value?

Maybe you’re done with your bathtub and want to turn it into a shower instead. But you’re hesitating because you don’t want your home’s resale value to take a dive. After all, as discussed in the previous section, a bathtub adds more to a home’s value than a shower does.

However, it also begs this question: will you be staying in that home long enough to use the shower? If you’ll be staying in that home for many years, why deprive yourself of the conveniences a shower can bring you in all that time? 

To find out if converting your tub into a shower is worth it, you may need to think of it in terms of what it will mean for your ROI (return on investment). 

You may want to think twice about going through with it if you’re selling the home to parents of small children. Why? Because a bathroom without a bathtub is a deal-breaker for most of them. As already mentioned earlier, it’s safer to bathe children in a bathtub rather than in a shower.

In the end, the general rule of thumb is that it’s perfectly fine to replace a tub with a shower as long as there’s still one remaining tub in the house. Because in most cases, that one tub can spell the difference between a home that gets sold for a premium amount and one that does not. In fact, it’s a good idea to install a bathtub for the sole purpose of increasing the resale value of a home. 

If there’s anything that proves without any shadow of a doubt that tubs are highly valued, it’s the survey data compiled by NAHB between 2007 and 2018, which states that 70% of millennials prefer whirlpool tubs, compared to Gen Xers with 62%, baby boomers with 47%, and seniors with 44%.

Always remember this: when you’re selling a home with a bathtub, you’re not just selling a bathtub, but you’re selling a lifestyle. 

Steps to Converting a Tub to a Shower

So you’ve decided to convert your bathtub into a shower? Good on you! But before you do, make sure that you know the proper procedures. Converting  a tub into a shower is not easy, and involves a wide range of mini-projects, including plumbing, insulation, demolition, and more. But if done well, the myriad of benefits you get more than makes up for time and effort spent on the project.

So, let’s get to it, shall we? Here are the steps to converting a bathtub into a shower.

1. Decide on the shower size

If you’re removing a standard-sized tub (60 inches long, 30-32 inches wide), you’re better off replacing it with a shower that’s roughly similar in size. This way, you don’t need to do any modifications to the wall and the shower pan. If you go with a smaller shower, you will have to carry out minor repairs to the walls and the floors. On the bright side, you’re getting more wiggle room in the bathroom as a result.

2. Get the necessary permits

To ensure that you’re not violating any local laws, check with your municipality if converting a tub into a shower in your home will require permits. 

3. Shut off the water supply

Is your bathtub connected to a shut-off valve? Make sure you shut it off before pushing through with the project. 

4. Remove or strip away the bathtub surround

Remove the tub surround from the tub with a pry bar and an oscillating multi-tool. If you’re having difficulties prying it off, give it a little nudge using the pry bar and a hammer. If the tub’s surround is made of plastic, it might be glued to a substrate material, in which case you need to strip it off.

5. Remove the tub

You may need to ask for assistance to do this. To remove the tub, you will need to unscrew the wall from the tub’s rim. Once it’s unscrewed, ask someone to help you lift one side of the tub and tip it over. Set it aside for the meantime.

6. Fix the studs, flooring, and joists

Once the tub is removed, you must repair the studs, flooring or joists that are exposed underneath. 

7. Adjust the shower valves and the showerhead

At this point, the water outlet and tub controls are positioned to service the bathtub. You need to raise both to position them for shower use. Typically, the valves should be located approximately 47 inches above the floor, while the showerhead is right smack dab in the center, 78 inches from the floor.

8. Install the shower pan

Next, you must install the shower pan. But before you do, you must set up a mortar bed for the pan to stand on. Make sure the shower pan is attached securely by screwing its lip tight to the studs.

9. Install the surround panels

It bears noting that you need to install the large back panel first when working with surround panels. Once it’s set up, install the side without the shower controls before doing the same with the panel on the control side. Drill holes through the controls and showerhead and then attach the last surround panel by nailing studs and caulk along the seams.

10. Install the shower door

Next, install the door by following the directions provided by the manufacturer.

11. Install the showerhead and the controls

Check to make sure the rough-ins are aligned with the holes in the surround panel before installing the controls and the showerhead.

12. Test the shower

Turn the shut-off valve back on and test if the shower is working.

Steps to Converting a Shower into a Bathtub

Now, what if it’s the other way around? There’s a myriad of ways to convert a shower into a bathtub, and the type of conversion you want to do will depend on many factors. But to give you some idea about the scope involved, here’s a standard procedure you can follow as you deem fit:

1. Get the shower area’s dimensions

The first order of business is to measure the area. You have two approaches to choose from: either you demolish the shower area and install a bathtub as a replacement or you modify the shower area so it can be converted into a tub. 

2. Check if the tub will fit

A standard tub measures 60 inches (length) x 30 inches (width) x 14 1/4” (height). Now, look at the shower area’s dimensions. Is the shower area big enough to accommodate a standard-sized bathtub? If not, you’ll need to carry out a demolition so that the tub can fit inside the area for installation. If you don’t want a full demolition, you can opt for a smaller tub. 

3. Build a wall for the tub

To build the wall, cut a rectangular frame and place support boards every 10 inches along its length. Attach the frame in front of the shower and secure it by drilling long screws to the floor and adjacent walls.

3. Screw the concrete backer board into the wood frame

4. Tile the new bathtub wall

Install the first tile to the adhesive and put a spacer next to it before installing the next tile. Continue doing this until you get to the other end. Use a cutter if some of the tiles don’t fit. 

5. Apply bullnose tile pieces on the top of the wall using the adhesive

6. Start grouting

You can use premixed grout or prepare dry mix grout. Word of caution: make sure that you wear safety gear to protect your eyes and skin from grout. For best results, the rubber float must be used at a 46-degree angle to ensure that the grout is spread across the tiles and into the gaps smoothly.  Wipe away any excess grout by using a sponge.

7. Clean up

Clean the tile after the grout has hardened and then apply some water-soluble caulking along the part of the tile that meets the walls and the shower’s edge 

8. Grout it up

Wait a week before applying grout sealer on the joints and the grout lines.

6 Cheap ways to remodel a Bath for resale before selling

So, are you going with a bathtub? Or is it a shower? Or a good combination of both? Whatever your decision is, it’s worth considering what other changes you can make to improve your home’s resale value. Owning a home, after all, is a good investment. And if you’re going to make any changes, you need to know what it entails for your home’s ROI.

So, without further ado, here are cheap bathroom upgrades that will bode well for your home’s resale value down the line.

1. Install a new showerhead

If your shower head is old and outdated fashion-wise, you’re not doing your bathroom any favors. Besides, there are many “upgrades” you can do with a showerhead that both homeowners and prospective homeowners alike will find appealing. For one, current shower technology allows showers to maximize water flow with minimal need for water.  Some showerheads also have added massage action to help you get rid of those tension aches after a long day at work. When it comes to showerheads, there’s plenty for everyone, from multiple spray settings to embedded Bluetooth speakers, to anti-scald technology to water conservation

2. Reglaze your bathtub

Bathtubs may accumulate chips and cracks over time. If you’re going to sell your home, you better make sure that your tub looks good as new. You can pull this off with the help of a reglazing kit. However, it bears noting that reglazing is only for cosmetic purposes. If you want to fully restore your bathtub, call a professional plumbing contractor or a bathroom contractor (you’ll need a mobile home contractor if the bathroom is in a trailer or a camper).

3. Retile your bathtub

If the bathtub is too damaged for reglazing, you can do better than to restore it, you can also change the style by retiling everything. There are many styles to choose from, including glass, marble, and metal. Allow yourself to be creative by choosing patterns and designs that showcase your personality.

4. Install a concealed shower valve

A “concealed” shower is the way to go if you want your bathroom to have a streamlined look.  Because let’s face it, exposed fittings and pipes aren’t nice to look at. Besides, they give your bathroom a more contemporary look, which will make it look more attractive to prospective homebuyers.

5. Convert your shower into a steam shower

Why go to a spa if you have a steam shower right in your own home? Having a steam shower isn’t only soothing and pleasant, but it also improves blood circulation, relieves muscle tension, and removes toxins from your body. Okay, fine, converting a shower into a steam shower isn’t exactly cheap, as it costs between $2,500 and $6,000, but the price people are willing to pay for that added feature will more than compensate for it.

6. Install shower body sprays

Who doesn’t like a good massage? Believe it or not, you can get a soothing massage by installing shower body sprays in your bathroom. All you need are separate mini-body sprays that can apply water pressure across your entire body. Who needs a masseuse when you have those? Better yet, it will only cost you $500!

20 Bathroom Remodel Ideas on a Budget: How-To’s, Cost & Mistakes to Avoid

Most homeowners have to remodel their bathrooms at one point in their lives. There could be a wide range of reasons for it. Maybe the bathroom is worn due to prolonged use. Maybe there’s this bathroom design idea you want to try. Or maybe your bathroom needs some fixing and you thought it would make more sense economically-wise to remodel it altogether.

Here’s the good news: Whatever your reason for remodeling your bathroom, it’s only going to increase your home’s resale value. Get it right and you can make a mint!

The problem? Bathroom remodel ideas are hard to come by and even harder to execute. Chances are you have a thousand ideas but have no idea which one to go for. Worse, you’re not entirely sure if you can afford it all.

But don’t worry. We’ve got your back.

In this article, we’ll delve into a wide range of bathroom remodel ideas that will inspire you in your bathroom remodeling project. Better yet, all are tailored for those who are on a shoestring budget!

Having a limited budget doesn’t mean that your bathroom remodeling project will be of subpar quality. Your budget may be limited, sure, but creativity and imagination knows no bounds. Want to make the most out of your project? All it takes is to get familiar with the available options and possibilities out there.

But first…

How much does it cost to remodel a bathroom?

Well, that depends. For one, you need to consider the room’s size. A medium-sized bathroom (5×7 foot), for instance, will cost around $19,000, according to a 2018 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine.

To give you a bird’s eye view of the total costs, here’s a breakdown of the fixtures involved in a bathroom remodel project:

  • A vanity counter with a sink
  • Standard toilet
  • A standard-sized (30×60-inches) porcelain-on-steel bathtub
  • A recessed medicine cabinet with outlet
  • A single-level shower control

A high-end remodel upgrade, obviously, will cost more, falling anywhere between $50,000 and $70,000. Upscale bathroom remodels usually include room expansions, in-floor heating installations, heated towel bar additions, body spray, a frameless glass enclosure, upscale faucets, soaker tub installation, and many others.

How much does it cost to remodel a small bathroom?

If you’re remodeling an 8×5/40 square foot bathroom, it would cost you around $6,500. The cost varies a lot, ranging between $2,000 and $17,000. If we’re talking high-end remodels, be prepared to pay between $10,000 and $30,000. 

Want to know how they add up? Here’s a breakdown of different bathroom fixtures and their average remodeling costs (Please note that all prices are inclusive of materials, labor, as well as the expenses for removal and disposal):

  • Bathtub – $1,300
  • Shower – $900
  • Sink – $500
  • Toilet – $700
  • Countertop – $700
  • Floor – $900

Price of materials

Let’s talk about something most homeowners get antsy about: *cue horror music* the price of materials. To get a more accurate estimate, here’s a breakdown of each material and their average prices.

  • Tile – $18 per square foot
  • Mirrors – $250
  • Paint – $300
  • Cabinets – $750
  • Lights – $200

Common mistakes to avoid when remodeling a bathroom

When remodeling a bathroom, you want to avoid mistakes as you possibly can. Mistakes, after all, cost money, especially if you’re doing upscale remodels. 

Here are common mistakes you must avoid:

Mistake #1: Fixtures don’t match

When you’re remodeling your bathroom, you don’t just pick any material or design that catches your attention. You want your bathroom to be remarkable? Then you need to make sure that all visual elements in your bathroom form a cohesive whole. 

Here’s one golden rule: when choosing materials, choose only two to three different types. Having more than that can make your room look haphazard. You don’t want your bathroom to look like a showroom, don’t you? Remember, repetition brings more familiarity and comfort, but  you can mix it up a bit to ensure that the overall look doesn’t look monotonous or drab.

Mistake #2: Not too much light

Lighting fixtures not only make your bathroom more convenient and functional, but they also add to its visual impact and mood. To pull off your bathroom’s lighting,, make sure that you have a lighting plan. Ideally, a lighting plan needs four layers of light: decorative, accent, ambient, decorative, and task.

Mistake #3: Poor ventilation

Nothing is more frustrating than seeing black streaks of mold crawling all over your newly minted walls, floors, and ceiling not long after a bathroom remodel. If you experience this problem, chances are it was caused by poor ventilation. To avoid this scenario, make sure that you have an exhaust fan or some sort of ventilation system running while your bathroom is undergoing a remodel. 

Mistake #4: Picking looks over functionality

Homeowners sometimes get carried away when designing their bathrooms that they forget about functionality. This is a disaster waiting to happen. A bathroom is made for a specific function, after all. A beautiful bathroom won’t be doing you any favors if it’s mostly inaccessible, unsafe, and uncomfortable.

Mistake #5: Not having a clear remodeling plan

When carrying out a bathroom remodeling project, you don’t just wing it and hope for the best. If you want every aspect of the project to run smoothly, you need to draw up a plan. And not just any plan. Make sure that it’s clear and specific so you can have amazing results. It’s a document that serves as a guide that will inform all tasks in the project, after all, and leaving some things to interpretation can have disastrous results.

Mistake #6: Not setting aside a reserve budget

Like any other complex project, a bathroom remodel may have unexpected expenses that can wreak havoc on your budget. To avoid bill shock, you must set aside a reserve fund for such expenditures. The last thing you want to do is put your bathroom remodeling project to a halt just because you don’t have the money to pay for it. 

Ideally, you must set aside at least 10% of the total budget. That way, you can relax easy in knowing you can pay up when there are unpleasant surprises. And even if the initial budget pans out, it’s always nice to know that you have some extra money stashed away somewhere.

Mistake #7: Picking the wrong materials

Using the right materials is essential to any home remodeling project, especially if it involves the bathroom. Obviously, bathrooms are prone to moisture, which could lead to water damage. As such, picking wood over more water-resistant materials like  tile, acrylic, laminate, glass, etc. will have less than ideal results.

Don’t just pick a material for its water-resistant properties. Also, consider if it dries easily. For one thing, water-resistant material that collects water can cause drainage issues in the bathroom.

Bathroom Remodel Ideas: How to remodel a bathroom on a budget

So, do you already have a set budget? You’ve already got your priorities straightened out? Good! Let’s go over 20 bathroom remodel ideas that will help you explore the wide range of possibilities out there. Feel free to grab a pen and paper so you can take notes!

1. Buy used materials

The old cliche, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” applies here. You can save a lot more if you buy used materials or fixtures instead of buying new ones. Not only are you able to buy materials at a fraction of the price, but you’ll be doing the environment a favor as well. Classified sites like Craigslist, Kijiji, Swappa or eBay can sell you used materials and fixtures for bargain prices. 

Buying used materials comes with some responsibility, however. You don’t want to buy a used vanity only to find out it’s in its initial stages of water damage. Before you buy from someone, check if that person is already trusted within that online community. As much as possible, avoid paying without seeing the item or items in person. And as much as possible, stay local when making online transactions.

2. Don’t replace your tub, just refinish it

Most people tend to replace their bathtub if it looks worn out after long use. In reality, a refinishing job is all it takes to make the bathtub look good as new. Buying and installing a new bathtub can put a serious dent in your wallet. For one, the average cost to install a new bathtub is about $2,500, whereas refinishing a bathtub will only cost anywhere between $200 and $1,000. You can even go cheaper by going the DIY route! 

3. Install a prefabricated shower stall

Prefabricated shower stalls are easier on the budget than tiled showers. For starters, tiled showers require you to hire a bathroom contractor or to build the shower unit with tile from the ground up. Obviously, that’s not the case when installing a prefabricated shower stall, at least when you’re installing DIY options such as the interlocking mutti-piece units and wall kits only types. 

4. Install the new toilet yourself

Hiring a plumber to install your toilet can be expensive, costing you anywhere between $100 and $200. But if you feel you are strong enough to carry a toilet bowl, then you might want to consider installing your new toilet by yourself. 

5. Take it easy on the tile

Tile can be expensive if you’re not careful. To give your wallet a much-needed break, limit the amount of tile you use in your bathroom remodel project. One great way to save up on tile is to create a feature wall and install it behind the sink. This way, tiling up the rest of the room wouldn’t cost a fortune. Adding some beadboard or paneling towards the center of the wall can also add a nice contrast and balancing effect to the tilework if done properly.

If you’re going to use tile, use it on areas that are more prone to foot traffic. You can also mix and match cheap tiles with premium tiles. With the right design or pattern, cheaper tiles can be used as an accent that can make your premium tiles stand out.

6. Upgrade the lighting

Upgrading your bathroom’s lighting not only scores you more points in terms of convenience and functionality, but it also adds to the atmosphere and ambiance of the room.  If the lighting fixtures in your bathroom are dull, it’s about time you give them an upgrade. If you want something modern yet cheap, you can never go wrong with monorail lighting. Multiple bulbs, with proper placing, can reflect off the side mirror in a way that produces a stunning yet relaxing effect. A light bar isn’t a bad idea if you want to add some modern flair. 

P.S. If you’re using a mobile home or trailer, make sure to hire a mobile home contractor to help you with the lighting upgrades. Mobile homes have different electrical requirements than regular homes, after all.

7. Paint the interior yourself

Painting a bathroom’s interior doesn’t require much skill. You can do it well even if you have zero professional experience, especially when you’re working with a small bathroom. For better results, always use premium items. You also want your bathroom to be highly resistant to mold and mildew, so we highly recommend that you use high-quality paint with a satin finish. Since you’re probably an amateur at this, take your time and do it gently and carefully. If you want to paint like a pro in no time, this comprehensive guide should be able to help.

8. Install your own vanity tops

It’s not difficult to install vanities and tops because they’re already pre-assembled for you. As long as you’ve already done the measurements and figure out how they fit into your entire remodeling plan, installing vanities and tips is a painless task, and as such will take you only a couple of hours to complete. You can also buy solid-surface countertops and place them alongside your vanities so that bathroom fixtures like faucets and sinks can be easily shared. 

9. Re-grout the seals around your tiles, sink, etc.

If the caulking in your bathroom has seen better days, you may need to re-caulk the seals again. Caulking might be resistant to water, but they’re not immune to wear and tear. They will eventually crack, wear out, and get discolored. Regrout them again and your bathroom will look good as new. Moreover, regrouting prevents your bathroom fixtures and materials from incurring water damage.

P.S. If the caulking is severely damaged, the best course of action is to hire a shower tile repair contractor.

10. Add seating

If there’s still room, why not install a stool, small chair, or bench to your bathroom? A bathroom, after all, is a good place to relax, and having a bench (preferably near the shower) makes your bathroom become that place of relaxation you’ve been dreaming of.

11. Remodel with the environment in mind

The alarming increase in our carbon footprint on the planet over the years, it’s time that we remodel our bathroom with the environment in mind. We owe it to the planet and ourselves. That said, going green doesn’t only benefit the environment, it’s also amazingly practical. For example, using low-flow toilets, automatic faucets,  and dual-flush systems helps us conserve water, thus saving you money.

You can also save on your electricity bill by using a solar-powered hot water system or tankless water heater. 

12. Design your bathroom on your own

In remodeling your bathroom, you might have your own ideas on how you want the end result to appear. In that case, it shouldn’t hurt if you design your bathroom by yourself. If your creative ideas are in a jumble, you can come up with a more specific design by doing a layout first. Just don’t forget to factor in important bathroom fixtures, as well as plumbing drains, vent stacks, and water lines into the equation (you will need to hire a plumber for those). And as explained earlier, don’t sacrifice functionality for looks.

As to doing design layouts, you can take advantage of current technology by using a bathroom remodel software. If you’re having some difficulties putting all the design elements together, you can create a mood board on Pinterest for inspiration.

13. Use a sliding door

You’re better off using a sliding door instead of a swinging one if you want to save space in your bathroom. Having to open a swinging door not only takes up space, but it also requires a lot of effort. Sliding doors, on the other hand, open new possibilities in terms of diversity of space and functionality, especially when you want two mini-rooms to be made into one. To top it off, a nice sliding door also blends well with your bathroom’s interior design.

14. Go minimalist

You want to remodel your bathroom in a way that won’t break the bank? Pull a Marie Kondo! Get rid of clutter and other stuff you don’t need. Having two cabinets where one would suffice only takes up more space, and having too many colors will only assault the senses. Remember, when it comes to interior design, “less is more.” Restore an atmosphere of calm and order by removing all the clutter.

15. Emphasize one visual element

By creating a focal point in one part of the bathroom, you can afford to be less extravagant when it comes to the rest of the room. You can make your bathtub “pop” by painting it a bright yellow color or any color you feel will bring out your personality. The focal point could be a vanity that comes with crystal sconces, a mirrored wall, or a vintage poster. —anything that draws the eye and will make your bathroom look spectacular.

16. Buy a fan and timer

Proper ventilation is essential in maintaining optimal airflow inside the bathroom, and getting a fan and timer can help tremendously in this regard. Want to ensure that your bathroom is well ventilated at all times? Then go buy a fan timer, preferably one that comes with a one-hour setting. If you have kids who aren’t physically capable of opening a fan timer, then you’d do well to buy one that comes with a motion sensor.

17. Breathe new life into old baseboards

Instead of replacing your bathroom’s old baseboards, why not just breathe new life into them? If your baseboards look dilapidated, you can patch and repaint them until they look good as new. Patching up baseboards is not as hard as it looks. Just apply putty in the little holes with your index finger and make sure to smooth it out with the palms of your hands. Once it’s all patched up and there are no bumps and lumps left, repaint everything again.

18. Upgrade your bathroom lighting

Believe it or not, upgrading your bathroom’s light fixtures is as easy as changing a lightbulb. It’s fairly cheap, too, at least if you know where to look. For one thing, there’s no shortage of cheap but beautiful vanity lights out there. You can buy vanity light kits for under $30. If you want to give your bathroom a Victorian vibe, for example, you can buy this Vanity light industrial metal wire cage wall sconce. If you want something elegant and vintage, you can go for the vintage Edison lightbulb. If you want something more modern, you can never go wrong with the JoosenHouse Stainless Steel Bathroom Wall sconce

19. Use alternative materials

Instead of using standard bathroom materials, try unconventional ones instead. Why use tile when you can use Plycem (a cement board reinforced by fibers that are typically used in modern construction) instead? You can also stone resin in place of shower floor tile as well. For one thing, stone resin is highly resistant to cracks and mold, not to mention that it feels warmer underfoot than tile.

20. Go on a price hunt

While home improvement stores and bathroom supply stores are still the best places to buy bathroom materials and fixtures, some supermarkets like Walmart and Target also stock up on bathroom products… and at very affordable prices. Make sure to drop by the Bathroom Accessories section the next time you pick up your groceries. 

Lastly, don’t forget the internet! Doing a local search on Google will probably yield pleasant surprises. 

Adding a Shower to a Half Bath: Conversion Mistakes, How to, Plumbing, ¾ Bathroom

A bathroom is not just a bathroom. If you’re going to build or remodel one, you must take into account two things: function and design. Better yet, build or remodel your bathroom in a way where the function serves the design and vice versa. 

With that said, the specific needs and preferences of the homeowner must be considered when deciding on a bathroom’s layout. 

It’s for this reason why you’d come across a half-bath,a ¾ bath, a full bath, heck, even a ¼ bath. You begin to wonder: What do these terms even mean? What are their differences? 

Since you’re reading this article, chances are you’re thinking of adding a shower to your half bath. 

This comprehensive guide’s got all that covered, but before we begin, let’s talk about the differences between a half-bath and a ¾ bathroom. After all, this guide will only be of help to you if we’re on the same page.

What is a half-bath?

A half-bath, to put it simply, is a bathroom that comprises of a toilet and a sink—nothing more, nothing less. In other words, it’s a two-piece bathroom. If a bathroom has a shower or a bathtub, then you can’t call it a half-bath. 

What is a ¾ bath?

This is where it gets tricky. In most cases, people think they’re seeing a full bath when they’re actually looking at a ¾ bath. 

So, let’s demystify the difference between the two. To begin with, what sets them apart are their contents. 

In a nutshell, a full bath comes with a sink, a bathtub, and a toilet while a ¾ bath is a bath with a toilet, sink, and a shower. If a bathroom doesn’t have a tub, then you can’t call it a full bath. That said, if a bathroom contains all four fixtures, then you have every right to call it a full bath. 

So, do the math. When you’re adding a shower to a half-bath, what do you get? A ¾ bath, of course!

(Since the full bath and the ¾ bath are often used interchangeably, and erringly so, make sure to clarify the difference when talking to a realtor or a homebuyer if you’re selling your home.)

How much does it cost to install a shower in a half-bath?

According to a survey by Victorian Plumbing, 57% of adults prefer showers over baths. This only suggests that most Americans don’t want to take too long getting ready for the day or washing the day away.

But the major reason why homeowners prefer showers over baths is that it’s way cheaper.

How cheap?

Well, that depends on the type of shower you’re buying. There’s a wide variety to choose from, but if we’re to categorize them into two, then your choice is between a custom shower or a prefab shower unit.

Custom showers

When installing a custom shower, expect to spend anywhere between $1,500 and $7,000. Of course, the overall price depends on numerous factors, including size, shape, type, and materials. 

To give you an idea where your money is going when buying a custom shower, it bears noting that a shower is comprised of several components, including the surround, the pan, the plumbing, accessories. 

Surround

The type of material used for the surround can significantly impact the shower’s overall cost. Ideally, you want to buy one that can prevent water from making contact with the drywall and studs. Some materials also look better than others, so you may want to factor in appearances when deciding on a budget.

To give you a well-rounded idea of what you’ll have to pay for the surround, here are the different materials and their corresponding costs:

Material Cost

Porcelain $10/sq. ft.

Fiberglass $20/sq. Ft.

Stone $120/sq.ft.

Ceramic $7/sq.ft.

Solid surface slab $100/sq.ft.

There are good reasons why some materials are more expensive than others. Ever wonder why a solid surface slab costs a fortune? Or why porcelain is so cheap? Let’s delve into the pros and cons

Fiberglass

If you want a cost-effective option for your shower surround, picking fiberglass makes sense. It’s easy to install if your bathroom is the right size, even more so if your shower stall has a separate pan and backing. Just make sure that the seams are interlocked securely to avoid leaks. 

Fiberglass also has a smooth surface and is easy to clean. Make no mistake, fiberglass is the convenient, no-nonsense option for the practical homeowner.

Natural stone

Natural stone is a great option for homeowners who put a high premium on luxury. Natural stone, which could be marble, granite or travertine, has a nice luster that gives it a sophisticated appearance. As a luxury item, a shower stall made of natural stone can significantly increase the resale value of your home.

The downside? Stone shower surrounds are very expensive and hard to maintain. But if you have the budget for it and don’t mind doing regular maintenance, a stone shower surround can be a good investment.

Ceramic

Ceramic shower surrounds are another cheaper option, but it bears noting that ceramic materials are wide-ranging. It’s also available in a variety of styles, finishes, and colors, not to mention that it’s easy to customize. One major drawback of ceramic is that it can easily crack if you’re not careful.

Porcelain

If you think of porcelain as a high-end version of ceramic, then you’d be correct. Porcelain hits the sweet spot in terms of a compromise between price and appearance. Porcelain has a sleek, beautiful appearance that will look great on any bathroom. To top it off, it’s durable and has high resistance to water, especially if you seal the gaps with melted glass.

Prefabricated shower

But if you prefer a shower that’s cheaper and easier to install, go for the prefabricated shower. As the term implies, a prefab shower is already ready-made. In other words, what you’re getting is a complete shower stall. As can be expected, installing it is a breeze because you don’t have to build it from scratch.

Prefab showers are also mass-produced at factories and can be installed in a few hours, which is a big advantage considering custom-built showers are installed in 2-3 days. These ready-made shower stalls can be made from acrylic, fiberglass, or cultured marble.

If you want to install a prefab shower, expect the overall cost to fall between $500 and $2,500. A 48-inch, dual-seat prefab shower kit, for instance, costs for less than $700. If you want a luxurious prefab shower (a steam shower, for instance), expect to spend a little over $2,000. 

Shower door installations

Shower doors make up a significant portion of a custom shower’s overall costs. Of course, the price of the door will depend on the material it’s made of.

Glass shower doors, for instance, cost anywhere between $700 and $2,000. Factors that can affect the price include door size, side panels, operational specifics, door type, and more. 

Different types of shower doors and their costs

Standard Shower Door: $700-$1000

Sliding Shower Door: $1500-$1700

Corner Shower Door: $1500-$1800

Curved Shower Door: $1600-$2000

Do I need a permit to add a shower?

Most locales require their homeowners to obtain a permit when installing a shower stall in the  bathroom, especially when some changes need to be made in the drain. The likelihood that you’ll need one increases even more if you’re installing a shower stall where a bathroom doesn’t exist. You may want to hire the services of a plumbing or bathroom contractor if your plumbing and drains need to be upgraded for them to accommodate the new shower. Before you proceed with installing a shower, make sure to contact your county officials to ask about regulations in your locality. Y

We strongly recommend, nay implore, that you don’t skip the above step. If you push through with a shower installation without obtaining the proper permits, you’re likely to face heavy penalties, project stoppages. It’s even possible that you may forfeit the right to resell your home.

To give you a feel for what to expect, here’s a list of renovation or remodeling tasks that will most definitely require a permit:

  • Water heater replacement
  • Any work that involves the sewer line
  • Installation of new electrical wiring
  • Room additions
  • Installation of new plumbing
  • Demolition of load-bearing walls
  • Installation of any HVAC system

How to add a shower to a bathroom

There are many ways to add a shower to a half-bath, and they vary according to the current layout and design of your bathroom. But as a point of reference, we’re listing down below the general procedures in adding a shower to a bathroom.

Installing a prefabricated shower unit

1. Prepare your space

The right installation method will depend on the type of shower you want. As already explained, prefabricated shower units are so much easier to install, requiring only the most basic plumbing and carpentry skills to pull it off. 

There are two types of prefabricated shower stalls: single unit and multi-panel. Installing a single-unit shower stall requires only a few steps: Secure and connect them to the walls and pipes, seal the seams, and you’re off to the races. Multi-panel units, on the other hand, take longer to install because you need to connect the individual panels together as well as seal up each seam and joint. 

2. Mark the location of the pipes

Next, you need to determine the location of the pipes. Marking their location will give you an idea of how the shower stall will be attached to the wall and its essential elements. While getting the measurements, start from the floor and then move up to the corner of the walls. To mark the layout, draw a sketch showing the connections  between the shower and the wall, along with the plumbing. After recording the measurements, mark those same dimensions to the back of the shower unit, right on the spot that will be connected to your bathroom’s plumbing fixtures.

3. Start assembling

Now it’s time to start assembling the tools and materials that go along with your shower kit. That said, make sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Typically, you will need the following to assemble a shower stall:

  • Shower kit
  • 1.2 m level
  • Tile caulking
  • 2-inch hole saw
  • Electric drill
  • 1/8th-inch drill bit
  • Flathead screwdriver

4. Clean the floor and the walls 

You need to clear the work area of dust and debris before proceeding with the installation. Use a broom or a vacuum to get rid of  all the dirt and remove any excess caulking by peeling or prying them off with a putty knife. Lastly, make sure the floors and walls are dry. This is because installing a shower stall on a wet subfloor may cause water damage down the line.

5. Waterproof the surrounding walls

The surrounding walls of a shower stall are often exposed to moisture. And you’d do well to install waterproof wallboard or apply water-resistant glues on the walls to prevent water damage. Apply silicone caulking in the seams to make the installation more watertight.

Installing a single-unit shower stall

As already mentioned, installing a single-unit shower stall is easy, at least if you’re strong enough to lift it yourself. To ensure easy and safe installation, seek some assistance from an able-bodied friend or family member.

1. Perform measurements

Take stock of the space where the shower unit is to be installed and then perform some measurements. If the shower stall has a swinging door, don’t forget to include that in the measurements. If the area hasn’t been set up for plumbing before,you should contact a professional plumber who will do it for you. You will need to create templates for the drain and faucet areas as well to prevent potential plumbing issues down the road. If the bathroom in question is in the basement, you will need to install an up-flush system.

2. Install a waterproof interior wallboard

The walls surrounding the shower stall are always vulnerable to water moisture. To prevent water from damaging them, install a waterproof all-board behind the shower unit and then coat it with latex primer for good measure.

3. Drill holes in the unit

Once you’ve marked the locations of your bathroom’s pipes and fixtures on the back of your shower unit, carefully drill pilot holes at the back. Make sure to do it slowly to avoid cracking the interior. 

4.  Level the shower stall

With the help of an assistant, place the shower stall into the designated area. Put a level on the shower stall and make sure it’s lined up correctly relative to the holes.

5. Install the shower unit

Make sure to read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer before proceeding. But here’s some advice: go easy on the adhesive or it will lead to swelling and buckling. Position the shower unit to its designated area and double-check if it’s on the level. If the shower kit didn’t come with nails, attach the flanges to the studs yourself by driving galvanized nails into them. 

6. Caulk it up

Calk around the drain’s lip, between the wall coverings, and around the fixtures with silicone caulk. Once the catch screen is in the proper position, tighten the faucets for good measure.

Mistakes to avoid when installing a shower

Mistakes happen, but then again mistakes cost money, time, and yes, even our sanity. If you’re going to install a shower unit in your bathroom, you’ll be better off avoiding costly mistakes if you can help it.

Here are common shower installation mistakes you’d do well to avoid.

1. Not planning the space properly

Make no mistake—the shower stall is going to take up a lot of space in your bathroom, and if you space it poorly, the whole room is going to be compromised in more ways than one. As such, you want to make sure that the unit is positioned properly relative to the position of the plumbing fixtures and the wall studs. To boost the room’s functionality, position the shower unit accordingly relative to the positions of other bathroom fixtures, including benches and added storage.

2. Forgetting about the shower drain

It does seem more intuitive to put the drain in the middle of the shower floor, but in truth, it is better to place it along one wall of the shower. By installing a floor that slopes gently toward the drain, the water won’t be filling around your feet while you’re taking a shower. 

3. Not adding grab bars

No doubt about it —the bathroom is one of the most treacherous places in the home, especially for the elderly. When you combine water with slick surfaces, the more likely that slips and falls will occur. You can avoid this from happening by installing grab bars on one side of the shower wall. 

4. Using the wrong tools

Shower installations require precision, and if you want to be precise, you better use the right tools throughout the entire process. For instance, when you’re cutting wall panels for the shower, it’s better to use a fine-toothed saw or a tenon saw to make the cut precise and smooth. Using a circular saw or chop saw is not recommended because you’re likely to end up with coarse, rough edges.

5. Choosing not to place wall studs

A shower unit’s components can be heavy, and if you want to secure them firmly to the surrounding walls, they must be attached via heavy-duty screws. As such, consider the location of the wall studs when you’re putting the shower stall in position, making sure that the glass enclosure is firmly attached to the wall studs via screws.

6. Not making your bathroom’s pipes central to the shower plan

It goes without saying, but the shower is probably the water fixture that spikes your water bill the most. As such, it’ll be wise to ensure that there’s a sufficient amount of piping in the bathroom before carrying out a shower installation project. Better yet, you need to make the pipes central to the entire plan. Things can get tricky if you want to add a shower to a mobile home, so you’d do well to hire a mobile home contractor for that. 

7. Not setting aside reserve funds

Micromanaging your budget might make you feel that you’re in control financially, but unexpected expenditures are bound to come up almost every time. If you want to survive the financial onslaught, you better be prepared. And nothing prepares you better than by setting aside reserve funds. As a general rule of thumb, you need to set aside an extra 10% of the overall budget. Besides, it’s always nice to have some extra money if it turns out that you don’t need a reserve fund after all.

8. Hiring cheap labor

It’s tempting to hire shower contractors with the lowest costs if you want to save money. Don’t do it. For one, contractors who charge such cheap prices do so because they don’t have much to offer by way of expertise. They might also be hiring illegal workers or using dirt-cheap materials to cut costs, which could compromise the entire project.

Increasing the home value when you’re remodeling your bathroom

A smart homeowner wants to make sure that his home has a lot to offer in terms of value. Buying a home, after all, is an investment, and you want to maintain or increase its market value in case you’d need to resale it down the line.

There are plenty of ways to add value to a home, foremost of which is to give it a remodel or makeover.

In terms of house remodeling projects, one place you shouldn’t ignore is the bathroom. In fact, in a 2019 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of Realtors, consumers gave bathroom remodels a Joy Score of 9.6.

With that said, remodeling or renovating your bathroom costs money, and you need to be smart about how you spend it so you can receive more value for your renovation projects. Is a full bathroom renovation necessary? Or do you only need to update a few fixtures? Are there aspects of the remodeling project you can DIY instead?

More to the point, will adding a shower stall to your half-bath increase the value of your home?

Most definitely! Whether the return on your investment will be worth it is another matter.

To give you some perspective, according to a study by the National Association of Home Builders,  a half bathroom adds approximately 10.5% to a home’s value whereas a full bathroom adds around 20%.

Will that 10% increase be worth it on account of the amount you’re going to spend on the bathroom remodeling project? 

It can be difficult to arrive at a correct estimate on account of several factors, the foremost of which is the bedroom-to-bathroom ratio. 

If your home has more bedrooms than bathrooms, then yes, the increase in value will be much more significant.

If there’s already a separate bathroom that already has a shower in it, then that value might decrease as well.

Overall, the bathroom conversion must make sense to the overall layout of your house.

Whatever your circumstances, following the tips and suggestions in this guide should ensure that your bathroom renovation is worth it, from a practical standpoint and also in terms of your home’s overall value.

What is Particulate Matter? PM2.5, PM10, Health Effects, Pollution Sources

When we speak of airborne contaminants, one of the first things that come to mind is pollution. We know that air pollution is one of the leading causes of deaths and illnesses worldwide, that is why we take measures to lessen our exposure to it, such as by installing air purifiers and wearing masks and respirators.

What makes air pollution even more dangerous is the fact that one of its major components is particulate matter, also referred to as PM or particle pollution. Particulate matter is mostly invisible to the eye and is present indoors and outdoors, that is why avoiding exposure to it is impossible. Add the fact that it has plenty of sources and is present both indoors and outdoors.

Whether you have heard of it or not, you should keep reading because we will discuss its different types, specifically PM2.5 and PM10, the different health effects, and the sources of particle pollution.

EPA Sources on Particulate Matter

The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is known as one of the best sources for environmental concerns, including about particulate matter. On their website, they have covered the basics and other essential information explaining why particulate matter in high amounts should be a cause for concern.

However, they did not go into much detail about the topic, and their presentation may be too technical for some.

This guide is our answer to that problem, as we will go delve deeper into the basics not covered by the EPA website and other sources they link to, but in a way that is easier to understand by all.

What is Particulate Matter?

Before anything else, we need to first understand what particulate matter is.

If you are thinking that this is involves dust, you are partly correct. However, dust is just one of the many components that comprise particulate matter.

The EPA defines particulate matter as combinations of solid and liquid particles that are airborne and may include dust, pollen, smoke, allergens, acids, metals, soot, soil particles, sulphates, organic chemicals, nitrates, and other organic and inorganic particles. Particulate matter can come in different sizes and can either be easily seen or will require the use of a microscope to do so.

It may sound harmless to you, but what complicates matters is the fact that many of these particles are considered hazardous and most of them are microscopic in size. This makes particulate matter easily ingestible through inhalation or swallowing. And when this happens, it can lead to various health effects, the most dangerous of which is death. Direct contact with particulates has also been proven to cause skin problems.

Take note that particulate matter consists of different particles, not just one, and these particles present will determine its chemical composition and properties. This means a particulate matter may contain safe compounds, while others may have extremely hazardous ones. This is one of the reasons why some PM are more harmful than others.

Sources of Particulate Matter in the Air

Due to the numerous substances that comprise particulate matter, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous sources for it. But generally speaking, there two sources of particulate matter in the air, which are primary and secondary sources.

A primary source directly produces or emits particulate matter on its own, with most of them produced as a result of anthropogenic or human activity. These activities include:

  • Industrial and Agricultural Processes
  • Construction and Demolition Work
  • Fuel Combustion using Wood, Biofuel, and Fossil Fuel, Including Those Coming from Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
  • Disturbance of Roads and Fields, Particularly Those That are Unpaved

Sea sprays, wildfires, and organic matter resuspension are also considered primary sources, but they are naturally-occurring or non-anthropogenic. This means they do not require human activity for the particulates to be produced.

Mineral dust, which is among the most common components of particulate matter, is produced through both human and natural activities. This dust is present in areas that are arid and semiarid, and can become airborne with the slightest breeze or when disturbed while doing construction or agricultural work.

On the other hand, a secondary source releases compounds or substances into the air that will react to the gases present in the atmosphere, which will then create the particulate matter. Simply put, a secondary source will produce the compound or chemical that will react to the atmosphere to create the PM; it will not create particulate matter itself. Most particulate matter present is actually produced via a secondary source.

Among the most common compounds and natural gaseous precursors that produce PMs after oxidation are VOCs or volatile organic compounds, ammonia, sulfur oxide, and nitrogen oxide. These usually come from emissions of motor vehicles and wood-smoke, and even gaseous vegetative emissions.

Take note that the source of particulate matter in the air will greatly affect the composition of the PM, especially in terms of their volatility and size, and this is one of the main reasons why PMs have varying environmental and health impacts.

Particulate matter may come in different sizes, depending on its components, but they only have two size classifications, which are PM2.5 and PM10.

Particulate Matter 2.5

Also referred to as fine particulate matter, particulate matter 2.5 or PM2.5 is named as such because it only measures 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or even less than that. To put it into perspective, the size of PM2.5 is only 3% the diameter of a strand of human hair and requires the use of an electron microscope to be detected.

PM2.5 can be produced by either a primary or secondary source, but most of its particles come from a secondary source. Most PM2.5 material is produced from the chemical reaction between the atmosphere and fuel combustion, especially that of motor vehicles. Primary sources of PM2.5, on the other hand, include sea spray and wildfires.

In the US, PM2.5 is produced mostly by the following sources:

  • Fires
  • Road Dust
  • Generation of Electricity
  • Industrial Activities and Processes
  • Combustion of Wood in Residential Homes
  • Use of Non-Road Equipment
  • Waste Disposal
  • Miscellaneous
  • Combustion of Fossil Fuel
  • On Road Vehicles
  • Use of Solvent
  • Fertilizer and Livestock

Fine particulate matter is found both indoors and outdoors, but the concentration levels tend to be higher outdoors, especially near roads. Its size also makes it easier for PM2.5 to be transported to different places, as it can easily be blown away by the wind and remain airborne for several days to even several weeks.

Aside from various health effects, which we will discuss in the succeeding section, fine particulate matter also has environmental impacts. PM2.5 can cause plant damage, soiling, corrosion, and poor visibility, among others. In fact, the fog or mist you see is a good indicator of high levels of this particle pollution.

Particulate Matter 10

In contrast, PM10 or particulate matter 10 has a larger diameter than PM2.5. Also called inhalable coarse particles, they have a diameter not exceeding 10 micrometers, but is bigger than 2.5 micrometers. And because of its larger size, some PM10 may be seen even without the aid of a microscope, especially in large amounts.

This coarse particulate matter, also known as respirable particulate matter, is likewise produced through both primary and secondary sources, and are abundant in roadsides. This particle pollution is also prevalent in conditions where combustion occurs, as well as in natural sources like pollen, resuspension of biological matter, and sea salt.

This particulate matter is also known to pose harm not just to your health but also to the environment, but to a lesser degree than PM2.5. Its larger size also allows it to be transported in shorter distances and remain airborne for shorter periods – as quick as several minutes to a few hours only.

Is PM10 More Harmful than PM2.5?

Now that you are aware of their differences, you may be wondering if PM10 is more harmful than PM2.5 because of their size difference. But before we answer that question, you need to understand what exactly makes them hazardous.

Earlier, we mentioned that air pollution is a worldwide problem, and that particulate matter that is abundant in polluted air is seen as the major culprit for these health risks. This is because particulate matter is too small to be blocked by our body’s natural defenses, and they often contain hazardous material. This applies to both PM10 and PM2.5, as their size allows them to be easily ingested by anyone.

However, size really matters in this case, as the smaller PM2.5 is seen as more harmful than PM10.

While they can both enter your body without you noticing, the larger PM10 tends to be trapped on the upper respiratory tract area, specifically in the nose and throat. This is because the cilia found along the respiratory tract can block PM10, preventing it from penetrating deeper into your body. The trapped particulate matter may even be expelled through sneezing, coughing, or end up trapped inside mucus that is then digested harmlessly or ejected through the mouth.

On the other hand, the smaller PM2.5 can go deeper than that and reach the lungs where it can cause more severe health effects. Certain PM2.5 can even go into the areas of the respiratory system where the lungs and the bloodstream meet and the exchange of gases occurs, allowing the soluble component of the PM2.5 to enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc to other organs. The insoluble component remains in the lungs’ alveoli and can trigger inflammation when it accumulates.

The composition of the particulate matter will also play a crucial role in its health effects. But ultimately, the size of the particulate matter will be the biggest factor in determining how harmful it can be; the smaller the size of the PM, the more dangerous it is.

Particulate Matter Health Effects

Did you know that the health effects of particulate matter are not limited to respiratory issues? In fact, the health risks it poses goes beyond that, especially if the particulate matter contains metals, which is often the case for PM2.5.

The respiratory system, especially the lungs, is known to be one of the most at risk when you are exposed to particulate matter, but it can also affect your cardiovascular and reproductive systems, as well as cause other health issues.

Respiratory System

Because the particulates are most often ingested through inhalation, it is not surprising that the respiratory system is the most commonly affected. These effects are experience by both young and old alike, with children, those who already have lung or heart disease, and older adults considered as the most at risk for it.

The health effects involving the respiratory system due to particulate matter exposure include the following:

  • Greater risk of acquiring respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer, pneumonia, chronic lung disease, bronchitis, and asthma (with long-term exposure)
  • Increased vulnerability to pathogens, both bacterial and viral, that can cause various diseases
  • Aggravated symptoms or reactions for those who already have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD (with short-term exposure)
  • May cause breathing difficulties due to airway blockage, causing death
  • Recurrent coughs
  • Irritation of the throat and lungs, which can increase its permeability and lead to lung injury
  • More frequent asthma attacks
  • Inflamed lung tissue
  • Decreased lung function
  • Reduction in lung growth and development for children and even teenagers, compromising lung function for the rest of their lives
  • Higher risk of hospitalization or death due to lung disease in older adults
  • Breathing difficulties

Cardiovascular System

Exposure to particulate matter will also affect your cardiovascular system, particularly your heart and blood vessels. However, this is may also be an effect of respiratory issues due to particulate matter exposure. This means that particulate matter can cause respiratory problems, which can then cause cardiovascular issues.

Some of the known effects to the cardiovascular system are:

  • Blood chemistry changes
  • Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, especially for those with heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Buildup of arterial plaque that can cause hardening and inflammation, which can trigger stroke or heart attack
  • Higher risk of experiencing heart attacks, or an increase frequency for those who already have history
  • Greater possibility of cardiovascular mortality
  • Weakening of the heart
  • Development of vascular diseases, including coronary heart disease (with long-term exposure)
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Irregular activity of the heart muscle caused by an irritated autonomic nervous system
  • High blood pressure
  • Worsened symptoms of heart disease

Reproductive System

To some extent, your reproductive system may also be affected by exposure to harmful particulate matter. The risk is even higher for pregnant women, as it can affect both them and their unborn child, especially when they get exposed to it during the first month.

Health risks include:

  • Infertility
  • Menarche delays
  • Menstrual problems
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight of infants
  • Birth defects
  • Complications to the pregnancy, such as GDM or gestational diabetes mellitus and preeclampsia

Other Health Issues

You may also develop other PM-related health issues, such as:

  • Eye irritation, including conjunctivitis
  • Stuffy or running nose, post-nasal drip, or constant sneezing due to nasal irritation
  • Irritation of the throat that can cause sore or dry throat and coughing
  • Chest pains
  • Headache
  • Increased risk of acquiring diabetes and hyperglycemia, or insulin resistance for those who are already diabetic
  • Genotoxicity or damage to DNA that can lead to cancer
  • Dizziness
  • Increased possibility of getting cancer, as particulates may contain known carcinogens
  • Lethargy
  • Fibrosis or scarring of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis, as well as liver damage and dysfunction
  • Faster aging of the brain, including neurodegeneration
  • Poor attention span or hyperactivity
  • Learning difficulties, which can lead to IQ decrease in children
  • Symptoms of mental and behavioral disorders, including those of anxiety and depression

The size, length of exposure, and the components of particulate matter will determine the kind and severity of health effects that you may acquire. While PM2.5 is known to be more harmful, this does not mean that PM10 is completely safe; you must still limit your exposure to both. Long-term PM exposures will be the most harmful to anyone, as well as exposure to particulate matter that contain toxic components.

Death is the most severe health effect of particulate matter, even with short-term exposure. Long-term exposure to particulate matter may not immediately show symptoms, but it can affect your quality of life and even significantly reduce your lifespan.

Will a HEPA Filter Remove PM2.5?

The microscopic size of PM2.5 may make it seem like protection is impossible, but you can remove certain particulate matter with the use of a suitable HEPA filter. This kind of filter, also referred to as a High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor, is known to typically screen particles that are up to 0.3 microns small. Certain HEPA filters are capable of removing particles measuring 0.1 microns, and this can successfully filter out PM2.5.

A respirator with an N95 rating and HEPA filter is also effective in filtering PM2.5. Both reusable and disposable types can be used for this, as what matters more is a respirator’s capability of creating a tight seal. A proper sealing ensures that no particulate matter can pass through any gaps present between your face and the respirator. This means surgical and single-strap paper masks should not be used even if they have an N95 rating. Respirators with HEPA filters are even more effective in doing so.

(if you will have separate category for products, e.g. all available N95 respirators, maybe you can add the links to the highlighted products)

Particulate Matter Sensor

You may be familiar with air quality monitoring devices that measure the air quality indoors and outdoors. While these devices can determine the level of air pollution present in that area, they are generally not capable of detecting the presence of particulate matter and the levels present.

If you want to determine PM concentration levels indoors, outdoors, or both, you must get a particulate matter sensor.

A particulate matter sensor and a typical air quality monitor have generally the same function, which is to detect the concentration levels of airborne contaminants. Air quality monitors focus on general levels of pollutants, with only specialized ones capable of identifying the type of pollutants present. On the other hand, particulate matter sensors focus on determining the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 present, which most air quality monitors are not capable of.

These PM sensors typically make use of optical means to determine the number of and concentration levels of the PM present. Particulates will pass through a light source, often a laser, in the detection chamber, and they will allow light to be either absorbed or scattered. When this happens, the sensor can determine the number and concentration levels of the particulates present.

PM sensors can either be standalone or connected to air quality monitors, air purifiers, and HVAC systems to increase its functionality.

How to Reduce Particulate Matter

With the abundance of sources of particulate matter, both natural and manmade, it is a given that the particulate matter present may exceed acceptable levels every now and then. And with the numerous environmental and health risks involving both fine and coarse particulate matter, you know that it should be immediately addressed when it happens.

But how can you reduce the levels of particulate matter present? Here are some ways to ensure that they will fall within safe levels:

  • Avoid smoking, especially indoors where there is poor air circulation. This also includes lighting candles and incense
  • Lessen the use of heating devices that involve combustion or burning of wood. Ensure proper ventilation and use well-seasoned wood when doing so
  • Stop open burning practices, even if it involves biodegradable household trash like leaves and wood
  • Decrease black carbon production by limiting the use of vehicles equipped with older engines, particularly diesel-powered ones
  • Immediately address wildfires and prevent new ones from starting
  • Install appropriate air purifiers with HEPA filters and particulate matter sensors to quickly address high PM levels before it reaches dangerous levels
  • Drive less and use mass transport or carpool instead. If possible, travel by foot, bike, or any other means that have zero emission
  • Reduce your usage of household products that may produce particulate matter
  • Observe regular car maintenance, as this will also help reduce PM production
  • Go green by using energy-efficient appliances and install environment-friendly energy sources, like solar panels
  • Open windows and ventilation systems if the indoor PM levels are higher than normal
  • Remove sources of asbestos, lead, and other toxic airborne particulates that are known to be present in old homes, and observing safe practices when doing so to prevent them from spreading around
  • If you live near roads, fields, or industrial facilities, which are among the major sources of particulate matter, make home improvements to prevent particulate matter from getting inside your home
  • Keep your home clean and use HEPA vacuum to ensure that particulates are removed
  • When idling your car for longer periods, do it outside your attached garage and away from any doors and windows
  • Limit your use of gas-powered gardening equipment

Contrary to what you might think, reducing particulate matter does not require doing anything fancy or using sophisticated equipment. These simple methods can already greatly decrease the PM levels in a short time and prevent it from reaching levels that can immediately pose harm to anyone.

Air Quality Trends and Particulate Matter

Various government agencies started keeping track of air quality trends over the years, particularly paying close attention to concentrations levels of particulate matter, as this is a good indicator of the severity of air pollution. PM10 used to be the only particulate matter monitored but with the discovery of the more harmful effects of PM2.5, they started monitoring it alongside PM10.

Because of their effects, those who crafted the Clean Air Act of 1970 included provisions that involve particulate matter. This Act, including addendums and related policies resulting from it, has been instrumental in dramatically improving air quality in the country, which has been proven with the steadily declining number of illnesses and premature deaths due to exposure to particulate matter.

Monitoring particulate matter present in the air has made it possible for agencies to accurately predict high particle pollution days based on historical data. Some of the trends they discovered include:

  • Higher PM2.5 concentrations in the eastern half of the US from July to September, while fine particulate matter is higher in the western half from October to November
  • PM10 concentrations are now nearly 50% lower compared to the levels in the 1980s, while PM2.5 concentrations are now lower by 40% on average compared to the levels in the 1990s when they started keeping track
  • Concentrations of both coarse and fine particulate matter have generally been declining over the years, with some small increases for short periods. However, they are observed to be steadily increasing since 2015, with climate change seen as one of the major factors
  • Worldwide, majority of countries have also shown remarkable decline in concentration levels over the years, especially with PM2.5

Monitoring air quality trends involving particulate matter is ideal to decrease the chances of acquiring health issues due to prolonged or high-level exposure. By now, you know that this is easier said than done, but not completely impossible.

You can check the air quality index, or AQI, in real-time via EPA’s AirNow to know how polluted the air is in various parts of the country, as well as be aware of AQI forecasts. However, the agency combines PM and ozone levels to come up with the index, so there is no way of knowing the actual PM levels.

By this time, you are now aware of the essentials involving particulate matter. You are also more conscious of its impact to you and the environment and know how you can take measures to keep it within acceptable levels.

And because of all these, you avoid being part of the statistics of injuries or fatalities caused by exposure to it.

Clean Water Act: Trump Repealing, What Is It, Summary, & More

Did you know that we can survive without food for several weeks, but we can only live without water for a few days?

That is how important water is.

You may remember your science teacher telling your class that water is essential for all living things. This fact is recognized by officials all over the world, since most countries have crafted laws involving clean water, with the US being one of them.

The Clean Water Act is one of those legislations that ordinary people like you have likely heard of but have no clue what exactly it is about. You may have even heard of it plenty of times lately due to the controversial plan of the Trump administration to repeal one of its aspects.

But, should you be concerned about this decision? Before you decide, you need to first understand what it is, and that is why we came up with this guide to help you learn about the history of the Clean Water Act, its purpose, and more.

We also know that going through the entire law will be time consuming, that is why we will provide you with a summary of its main points to help you understand its main points.

What is the Clean Water Act?

Are you one of the many people who believe that this law has something to do with the water coming out of your faucets, as well as the kind of water that we drink?

We hate to burst your bubble, but this is not the case.

So, what exactly is the Clean Water Act?

The main purpose of the Clean Water Act, or CWA, is to ensure that the bodies of water in the entire US are well-protected against contamination, which has become a huge problem not just in large bodies of water but also even in smaller ones. The bodies of water primarily covered by this law are those that are considered navigable, including any of their tributaries, as well as those that serve an economical function.

Rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water were used as dumping ground of wastes in the past, especially by industrial facilities and commercial enterprises, and this had serious consequences. These surface waters became unsafe for consumption or use by humans and animals alike, as well as wreaked havoc to the environment. This problem was the major reason for the creation of the CWA.

This federal law does not only cover the regulation and prevention of discharged pollutants, but also includes addressing already polluted surface waters to improve its water quality to meet local standards. Not only that, this law also covers any related components, such as wetlands that are adjacent to these waters.

The Clean Water Act vs Safe Drinking Water Act

Given that this law covers the waters used for navigation and commerce, as well as their adjacent wetlands, you may think that it does not really apply to you. Your concern may lie on how safe the water supply that you use every day is, and this is covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, or SDWA. Some people mistake one for the other, that is why it is important to compare the Clean Water Act versus the Safe Drinking Water Act.

While the two laws both deal with water quality, their scope is different.

You are already aware that the CWA deals with the natural bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes, and the monitoring, protection, and improvement of their conditions. They are concerned with achieving the quality of water that meets the minimum standards set, which is done through the rehabilitation of the polluted surface waters, as well as the monitoring of discharges to these waters.

On the other hand, the SDWA focuses on the public’s water supply, ensuring that the potable water is safe for drinking. This law requires the water suppliers, states, and localities to work together to achieve the quality of potable water that meets their minimum standards.

Even if they have different scopes, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act have a common ground. For the drinking water to be safe in accordance to the SDWA, the source of the water supply and the processes involved must also meet the standards set by the state. This is where the CWA comes in; by ensuring that the sources are up to par by following the CWA, it makes it easier to get safe drinking water, which is the main objective of the SDWA.

What Does the Clean Water Act Do?

With the establishment of the CWA, the dumping of pollutants into the different bodies of water became highly regulated. By monitoring and controlling the point source pollution, they are one step closer to achieving the main objective of the law, which is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”

To address already polluted waters, the CWA has also included provisions focusing on their revival and rehabilitation, in hopes of making them “fishable and swimmable.” And once these waters have been brought back to life, the law requires that authorized agencies must ensure that the water quality remains in that acceptable state or is improved.

Among the objectives of the Clean Water Act are to:

  • Provide financial assistance to create facilities that are publicly-owned that will address water pollution in terms of prevention, cleanup, and maintenance, as well as improve water quality
  • Prosecute entities responsible for point source pollution who are caught discharging pollutants into the waters in quantities considered toxic
  • Develop proper waste treatment policies and facilities to stop the improper dumping of pollutants into the waters in each state
  • Conduct research in hopes of finding technological means of preventing the discharging of contaminants into the surface waters
  • Come up with plans and solutions to address the problem of nonpoint sources polluting the waters
  • Recognize the importance of wetlands, especially in terms of improving water quality, and create development plans in relation to it

Not only does the CWA have statutes and regulations aimed to protect surface waters, they have also set penalties for violators of these regulations in the form of fines, imprisonment, or both.

Fortunately, the Clean Water Act has been proven to be effective, especially in curbing water pollution. It was also discovered that since the establishment of this law, the number of surface waters that are now suitable for fishing increased by 12% and toxic pollutants in the water have greatly decreased, which means that the quality of the Nation’s waters have generally shown signs of improvement.

Clean Water Act History

It is not enough that you have a general idea of what the Clean Water Act is all about. You must also learn its history to understand why this law is pivotal not just in the US but even in other countries.

The main precursor of the Clean Water Act that we know today is the Federal Pollution Control Act of 1948. However, this law, as well as similar ones, were ineffective in dealing with water pollution. This is because these laws aimed primarily to prevent the dumping of garbage into navigational or commercial waters only, which means smaller bodies of water were left unmonitored.

People back then saw these waters as a dumping ground. It was so bad that billions of tons of raw sewage were entering the waters every day. In fact, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland reportedly caught fire several times because of all the industrial waste present that contained flammable materials and chemicals. The fires in that river is considered as one of the major catalysts for people to start realizing that the problem with water pollution has become very serious.

However, this burning river was not the only incident that spurred people into action. There were also several reports of fish kills in different places, with 26 million fish alone killed in Lake Thonotosassa, and that the bacteria present were more than a hundred times the safe limits. Various government agencies then came up with their respective reports, with all of them in consensus that the waters are no longer safe.

All these led to the creation of the Clean Water Act of 1972. While it can be considered as a revision of the 1948 law, this 1972 law was the first comprehensive legislation to focus on water pollution and its effects and be more proactive in dealing with them. It was later amended in 1977, and again in 1987.

Since then, the law started including nonpoint sources of water pollution, such as snow and rainwater that can collect particulate matter (link to particulate matter article?) as they fall. They also discovered the importance of wetlands when it comes to dealing with water pollution, so they expanded the law to include protection to these wetlands.

In recent times, the Clean Water Act has been met with criticisms. In particular, people have begun debating about what constitutes the “waters of the United States, or WOTUS,” that needs to be protected.

Despite the criticisms, it cannot be denied that the Clean Water Act has been instrumental in the overall improvement of the waters of the United States.

Why Was the Clean Water Act Created?

Many of the country’s laws were created in response to a single catalyst, but the Clean Water Act is not one of them. Why this law was crafted is mainly due to the increasing number of incidents that affected humans, animals, and the environment that were all caused by water pollution, such as the Cuyahoga River fires and numerous fish kills that occurred throughout the country.

While it may not be the main reason, it cannot be denied that the Cuyahoga River fires were a big factor in the establishment of this law. There had been several other incidents prior to the 1969 fire, but it was this incident that was even documented and published by Time Magazine which led to public awareness of the horrific conditions of the waters.

However, those incidents were not the sole reason for amendment of the 1948 law. Even before this law, people were already throwing their wastes into the waters, as it is the most convenient way of waste disposal. But with the boom of factories and mass settlement of people near bodies of water, especially during the Industrial age, this practice got even worse and started affecting people’s health.

Because of these collective incidents, people realized that the existing laws were no longer enough to address the problem, and this lead to the creation of the Clean Water Act. This was also done to alleviate the concerns of the general public who were fearful of how the water pollution can affect them.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Section 404

While there are several sections under the Clean Water Act, there are specific ones that are noteworthy. One of those is Section 404, which is considered as one of the cores of the entire this law.

Section 404 of the CWA regulates the type and quantity of discharge, particularly fill or dredged material, that enters the protected waters and wetlands through the establishment of a permit program. This section also prohibits any dredge and fill discharges based on these conditions:

  1. A feasible alternative that will cause less harm to the waters is available
  2. The discharge will negatively affect the quality of the water

Those who will conduct activities that can cause dredge and fill material to end up in the surface waters must first undergo a permit review process before they can obtain the necessary permit.

Should you pass the screening, you will be given either a general permit or individual permit by the US Army Corps of Engineers. A general permit is issued when the activity is believed to affect the aquatic environment only minimally, such as through utility line backfills, beddings, and small-scale road activities. But if the activity has the potential to cause harm, either due to the larger scope of the project or will conflict with environmental issues, you will be given an individual permit.

There are also exemptions to this ruling; not all those who will discharge pollutants are mandated to obtain a permit from the Corps before starting their activities. However, those who do may also be required to get a similar permit at the state level in accordance to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

Section 401

Section 401 is known as the “water quality certification program”, which authorizes the state and specific tribes to issue the required certificates or permits to entities who will conduct any activity that can result in the discharge of dredge or fill material into the waters, but only after a careful review.

This Section 401 Water Quality Certification, or WQC, will only be given to individuals or businesses that have successfully passed the required screening process conducted by authorized tribes and the state. It will only be issued to those who can prove that their activities will not worsen the condition of the waters involved.

While it primarily supports the Section 404 Dredge and Fill permits, this certification is also required by the following:

  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses for hydroelectric power plants that fall under the Federal Power Act
  • Permits issued under the Rivers and Harbors Act and are covered by Sections 9 and 10

These applicable federal licenses are invalid if you are unable to acquire the Section 401 certification that is issued at the state level. You must obtain the 401 Certificate first before you can be given a 404 Certificate.

Section 402

If the material that may enter the surface waters involves stormwater and sewer discharges, Section 402 will apply. This Section mandates those who will discharge known pollutants from a point source to the surface waters to get a permit to do so under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES. This program allows states to monitor and control discharges that are directed to surface waters.

Those who are required to secure this permit include the following:

  • Construction sites that cover an acre of land at minimum
  • Municipal facilities that have stormwater systems, including those found in chemical storage facilities, highways, rest areas, ferry terminals, maintenance facilities, and park and ride lots
  • Industrial facilities
  • Developments or those who will conduct any activity that will cause disturbance to the soil, including hydraulic fracturing or fracking

The NPDES will also issue either general or individual permits, but these are different from the ones issued by the Corps. Individual permits will cover specific facilities only, while general permits is suitable for multiple facilities that fall under the same category, whether in their operations and use or in the disposal of sludge.

Who Enforces the Clean Water Act?

One of the biggest criticisms of the old environmental laws is in terms of enforcement. Different states have different laws involving their surface waters, that is why the implementation of the laws is inconsistent. The Clean Water Act aimed to resolve this by assigning specific agencies and organizations to handle this crucial aspect.

The primary enforcer of the Clean Water Act is the Environmental Protection Agency, which was created in the 1970s to streamline the research, monitoring, and enforcement of laws and programs involving environmental issues, including water pollution.

However, the EPA does not act alone when it comes to enforcing the CWA. Under the Clean Water Act Compliance monitoring program, the EPA works together with state, federal, and tribal partners in ensuring the compliance of everyone to the law.

Not only do these partners handle the reviews and permit issuance mentioned in the earlier sections, they also have a role in ensuring that everyone under their jurisdiction will follow the law, regardless of whether they have the required permits or not.

In case of non-compliance with the law, the EPA has assigned Administrative Law Judges to handle related cases. And for those who will file administrative appeals involving the agency, such as in terms of penalties set under the CWA and the issuance or non-issuance of permits by the NPDES, the Environmental Appeals Board will handle them.

All these agencies and authorized partners work together to ensure that all concerned parties and individuals in their jurisdiction will comply with the law.

The Clean Water Act Under the Obama Administration

Over the years, the Clean Water Act has undergone numerous amendments and addendums, and this also happened under the Obama administration. Perhaps the most significant changes to it during that time was made in 2015 and is now known as the Clean Water Rule or the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS).

What constitutes as the “Nation’s waters” had often been a point of contention for many, and the 2015 Clean Water Rule aimed to solve this issue. The Obama administration believed that by defining what are the waters that should be protected under the Clean Water Act, it will allow the EPA and its partners, especially the Corps, to give better protection to those covered by the rule.

The WOTUS rule does not contain any new rules to follow in relation to the CWA, but simply clarifies the waters that are covered by the law. The administration deemed it necessary to clearly define what these waters are because the traditional term “navigational waters” used to define it was considered too broad and vague.

With this rule, the Nation’s waters covered by the Clean Water Act are:

  1. Interstate waters, or waters that intersect two or more state borders
  2. Waters that are used for interstate commerce and navigation
  3. Territorial seas
  4. Tributaries, or waters that branch out from the interstate waters and territorial seas
  5. Waters that are located next to or adjacent to the aforementioned
  6. Those with a significant nexus to the waters that are considered interstate waters and territorial seas, including wetlands and seasonal streams
  7. Impoundments of the waters that are qualified based on the above conditions

These criteria are not absolute, as the rule also mentions that there are instances wherein determining if the body of water is covered by the CWA will be decided on a case-to-case basis, such as:

  • If it is part of named formations, e.g. pocosins, prairie potholes, and the Carolina and Delmarva Bays
  • Is a coastal prairie wetland found in Texas or California
  • Is located within a specific distance to territorial water’s high water mark or high tide and has a significant nexus to it

Although its aim was to make the definition clearer, it was still met with criticisms and objections. Those who vehemently opposed the rule include farmers, coal miners, home developers, oil and gas drillers (especially those involved in fracking), and various officials, arguing that the rule will negatively impact different industries and can even violate the property and economic rights of these small business owners.

The Trump Administration’s Repeal of the Clean Water Rule

If you are not aware, the Trump administration has decided to repeal the Clean Water Rule made by the Obama administration because of the various criticisms involving it.

President Trump claimed that this rule gave free reign to the EPA to consider various surface waters as navigational waters, even those that are found inside farmlands, ranches, and other properties. He also highlighted the situation in California to justify this decision.

Both the EPA and the Corps are said to support this decision, based on the discovery that there were various violations committed in the creation and application of the rule, especially procedural errors, including:

  • Legal limits of the authorized agencies under the Clean Water Act were not implemented and failed to meet the expectations of Congress, and this was proven through various cases that reached the Supreme Court
  • There was inadequate record support and evidence of procedural errors when it comes to the distance-based limitations covered by the WOTUS rule
  • It did not fully protect and acknowledge the sovereignty of states when it comes to handling their resources, both land and water, in terms of their rights and responsibilities
  • Without any clear statement from the Congress, this rule then allowed the authorized agencies to reach the limits of their statutory and constitutional authority

Unsurprisingly, there are also people who opposed this repeal. Those who do argue that by repealing the Clean Water Rule, it will be detrimental to human health, affect the quality of potable water, and negatively impact the environment, among others.

In response to the criticisms of this controversial decision, the Trump administration released their own possible guidelines as to which bodies of water will be federally regulated, namely:

  • “Certain” lakes, ponds, and ditches
  • Waters traditionally used for navigation and their tributaries
  • Adjacent wetlands and impoundments of territorial waters

They also made a list of those that they do not considered as the Nation’s waters but were said to be included in the Obama WOTUS rule, which are:

  • Groundwater
  • Cropland that underwent conversion
  • Waste treatment systems and stormwater control features
  • “Many” ditches, including those on farms and roadsides
  • Those that only hold water under specific conditions, such as due to rainfall

Those who laud this repeal consider it as a personal victory, especially those who have income-generating properties located near bodies of water, as they claim that the Obama rule prevented them from using their lands as they see fit. On the other hand, those who oppose it are fearful of its effects, as they believe that it will return the conditions of these waters before the Clean Water Act was created.

It is important to note that the Trump administration is only repealing the Clean Water Rule of the Obama administration, not the entire Clean Water Act. However, only time will tell if the current administration’s decision to repeal will stop there.

Summary

The Clean Water Act was created in order to address the growing concern involving pollution in surface waters. This law primarily focuses on the monitoring and regulation of discharges of materials that may be considered pollutants to the Nation’s waters. And under this law, the authorized agencies and partners are expected to clean up or rehabilitate these waters to meet the water quality standards set and ensure that the quality is at least retained or improved once it meets the minimum standards.

While this law does not completely prohibit discharges into protected waters, it limits point source discharges by requiring those who will do so to first obtain the necessary permits and certifications. The required permits will depend on the relevant section of this law.

The 1972 version of the law, which was based on the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, included these major points:

  • The EPA is authorized to create and handle programs aimed at pollution control
  • Any person or entity who discharges pollutants into the waters, particularly from a point source to navigable waters, without the required permit is in violation of the law
  • Authorized agencies, including the state and tribes, are expected to set the standards of water quality for surface waters under their jurisdiction
  • Construction of facilities intended for sewage treatment
  • Acknowledge the contribution of nonpoint sources to water pollution and come up with ways to address the problems they bring

Amendments made in 1977 to address the shortcomings of and improve the initial version of the Clean Water Act include:

  • Giving the EPA authority to create programs aimed to develop wetlands
  • Focused on pollutants considered toxic and mandated different industries to meet the technology standards set involving these pollutants, as well as any new ones listed within three years
  • Authorized the EPA to address pollution involving hazardous materials and oil through cleanups of the waters up to 200 miles from the shoreline

The main goal of this law is ensure that the waters of the United States covered by this law will meet the standards set to make it “fishable and swimmable”, whether through preventive measures or by rehabilitating the protected waters.

Ozone Layer Depletion

Everyone says that the best way to protect yourself from the sun’s rays is to wear sunscreen. But nothing beats the best sunscreen of all – the ozone layer.

And best of all, no application required.

Since its discovery, we constantly hear those in the science field tell us that the ozone layer is being destroyed due to human activity. And unless we all do something about it, this ozone layer depletion is bound to get worse.

But if you have been regularly following the news, you may have heard the recent reports saying that the ozone layer hole is the smallest that it has ever been.

This is incredible news that affects the entire world, but why exactly should you be concerned about it?

To better understand why ozone layer depletion should be taken seriously and why we need to keep taking measures to replenish it, you must first get a good grasp of the concepts involving the ozone layer.

What is the Ozone Layer and Why is it Important?

You are probably aware that a shield is created to protect the one holding it from harm. However, other parts of the body are still vulnerable, because the shield can only cover certain areas at a time.

The ozone layer is like that, but it envelops the entire world. This protection is the main reason why this invisible layer is important to every living creature.

The ozone layer consists of ozone molecules that are naturally occurring. This layer is called as such because it contains the highest concentrations of ozone, and it is where ozone and oxygen are continuously formed as part of the ozone-oxygen cycle.

This cycle that continuously occurs in the ozone layer is essential in the prevention of harmful radiation emitted by the sun from entering the Earth. This ultraviolet light is required in this cycle, which means that most of it will be absorbed by these molecules and what is left will pass through the ozone layer and reach Earth.

Without the ozone layer, ultraviolet radiation can freely reach Earth without limits. And when it involves UV-B and especially UV-C, this will destroy not just the environment, but it will also cause deaths to living creatures in a short period of time.

What Type of Rays are Filtered by the Ozone Layer?

The sun produces large amounts of energy in different wavelengths, namely infrared radiation that we feel as heat, light that we see, and ultraviolet radiation or UV rays that cannot be seen or felt. Among these three, it is only the UV rays that get filtered by the ozone layer.

There are three different types of UV radiation, and they come with varying wavelengths:

  • UV-A has the longest wavelength, between 320 to 400 nanometers, and is not fully absorbed by the ozone layer, which allows around 95% of it to reach Earth’s surface. However, it is considered relatively harmless.
  • UV-B has a shorter wavelength, measuring between 290 to 320 nanometers, and is considered more harmful. While it can be absorbed, it can also pass through the ozone layer if it is depleted; the thinner the ozone layer, the more UV-B that can pass through and the greater its environmental and health effects, with sunburn being the most common effect.
  • UV-C is the most dangerous of all and comes with the shortest wavelength, only measuring between 100 to 290 nanometers. The ozone layer completely absorbs UV-C rays that is why it does not reach Earth, which is a good thing because we do not have any natural defenses against this particular UV ray.

These UV rays can cause great damage especially in large quantities, that is why the presence of the ozone layer is vital to prevent overexposure to it.

What Does the Ozone Layer Do?

You are already aware that the ozone layer acts like a shield for the Earth, but what exactly does this layer do?

While it prevents dangerous UV radiation from reaching Earth, it is not capable of completely blocking all UV rays. What it does is to make it harder for the UV radiation to pass through it, and only allowing the weaker and less harmful ones to penetrate it.

Because of the ozone layer, the most harmful UV-C is absorbed by the oxygen and ozone molecules present and is prevented from entering Earth.

When it comes to the UV-B, it can be absorbed by the ozone present in this layer, but not all the UV-B present will be absorbed by these molecules. The amount of UV-B that passes through it will depend on the thickness of the layer itself.

On the other hand, most UV-A can pass through the ozone layer. Although considered the safest, UV-A can still pose harm if you are exposed to it in large amounts or for prolonged periods.

Where is the Ozone Layer Located?

To know where the ozone layer is located, you must first understand what is present above the Earth’s surface.

There are five main atmospheric layers present, but our main concern here is the stratosphere, which is the second layer from the Earth’s surface. While the two lowest layers, namely the troposphere and stratosphere, both contain ozone, the stratosphere contains the largest amount of this molecule. This large concentration of ozone in the stratosphere is what we call the ozone layer.

The stratosphere is the only layer that is well-equipped to handle the unstable ozone molecules and for longer periods, as it is known as the stable or stratified layer and lacks vertical convection that allows the molecules to move up. However, the ozone layer is not synonymous to the stratosphere, since this layer is only confined in the lower region that is just above the troposphere.

While the stratosphere is roughly 10 km above the earth’s surface and spans 50 km high, the ozone layer is only found about 20 to 30 km above the earth. Unlike the stratosphere, the thickness of the ozone layer varies depending on the location and the season.

What is the Difference Between Bad and Good Ozone?

If we talk about ozone, most people think of it negatively – that it only causes harm and should be avoided. However, it is not always bad. There is also good ozone, and it is important to understand the difference between them.

Good ozone is the ozone found in the stratosphere, specifically in the ozone layer. As we already mentioned, this naturally-occurring ozone is responsible for protecting us against harmful UV rays emitted by the sun. Because of this, it is important to take measures not to destroy the ozone layer. The more ozone present in this atmospheric layer, the better protected we are.

This is not the case for bad ozone, which is present at the troposphere. The ozone present here is due to pollutants coming from vehicle emissions, industrial facilities, and other sources that produce volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide that react with sunlight. This kind of ozone that is produced at the ground level forms what we know as smog, which is known to be harmful to everyone.

Ground level ozone or bad ozone has various health effects if you get exposed to it, such as:

  • May cause respiratory issues or exacerbate already existing conditions
  • Trigger eye irritation
  • Damage or kill plants
  • Make it difficult to breathe
  • Damage lung tissue and cause scarring
  • Increase susceptibility of plants to various stressors, such as diseases and pests
  • Agricultural yield reduction

Complicating matters is the fact that bad ozone is insoluble in water, which means our bodies are incapable of processing it. When ozone gas is ingested, it will simply pass through the lungs without being broken down. And because ozone is very reactive, it will immediately trigger various health issues and can even cause death.

The difference between them makes it clear why good ozone must be constantly replenished and bad ozone must be eliminated, or at least limited, with the latter being one of the main reasons for the creation of the Clean Air Act.

How is Good Stratospheric Ozone Formed?

While bad ozone can be considered man-made in some way because it involves man-made processes, the stratospheric ozone we consider as the good ozone is formed naturally.

21% of the molecules found in the entire atmosphere are oxygen, and this oxygen is crucial in the formation of ozone, together with ultraviolet radiation. The UV rays coming from the sun split up the oxygen molecules in the stratosphere to form two separate oxygen atoms. When a newly unattached oxygen atom collides with an oxygen molecule, it will immediately react and combine with it to form the ozone molecule. This ozone molecule has three oxygen atoms present, two from the existing oxygen molecule and the other one is the free oxygen atom.

Because the air is thinner the higher it is in the atmosphere, the oxygen needed to create ozone are also fewer in number. On the other hand, the UV light necessary in this process decreases at it moves towards Earth. The stratosphere is the best location to form ozone because it meets the balance between the required UV light and oxygen molecules.

When Was the Ozone Hole Discovered?

Do you recall the time when the ozone layer hole was discovered and everyone was alarmed by it, fearing that it will immediately cause major damage to the whole world? It was a very significant issue back then, but some people are still unclear why this discovery was monumental. Whether or not you already have an idea why its discovery is crucial, it is important to correct any misconceptions about it.

In the past, ozone was believed to be just another gas found on earth. It was not until years later that scientists began to come up with the idea that this gas is vital to the planet and can absorb the UV rays coming from the sun. And in 1913, two French scientists named Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson discovered the actual presence of a layer abundant in ozone, which we now know as the ozone layer.

Another shocking discovery will be made decades later, but this time spurring the entire world into action.

In 1984, a low level of ozone was discovered in Syowa, Antarctica, as it dropped to less than 200 Dobson Units. This contradicted the belief of scientists back then that ozone levels tend to be steady. After all, records showed that these levels have remained the same for decades. However, this particular drop in the ozone level was not given much attention then, as they believed that this finding is insignificant.

The following year was monumental, as it was then confirmed by Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin that the ozone level has indeed dropped in Antarctica and in more than one station. Initially thought of as incidents of malfunctioning equipment, they discovered that the ozone levels have started dropping beginning in 1979, especially during spring. The historical low was 220 Dobson Units, but the level during that year was 194 Dobson Units and continued to decrease years later.

Unfortunately, the recorded ozone level in 1985 was only 124. Not only that, the ozone layer over the South Pole has dramatically decreased, with its thickness only two-thirds of what it was several decades ago. This thinning of the ozone layer in that area then became known as the Antarctic Ozone Hole.

The misconception about the newly discovered hole caused widespread alarm, as the public believed that it is a literal hole that will allow the UV rays to freely reach Earth and cause harm to people, especially to those who are directly underneath the ozone layer hole.

This “hole” should not be taken literally, as there is no actual hole in the ozone layer. What happens is that the amount of ozone present drops to less than 220 Dobson Units in a specific area, and this mainly occurs in Antarctica and the Arctic region. The hole being referred to is the areas of the ozone layer that has ozone less than that amount.

Scientists have discovered that this occurs seasonally, particularly during spring, because temperatures increase and more reactions occur in Antarctica, which then affects the ozone levels that will also affect the size of the hole.

What Causes Ozone Depletion and the Hole in the Ozone Layer?

Over the years, we have been told that certain chemicals cause ozone depletion and create the hole in the ozone layer. However, this is not fully understood by most people, largely owing to the confusion about what exactly the ozone layer hole is. Since we have already clarified what this hole is, what happens next is to understand what causes this phenomenon.

You may be wondering why the ozone layer hole is typically associated with Antarctica. Aside from being where the hole was discovered, this location also provides the ideal condition for ozone depletion to occur.

The main culprit for this depletion is the CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons. Scientists discovered that these chemicals that were widely used in aerosols and common household appliances, like refrigerators and air conditioning units that use freon, did not undergo any form of decay nor had any reaction with other chemicals while in the troposphere, even for years; they just remain stuck in the atmosphere. It is when these CFCs reach the stratosphere where they wreak havoc.

A specific type of cloud known as nacreous clouds, often called ‘mother of pearl’ clouds, is one of the main causes of the holes in the ozone layer. These clouds, including ice crystals, can only be formed in the ozone layer and during wintertime when the temperature drops to -78 ℃ in the stratosphere. Prevalent in Antarctica, these conditions are ideal for surface chemistry to occur, while the ice crystals present in these clouds draw CFCs closer to it.

When CFCs reach the stratosphere and react with UV radiation, it breaks apart these CFCs and releases various gases, the most dangerous of which is the highly reactive chlorine. Once a chlorine atom interacts with an ozone molecule, it destroys it by getting the third oxygen atom from the ozone molecule and produces the unstable chlorine monoxide molecule (ClO).

Once this new molecule meets a free oxygen atom, the oxygen atom part of the chlorine monoxide molecule will interact with it and form a new oxygen molecule. Because the chlorine is now a free atom once more, it can again interact with another ozone molecule and destroy it. This destruction occurs faster than the time it takes to replenish lost ozone molecules, causing ozone depletion and increasing the size of the hole.

Unfortunately, it is not just chlorine that can destroy these ozone molecules. Bromine, which is also often released by CFCs together with chlorine, as well as other chemicals and compounds like hydrofluorocarbons, halons, methyl chloroform, hydrocarbons with bromine, and carbon tetrachloride, are also known to cause ozone depletion.

With all these ozone-depleting substances, it is no wonder we were all caught off-guard when the hole was discovered and at an already noteworthy size.

What is Happening to the Hole in the Ozone Layer?

Since its discovery, scientists have begun taking a closer look to understand what is happening to the hole in the ozone layer. After the events in 1985, they realized that the problem is more serious than they initially thought, and that this worldwide problem has been the result of human activities over the years.

Using products and equipment that contain ozone-depleting substances, especially CFCs, were so widespread for decades, nobody expected that it would greatly affect the ozone layer in a matter of time. And as more research came, it became evident that unless the world does something about it, the hole in the ozone layer is bound to get bigger. Worst of all, it can have fatal consequences in the future.

To put a stop to this, world leaders decided to craft policies that will limit the depletion of the ozone layer. The first one was the United Nations Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which was ratified in March 1985. While the Vienna Convention was a landmark agreement because all countries involved in it also became signatories and promoted the increase in research involving the ozone layer, it did not take an active stance in terms of its protection.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer that was created in September 1987 is a different story. It supplemented the Vienna Convention by aiming to phase out the ozone-depleting substances, or ODS, in terms of both its manufacture and consumption. Like the Vienna Convention, the Montreal Protocol was also a landmark agreement because 196 countries ratified the agreement and it was adapted worldwide.

It initially aimed to cut down the production and use of CFCs and other substances that destroy the ozone layer in the entire world by 1999. Over the years, the Montreal protocol has been revised many times and they eventually came up with the goal of completely banning these substances by the year 2000. The urgency was felt by some countries, that they even started the ban years before the set deadline.

Even with the protocol in place, scientists are aware that it will take time before the ozone layer can recover. Because these substances are stable, which means they remain in the atmosphere even after decades, scientists do not expect the ozone layer hole to be gone until around 2040 to 2070.

After all, record lows of ozone were discovered in the mid-1990s when chlorine and bromine present in the atmosphere reached peak levels. And this is why it seems impossible for the hole to disappear in just a few years.

If you recall, we have received some very good news recently. Because the number of CFCs present in the atmosphere have been in constant decline over the years after reaching record highs, the ozone layer hole has also begun to show signs of being repaired, which has now led to the smallest ozone layer hole since this hole was discovered. This is proof that the Montreal Protocol is effective.

While it was human activities that caused the ozone layer depletion, it is also human intervention that is now fixing it.

How Does Ozone Depletion Impact Human Health?

Ozone depletion became such a big deal for everyone because of its perceived impact on the human health, especially due to the misconceptions. Because the term ‘hole’ was used, the general public took it literally and believed that this hole will allow all the sun’s rays to get to earth. They thought that since they already get bad sunburns now, how much worse would it be if it the ozone layer has a hole?

If more ozone molecules are being destroyed than replenished, severe sunburns are the least of your worries. You can look forward to the following health issues with the increased exposure to the UV rays, particularly to UV-B, brought about by ozone depletion:

  • Skin cancer, including the non-melanoma kind
  • Development of melanoma considered malignant
  • Cataracts, which often lead to blindness
  • Snow blindness and other forms of photokeratitis
  • Damage to the cornea, retina, conjunctiva, and lens of the eyes
  • Compromised immune system
  • Polymorphic Light Eruption
  • Eye diseases
  • Premature skin aging and other forms of skin damage
  • Pterygium

You may have noticed that the health impacts brought about by ozone depletion are limited to the skin, eyes, and the immune system. It has also been discovered that while everyone can experience these health effects, those who are fair-skinned are more vulnerable to the various skin conditions mentioned here. This is because darker-skinned people have more melanin that also serves as protection against UV rays.

Many of these health issues have permanent effects, that is why it should be taken seriously. And if you are not yet aware, it can even have fatal consequences.

Remember all these when you go outside in a particularly hot day without slathering on some sunscreen.

What Impact Does Ozone Depletion Have on Plant and Animal Life?

Think again if you believe that the impact of ozone depletion is limited to humans. Sadly, plant and animal life are also vulnerable to the effects of too much exposure to UV radiation.

Plants

While certain plants are resistant to UV-B, many of them also have properties that protect them from radiation. Think of these plants having their own version of the ozone layer and only allowing small amounts of radiation to pass through.

Despite these defenses, scientists have confirmed that plants can still be badly affected by an ozone depletion of 10% or higher. If this happens, certain plants may experience the following negative effects:

  • Cell changes that can result in irregularities with the pollination cycle, varying flowering times, and stunted plant growth
  • Greater susceptibility to plant diseases
  • Imbalance in terms of plant and herbivore competition
  • Decrease in yield
  • Issues with photosynthesis
  • Decline of nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Do note that because plants have different reactions to UV-B, exposure to it even in large amounts will have an unequal impact to these plants; some may be severely affected while others may have little reaction to it. UV-B can also be beneficial to some plants, but not if it gets overexposed to it, which is the case if the depletion of the ozone layer continues.

Animals

Animals are also not spared from the harmful effects of UV-B overexposure due to ozone layer depletion. Its effects on animals is quite similar to that of humans, as it also mainly affects their eyes, skin, and immune system.

If the ozone layer is depleted and they get overexposed to UV-B, animals may acquire the following:

Humans and animals seem to be more affected by this scenario than plants, since only plants get to recover during the months when the ozone layer hole is smaller. This respite is crucial because if plants are not given time to recover from too much UV-B exposure, which is what will happen if the ozone layer stops being replenished, it can drastically affect the food supply of both humans and animals alike.

Fortunately, we are likely to avoid this scenario because we are already reaping the benefits of the Montreal Protocol. With the banning of the ozone-depleting substances, the hole in the ozone layer is getting smaller, which reduces our chances of experiencing these impacts, or at least experiencing them less severely.

We are one step further away from the worst-case scenario that we were all afraid of.

2 Minute Summary:

There is more to fear about ozone layer depletion than getting extremely sunburned.

Scientists have proven that the size of the hole in the ozone layer is detrimental to all living things here on Earth.

The bigger the hole present, the greater its negative impact.

With the continuous depletion of the ozone layer, we are all prime candidates for the acquisition of various health issues, particularly involving our eyes, our immune system, and our skin.

How does getting cataracts and becoming blind sound to you?

Or the acquisition of various illnesses because you have a weaker immune system?

But worst of all, we can also die from it, because skin cancer is a very real possibility.

Not only that, we can also die from starvation, as both plants and animals alike are also affected by it.

They can also die from it.

And when they die, our food source is affected.

One of the worst things you can possibly do is to underestimate the impact of the depletion of the ozone layer.

Because if you do, you can get first hand experience of its fatal consequences.

Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

What is your initial reaction when you come across a car that emits a lot of smoke fumes?

For many of us, it is to cover our mouths and noses with a handkerchief, or at least our hands. Because if we don’t, we are aware that the coughing fits we can get if we inhale that smoke is only a minor consequence.

You know that this emission coming from vehicles is just one of the contributors to air pollution, but what you may not be aware of are its other sources, with some of them being even more hazardous than vehicle emissions.

And because of these different air pollution sources, it can be expected that there will also be various effects of air pollution on human health.

It is important that you be informed with both the sources of air pollution and its effects, as well as other necessary information about it. Prevention is indeed better than cure, and the best way to prevent the health effects of air pollution is to understand what causes it in the first place.

What is Air Pollution?

Everyone knows that air pollution exists, but not all of them are aware of what it really is. Most people think that it only involves the dark smoke from vehicles and factories, especially smog, but they are unaware that it goes beyond that. Air pollution is one of those concepts that people think they are very much familiar with, only to discover that they still have much to learn about.

Ideally, the air in the atmosphere should contain mostly nitrogen, some oxygen, and a little bit of a mix of other trace gases to be considered completely clean and healthy for us to breathe in. But with air pollution, the essential nitrogen and oxygen are lessened, and harmful pollutants in the air increase at the same time. Because of this, the air quality is compromised.

Since these pollutants present also have toxic chemicals or compounds, air pollution is detrimental not just to humans but also to the environment, including plants and animals alike. And unlike what most people think, it is present both indoors and outdoors and in both urban and rural areas.

And because air easily circulates, air pollution can also easily transfer to and affect other areas.

Air Pollution Facts

There is a lot of misconception about air pollution, that is why it is important to know the most important facts about it, including the reasons why this environmental issue should be taken seriously by everyone.

  • Air pollution is due to multiple sources and not just the smoke coming from cars. The most dangerous ones are those that are invisible to the naked eye.
  • This type of pollution is considered more dangerous than other forms because of the pollutants involved. Being mostly invisible means that we are constantly exposed to them without our notice. Also, the pollutants themselves generally contain toxic substances.
  • The amount of air pollutants produced annually is believed to be greater than the total amount of water, ground, and land pollutants.
  • These air pollutants can cover large distances, with scientists finding out that air pollution coming from Asia has been affecting the western region of the US for the past two decades.
  • In a recent report, China and India were discovered to be collectively responsible for more than half of the deaths worldwide due to air pollution.
  • Exposure to air pollution can have various effects on anyone, from a simple cough or eye irritation to lung cancer.
  • It happens both indoors and outdoors.
  • Urban areas generally have the worst air quality due to the amount of traffic present.
  • The US only ranks 10th worldwide in terms of having the best air quality. And among its states, California has consistently topped the list of states with the worst air pollution in the entire US.
  • Air pollution indirectly affects the global economy, with the loss amounting to billions of dollars on average. Productivity is lessened because of illnesses and death related to this problem, which results in loss of income for companies.
  • Certain pollutants not only worsen air pollution but also exacerbate other global problems, like climate change
  • Air pollution has long been considered as responsible for claiming so many lives each year, but it is now considered as the 4th leading cause of death worldwide
  • While occurring both indoors and outdoors, indoor air pollution is generally considered as more dangerous, as it is more concentrated
  • More people die from a stroke caused by air pollution, followed by heart disease and cancer and lung diseases

To sum it up, air pollution has become a worldwide problem affecting not just us humans, and it is not caused by a single factor. And unless we continue to find ways to address this problem, it is bound to get worse.

What Causes Air Pollution?

You may be aware that there are different causes of air pollution, but you will be surprised to know that the most common ones you can think of are not the only ones. There are also other sources of air pollution that you are probably not aware of, especially those that are invisible to the naked eye.

Air pollution happens due to the excessive amounts of air pollutants present, which are composed of mainly gases, liquid aerosols, and solid particles, that the environment is unable to absorb or break down. These pollutants are those that are not always present in the atmosphere and are also mostly invisible.

The sources of pollutants, in general, can either be man-made, also called anthropogenic, or naturally-occurring. But with air pollution, the main cause is attributed to anthropogenic causes.

Industrial

Any activity that involves the use or burning of fossil fuels is seen as the biggest culprit of air pollution. Because industrial processes use up the largest amount of fossil fuels, they are considered as the major cause of air pollution. At the forefront of these is facilities and equipment that generate power, such as power plants, especially those that use coal.

Other industrial causes include:

  • Emission coming from production and manufacturing facilities, like factories and other industrial plants
  • Mining activities, like drilling, blasting, and extracting
  • Facilities that produce chemical products and metals
  • Diesel generators
  • Plastic manufacturers and facilities that process them
  • Gas and oil refineries
  • Smelting
  • Industrial heating devices that require fossil fuel
  • Waste incineration and use of landfills

Household

Not a lot of people know that certain household activities also contribute to air pollution, particularly those that also involve the use of fossil fuels, as well as the use of household products that emit pollutants.

Did you know that you also release pollutants while you cook, with the amount depending on your heating source? Whether you use electricity, gas, or wood, these sources will contribute to air pollution in your home because they can produce formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants. The cooking ingredients themselves may also release pollutants as they are heated.

When you use the following household products, certain air pollutants are also released:

  • Solvents
  • Cleaning products, especially disinfectants
  • Air fresheners
  • Laundry products
  • Paint
  • Glue and other chemical adhesives
  • Personal care products, such as deodorant sprays and hairsprays
  • Tobacco products, such as cigarettes
  • Pest or insect sprays

Home construction or renovation is also known to contribute to air pollution because of the materials involved. Old homes are even more dangerous to work with, as they may possibly release lead (can’t recall if there is an article about lead in the check4lead website, but it can be linked here) and asbestos, which are also known air pollutants, during construction work.

Transport

Another major cause of air pollution is the transport sector, especially those that emit carbon dioxide. As you know, cars are also one of the major sources of these pollutants because of their exhaust fumes, with diesel-powered cars known to be the biggest culprit of vehicle emissions. While the bigger trains and planes also use fossil fuel, it is the smaller cars that pollute the air the most because these cars greatly outnumber other modes of transport, which means they collectively use up more fossil fuel.

Agriculture

The agriculture industry is also known to contribute to air pollution, and it has been discovered to be the biggest contributor to particulate pollution. Most of the pollutants come from the use of various agricultural products like fertilizers and pesticides, especially those that contain ammonia. Not only that, various farm equipment also use fossil fuels in their operations. Crop dusting and burning is also another farming activity known to release air pollutants.

Natural Causes

While natural causes of air pollution have less of an impact, they still add to the overall air pollution. Some of them may be preventable, while others occur instantaneously and give us no chance to prevent them.

Among the natural causes are:

  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Radioactive decay
  • Decomposition of plants and other organic matter
  • Forest fires
  • Whirlwinds
  • Dust and sand storms
  • Mold
  • Pollen and other natural allergens
  • Animal droppings
  • Wind erosion
  • Sea-salt spray
  • Animal digestion that produces methane, particularly involving cattle
  • Plants that produce volatile organic compounds
  • Hot springs
  • Fog and mist
  • Soot
  • Certain gases, such as ozone and radon
  • Release of gas due to natural processes

While man-made causes are known to produce more air pollutants than natural ones, both of them contribute to the overall air pollution every day.

What is the Biggest Source of Air Pollution?

You may have noticed that we mentioned fossil fuels plenty of times in the previous section, so it should come as no surprise that the biggest source of air pollution, in general, is any activity that involves its combustion.

People are not aware that plenty of our daily activities involve the use of these fossil fuels, directly or indirectly, and this has detrimental consequences to the environment, especially when left unchecked.

In particular, the biggest source of air pollution is our use of automobiles. Transportation not only uses up a lot of fossil fuels, but it also disturbs pollutants on the ground that can easily become airborne, such as road dust. Also, cars are responsible for both primary and secondary sources of air pollution.

Cars are considered as a primary source of toxic gases and air pollutants. While other means of transport also produce these pollutants, cars vastly outnumber their volume, which is why they collectively produce the most pollutants. Some of these pollutants will react with other pollutants, or even themselves, resulting in the formation of secondary pollutants like ozone, acid rain, and smog.

Primary air pollutants that are emitted by cars, as well as other modes of transport, are:

Because most of the air pollutants coming from cars are due to the burning of fossil fuels, different car manufacturers have been trying to cut back on its use. This is why they are now developing cars that are more eco-friendly, such as hybrid and electric cars, in hopes of lessening their contribution to air pollution.

Different Types of Air Pollution

Most people have no clue that there are different types of air pollution, namely indoors and outdoors. They believe that air pollution only happens outdoors where all the smog is present, and staying inside a confined space, like their home, protects them from all air pollutants.

Why air pollution is not limited outdoors has to do with the different types of air pollutants present. And if you recall, these pollutants can either be primary or secondary, which means they may be pollutants themselves, and at the same time be responsible for the creation of other air pollutants. With this ability, it is no wonder these pollutants are abundant.

The EPA has identified the following as the “criteria pollutants” or those that are most common in the United States:

  • Ground-level ozone
  • Lead
  • Particulate matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide

Aside from these six common pollutants, the agency has also identified 187 hazardous air pollutants that are being monitored through the Clean Air Act. All these pollutants can easily be transferred from one place to another, and their minuscule sizes means they can easily pass through the smallest of gaps.

You already know that activities that involve burning fossil fuels are the major source of air pollution, with the use of cars being at the forefront. In fact, it is generally responsible for most of the air pollutants. Most of these activities are done outdoors, that is why we get the highest amounts of exposure to air pollutants when outside. And if you recall, most of the causes of air pollution are also found outdoors.

Aside from most of the natural and man-made causes we mentioned earlier, outdoor air pollution also includes the following:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Particulate matter produced from activities involving burning
  • Toxic gases, especially those produced by industrial processes and facilities
  • Ground-level ozone
  • Smog

What makes outdoor air pollution the most familiar to most people is the fact that it is associated with smog. This is the most visible sign of air pollution and is formed by reactions between various pollutants. Because smog appears in the form of a dark haze or cloud, people immediately associate it with air pollution. This visibility of smog makes people aware of outdoor air pollution.

On the other hand, smog does not form inside any house or building, letting people think that there is no such thing as indoor air pollution. After all, the sources of indoor air pollution seem to be less than that of outdoor air pollution, and any visible smoke inside the house, such as due to cooking, is not seen as air pollution but simply a nuisance that will disappear in a few.

Sources of indoor air pollution, which are mostly due to indoor activities, include:

  • Building materials
  • Household and personal care products and chemicals
  • Gases
  • Various allergens found indoors and outdoors, such as mold, pollen, pest droppings, and fungal spores
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Cooking

However, this does not mean that you should not take indoor air pollution seriously. While indoor air pollution is smaller in volume, it is more concentrated than outdoor air pollution, which makes it more dangerous. This happens because air ventilation is poorer indoors than outdoors, preventing the pollutants from moving around freely, which leads to them to have a higher buildup indoors. And because we spend most of our time indoors, we get exposed to indoor air pollution more.

Clearly, these two types of air pollution pose different dangers, with higher amounts for outdoor air pollution and higher concentrations for indoor air pollution. Exposure to any of these two types is dangerous, and it is even more amplified by the fact that most of them are invisible to the naked eye, which makes avoiding these pollutants a challenge.

PM2.5 Pollution

People tend to associate smog with air pollution the most, not knowing that there is a much more hazardous enemy in the form of PM2.5 pollution. Particulate matter comes in two general categories, PM10 and PM2.5, but the latter is considered more dangerous. In fact, scientists agree that it is the most lethal among air pollutants

Also called fine particles, PM2.5 is named as such because of its size, measuring only 2.5 microns or less. To put it into perspective, the average strand of human hair has a diameter of 50 to 70 microns, which means you need an electron microscope to see PM2.5. Because of its size and weight, it remains airborne longer and anyone can get exposed to it much easier and at higher amounts.

PM2.5 is produced through combustion of any kind. Since the burning of fossil fuels is known to be the biggest contributor to air pollution, it means PM2.5 is also abundant in the atmosphere. And since they can also react to other air pollutants, they can produce even more dangerous compounds.

All these characteristics make every one at risk of PM2.5 pollution. What makes it even worse is that when inhaled, the particles are so small that they immediately penetrate the lungs and settle there, leading to all sorts of illnesses. Not only that, but they can also affect soil and water quality, which can compromise our food supply.

Because of all these, various government agencies are now keeping a closer eye on PM2.5 more than any other air pollutants. The Air Quality Index (AQI) now also measures the amount of PM2.5 present, together with PM10.

What are the Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health?

Everyone knows that air pollution has various effects on the human health, but many of them are not aware that these are more just coughing fits. Anyone can get exposed to these harmful air pollutants, but there is no one more vulnerable to it than the children and the elderly.

Children spend the most time outdoors where air pollutants are abundant. And because they are still small, their bodies are not yet fully equipped to handle these pollutants, as they are still in the development stage. They also get exposed to ground-level pollutants more than adults, especially those that are emitted by cars.

The elderly are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, but only next to children. While their bodies can defend themselves better against these pollutants, age plays a factor; the older the adults are, the less capable they are to handle air pollution and other environmental hazards. And if they already have pre-existing conditions, air pollution can increase the symptoms they experience or aggravate their conditions.

Some of the health effects anyone can possibly experience or acquire due to exposure to air pollution include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Lethargy, weakness, or constant fatigue
  • Issues with the reproductive organs
  • Damage to the cardiovascular system, including the hardening of arteries, increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, left ventricular hypertrophy (LFV), hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Various respiratory diseases, including asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Mobility issues
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety, dementia, schizophrenia, behavioral changes, lower IQ levels, and depression
  • Headaches
  • Liver and spleen damage
  • Blood-related issues, like anemia
  • Premature birth, miscarriage, low birth weight, compromised fetal growth, and the child possibly having autism (when exposure happens while pregnant)
  • Nausea
  • Compromised development of the nervous and respiratory systems in children
  • Different types of cancer
  • Tightness of chest or chest pains
  • Skin issues
  • Weaker immune system
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Lung issues, like decreased lung function, damage and scarring, loss of lung capacity
  • Osteoporosis

You may have noticed that many of these health issues are not related to the respiratory system, which is contrary to what most people would expect. This just proves how dangerous air pollution is, with death being its worst consequence.

How Does Air Pollution Affect the Environment?

Air pollution not only affects humans but also the environment, and how it does so mainly has to do with the pollutants present. These air pollutants can either cause different harmful environmental conditions or worsen existing ones, just like how air pollution affects health.

Air pollution is seen as the cause of the following environmental hazards and effects:

  • Acid rain – is due to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause a reaction with various chemicals and compounds in the atmosphere. Acid rain can fall not only as rain but also snow and fog and can damage vegetation, as well as affect water quality by making it acidic and harmful to aquatic life and those who drink from it
  • Damage to crops and forest – air pollution can directly cause damage to vegetation, not just acid rain. Ground-level ozone, in particular, can affect the growth and yield of plants and even reduce their lifespans because it can make them more susceptible to pests and diseases
  • Harm to wildlife – just like humans, wildlife can also acquire all sorts of health problems due to air pollution, such as reproductive issues, birth defects, and various diseases
  • Eutrophication – nitrogen and phosphorus from various air pollutants will promote harmful algal bloom that can kill off marine life
  • Haze – just like smog, haze is a form of fog but is made up of air pollutants that remain suspended in the air and block sunlight, affecting visibility

Aside from causing the above conditions, air pollution is also known to contribute to global warming and ozone layer depletion (add link to ozone layer depletion article). The greenhouse gases considered as air pollutants are attributed to global warming, and certain air pollutants are also considered as ozone-depleting substances.

When air pollution affects the environment, humans are also affected. The plants and animals we consider as our food supply may be lessened or compromised because of air pollution. And if we consume animals that have ate and drank contaminated plants and water, this contamination may also affect us.

What are the Global Effects of Air Pollution?

Because the pollutants can easily travel once airborne, the effects of air pollution can be felt globally. The air pollutants in one country may be blown away to another country, which means air pollution in one country can worsen due to the air pollutants coming from another country.

Unfortunately, those in developing countries are the most affected because they use more fossil fuels than developed countries, particularly when cooking and heating their homes. These countries also have many of the world’s industrial facilities and engage in agricultural activities the most, which exacerbates their problem.

Most of those on the top 50 list of cities with the world’s worst air pollution, particularly in terms of PM2.5, belong to only these countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China. These countries are also known as the hub of the world’s industrial facilities, that is why they are expectedly on the top of the list of countries with the highest annual concentrations of PM2.5. Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India are the top three countries, while China is now in 12th place, which is a vast improvement.

The top 10 countries with the highest PM2.5 concentrations are:

  1. Bangladesh
  2. Pakistan
  3. India
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Bahrain
  6. Mongolia
  7. Kuwait
  8. Nepal
  9. United Arab Emirates
  10. Nigeria

While these countries are known to have poor air quality due to the PM2.5 concentrations present, the majority of all the countries worldwide exceed the global standards set. This is the reason why the whole world seems to experience its effects.

By now, you are aware of the numerous health effects of air pollution on humans and why it is becoming one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The WHO even reports that more than 7 million people die annually due to both indoor and outdoor air pollution, with most of these deaths occurring in developing countries in Asia and Africa. This number does not include those who acquired air pollution-related symptoms and illnesses and survived, which is expected to be higher.

Climate change has become a global issue in recent times, with its effects felt all over the world. Unbeknownst to many, air pollution and climate change are closely linked to each other, as the pollutants common in air pollution can cause various reactions in the atmosphere that directly affect temperatures. Climate change is associated with greenhouse gases, which is also a known air pollutant. By lessening air pollution, climate change is also reduced.

This scenario also applies to the depletion of the ozone layer. The hole in the ozone layer gets bigger with the increase of ozone-depleting substances that get released in the atmosphere. Many of these compounds that cause the depletion are also known air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. If these pollutants are lessened, ozone layer depletion is also lessened.

The environmental effects of air pollution mentioned earlier is also felt in various parts of the world, especially acid rain that resulted in the deaths of vegetation and marine life. Because the pollutants needed to produce it can travel long distances by wind, acid rain can happen anywhere. One example is the fact that Norway experiences acid rain that is due to pollutants coming from the United Kingdom.

The widespread reach of air pollution, including its effects, has been a cause of global concern for years now. While there have been signs of improvement in terms of air quality in some countries, the consensus is that there is still much to be done. To solve this, different countries have made their own legislations and they also adapted universal policies to follow, such as through the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Lessening the global effects of air pollution is still a work in progress, but we are slowly starting to see improvements that affect everyone.

Air Pollution Statistics

To better understand the seriousness of the problem, here are other important statistics involving air pollution you need to know:

  • More than 90% of the people worldwide, or 9 out of 10, are now living in places with poor air quality that exceed the standards of the World Health Organization
  • As many as two billion children are believed to be severely exposed to outdoor air pollution. And in 2016, 600,000 children reportedly died due to acute lower respiratory infections attributed to air pollution.
  • 1 out of 10 children under the age of 5 years old died because of illnesses due to air pollution
  • In the US, as many as 11 million people are residing in counties where the air quality also fails to meet the national standards
  • In 1952, the air pollution in London was so bad that almost all modes of transportation had to be stopped and people were unable to see their own feet while walking. This incident, which lasted five days, became known as the Great Smog of London of 1952 and was responsible for thousands of deaths that are said to range from a total of 4,000 to 10,000.
  • Around 800 people per hour or 13 people per minute die due to causes related to air pollution. This means 1 out of 8 or a total of 7 million lives are now lost annually, with almost all of these deaths happening in developing countries
  • Out of the 7 million average premature deaths, 4 million is due to outdoor air pollution and 3 million is due to indoor air pollution
  • People breathe in an average of 20,000 liters a day. Just imagine the number of pollutants you inhale, depending on where you live
  • Crop production has also been affected by air pollution that as much as 50 million tons worth of yield is lost annually

All these figures are enough to alarm not just scientists but also world leaders to move quickly and come up with ways to address the problem. With numerous legislations and calls to action over the years, we are now reaping its benefits. The best proof of this is the improving overall condition of air quality throughout the world.

The world has come a long way if we were to compare the figures now to those in the past before any kind of intervention occurred. However, the battle is not yet won because air pollution still exists and millions of people are still dying because of it every year.

How to Reduce Air Pollution

Surprisingly, it does not require fancy machinery nor a lot of resources to reduce air pollution. For most people, they are not even aware that the simplest measures really do go a long way when it comes to dealing with this problem.

And if you are wondering how you can be part of the solution, here are some of the best ways for you to do so:

  • Cut back on your use of anything that requires power and switch off electrical appliances and equipment, as well as lights, that are not in use. Conserving energy means fewer fossil fuels are needed to produce the needed energy.
  • Use appliances with an Energy Star label, as they are confirmed to use power more efficiently. Also, consider installing alternative energy sources, such as solar panels
  • Go places using mass transport, biking, or simply walking.
  • Make sure that your car, boat, and any other engine-powered machinery are regularly maintained to prevent fuel spills, ensure fuel efficiency, and prevent tailpipe smoke from coming out. Overweight cars and tires in poor condition will also cause an increase in fuel combustion
  • Refuel during the evening because the temperature is cooler and will lessen the number of pollutants that can be produced. This principle also applies to the use of any gas-powered equipment, such as those for gardening
  • If possible, switch to eco-friendly or hybrid cars and equipment, especially those that are manually-powered
  • Choose paints, cleaners, and other personal and household product that are labeled environment-safe, especially those that have little to no VOC present
  • Avoid idling your car for long periods
  • Ideally, use household appliances and equipment, such as washing machines and dishwashers, only with a full load to conserve electricity
  • Instead of doing backyard burning for biodegradable material, create a compost pit or mulch them
  • Lessen your use of wood, whether in cooking, heating, or any other activities that require it to be burned
  • Ensure that your household products are properly sealed, especially those that contain VOCs, to prevent these compounds from evaporating
  • When driving, stay within speed limits to lessen fuel combustion. The faster your car runs, the more fuel is needed and the more pollutants are released
  • Have a garden and grow plants that are known to purify the air
  • Stop smoking, whether indoors or outdoors
  • Participate in local initiatives aiming to curb air pollution

You may be familiar with many of these tips to reduce air pollution, but you may not be aware of the impact these small changes can bring to the entire world. If we all do our share, there is a 100% guarantee of good results that everyone will benefit from.

But since having zero air pollution is not going to happen anytime soon, you should also ensure that you minimize your exposure to it at the same time, especially on days when the AQI levels are forecasted to be high.

Here are some of the ways you can keep yourself protected against air pollution to avoid experiencing its health effects:

  • Keep yourself updated with the AQI to learn when the pollution levels are forecasted to be elevated
  • Avoid staying outdoors and doing intensive physical activities during the times when pollution levels are high, as well as near roads, highways, and any other location with a lot of traffic
  • If exposure is inevitable, wear face masks(link to check4lead?), particularly those with an N95 or P100 rating
  • Cover your mouth and nose when dealing with smoke, even those coming from cigarettes, if a suitable mask is unavailable.
  • Install air purifiers in your home, especially those that are capable of filtering even the smallest PM2.5 particulates. You can also place purifying plants to help improve indoor air quality.
  • Ensure proper ventilation by installing air vents and exhaust systems in your home, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms, and adding filters that can block air pollution.
  • Air out your home every now and then to prevent pollutants from settling and to lessen the concentration present. it is advisable to do it between 3 to 5 pm when the PM2.5 levels are generally lowest
  • Remove any mold and mildew present

Doing these measures will not just protect you from air pollution, but it will also help lessen the levels present. That way, the time when we will all constantly breathe in clean air without any pollutants present may happen sooner than later.

What is the Montreal Protocol? Its Importance

Summary

The discovery of the ozone layer hole meant bad news for everyone. Because they found out that the main cause of this phenomenon is various man-made activities, scientists and world leaders alike knew that man-made activities will solve the problem. Thus, the Montreal Protocol was born.

Since they identified various ozone-depleting substances as the catalyst for this problem, it became the main focus of the Montreal Protocol. They believed that addressing the root cause is the best way to fix the problem, that is why they decided on the implementation of a stepwise manner of phasing out these ODSs. The initial purpose was to simply limit their use, but studies showed that this is not enough and the ideal way of dealing with the problem is to completely prohibit these substances.

Fortunately, they were right in their assumption. The gradual phasing out of ODSs yielded positive results, namely the levels of the ODSs are in constant decline since it was enacted and now, the ozone layer hole is smaller than ever. It also indirectly made positive changes to other world problems, namely poverty, climate change, global food supply, and public health.

All these positive impacts make the Montreal Protocol an important global treaty.

It was the talk of the town, rather, the world, when it was discovered that there is a hole in the ozone layer decades ago. Common folk took it literally, believing that there is an actual hole in that layer and anyone who ends up under it will get the worst case of sunburn, among others. Scientists would later clarify that this hole is not an actual hole but a phenomenon that results in ozone layer depletion(link to article on ozone layer depletion?).

One of the immediate global reactions to this discovery is to craft various laws to address the issue. These were enacted with the goal of stopping further damage to the ozone layer. But among these different laws so far, there is nothing that is more all-encompassing than the Montreal Protocol.

Before the establishment of the protocol, most of the local laws focused on lessening the use of ozone-depleting substances to lessen its effects on the ozone layer. It was the Montreal Protocol that took a more active role, as its primary goal is to completely prohibit the use and production of such substances after some time.

Most people are unaware of what the Montreal Protocol is and its importance. While you do not need to read the entire protocol word for word, it is important to understand its essentials to know how it has evolved over the years and why this landmark protocol is acknowledged as the most successful environmental law and is seen as the major catalyst for the recovery of the ozone layer.

What is the Montreal Protocol and Why is it Important?

Most people may have likely heard the Montreal Protocol in passing but have no clue what it really is and why it is important. They may have a vague idea that it is related to the ozone layer because of the abundance of news about it in the past, but they do not fully understand why this is considered a globally significant law.

The ozone layer was initially believed by scientists to remain permanently undamaged, but it was discovered over the years that this is not the case. In fact, scientists made a startling discovery in 1985 that there are parts of the ozone layer above Antarctica where the levels of ozone have dropped below the historically low levels. This discovery was instrumental in crafting the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985.

Despite being considered as one of the landmark environmental laws, the Vienna Convention mostly focused on research and fact-finding, as there were still some skeptics about the reports on the ozone layer hole, and even the ozone layer itself. Because of this, the participating countries had a hard time agreeing on what the control measures should be and dealt more on research cooperation, and they were unable to craft laws that will deal with the goal of reducing the ozone layer hole.

To fill this important gap, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, or simply the Montreal Protocol, was enacted in September 1987. This protocol was also the result of the scientific community and world leaders finally reaching a consensus on matters involving the ozone layer after much confirmatory research and studies.

Unlike the Vienna Convention, the Montreal Protocol took a more active role in addressing the matter. Because it was confirmed that certain substances negatively affect the ozone layer once they reach the stratosphere, the primary goal of the Montreal Protocol is to gradually phase out these substances, which will reduce the depletion of the ozone layer.

Montreal Protocol Summary

International laws and protocols are known to be extensive, that is why we have provided a summary of the multilateral Montreal Protocol to help you understand this environmental treaty better and why its success is beneficial for all humanity.

Due to the discovery that the ozone layer is becoming depleted and is mainly due to certain substances being released to the atmosphere that reach the ozone layer, world leaders decided to be more active in dealing with the issue.

The concrete actions to address the problem started with the establishment of the Vienna Convention, whose goal was to protect humans and the environment from the effects of ozone layer depletion. But because this convention did not establish rules to achieve this, it resulted in the adopting of the Montreal Protocol in 1987.

This particular protocol aimed to decrease the substances that cause the depletion of the ozone layer by initially phasing down their production, importation, and use, starting with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons. These two were widely-used in various household products considered essential, that is why it was decided that they must be phased down first.

Because the immediate outright banning of these substances will also pose a problem, the Montreal Protocol promoted the gradual phasing down of these substances according to a set timetable. This will allow people ample time to discover more eco-friendly alternatives and make adjustments to various products that rely on these substances to work.

The protocol divides countries into two specific categories, namely developing and developed countries, and this categorization results in different timetables. Developing countries are generally given more time for the phasing out of these substances than developed countries, particularly with a 10 to 15-year window between them. They acknowledge the challenges that these developing countries will face, particularly financially and technologically, to comply with the protocol, hence the longer timetable.

While phasing out these harmful substances is the main goal of the Montreal Protocol, it also acknowledges the fact that there are still some instances when using them is necessary. Because of this, they came up with provisions specifying when they can be used but only in controlled amounts and if they meet the strict criteria set. To be precise, if the purpose of using these substances is considered essential or critical, it may be allowed if it meets the specific conditions set.

The main goals of the Montreal Protocol during its creation were:

  • Start the phasing down of CFCs in 1993, decrease it by 20% in 1994 (when compared to the consumption level in 1986), and finally reduce it by half by 1998
  • Freeze or restrict the manufacture and use of three specific halons in developed countries by 1993, comparing their levels to the 1986 levels
  • Restrict the trading of these substances between signatories and non-participants to prevent the transfer of facilities involved in their production to non-signatory countries

From phasing down and limiting its use, the Montreal Protocol eventually changed its main objective to the phasing out of these substances in the future. CFCs are the first to be phased out, followed by the other substances that were later added to the list after various amendments to the protocol over the years.

In order for those developing countries to meet the Protocol’s goals, the signatories eventually established a Multilateral Fund. The purpose of this fund is to aid these particular countries meet the timelines set in the gradual phasing out of these harmful substances. And to check on the progress of all the signatories in meeting the established timeframes, the Protocol requires the submission of progress reports and assessments from every member party.

Fortunately, all these efforts paid off and continue to do so, as the ozone layer hole is now at its smallest size since it was first discovered. Not only that, the amount of ozone-depleting substances present has decreased by 98% compared to the levels back in the 1990s.

The Montreal Protocol has achieved so much in a relatively short period of time compared to other environmental laws.

Which Problem Does the Montreal Protocol Address?

You may have guessed by now that the Montreal Protocol addresses the problem of the depletion of the ozone layer. While the purpose of the Vienna Convention is also to protect the ozone layer, it failed to establish global concrete actions to do so. The Montreal Protocol, under the umbrella of this Convention, was the first of its kind to take a more active approach with the phasing down of ozone-depleting substances, which later lead to an outright banning but done in steps.

Had it not been for this landmark treaty, scientists believed that the ozone layer may be gone by the year 2050, and lead to catastrophic consequences for everyone. Scientific evidence has shown that the ozone layer hole has been growing at an alarming rate since its discovery, and the Montreal Protocol managed to slow it down over the years.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also mentioned that the Montreal Protocol will also address other key global problems. In particular, this protocol is also believed to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set in terms of global poverty, health, climate change, and food supply. By addressing ozone layer depletion, they know that it will set a positive chain reaction and also address the other problems indirectly caused or worsened by the ozone layer hole.

How Does the Montreal Protocol Reduce Ozone Depletion?

The Montreal Protocol acknowledges the fact that it is man-made activities that are the biggest catalyst of ozone layer depletion and that it is vital to reduce this. In particular, there are certain substances that have the biggest effect on the ozone layer.

While the ozone layer hole is also caused by a natural phenomenon that occurs during spring, scientists found out that these ozone-depleting substances (ODS) cause the rapid increase of the hole. Because of this discovery, they realized that by reducing the source of the depletion, it will lead to the reduction of the depletion itself.

However, they acknowledged that this was easier said than done because these substances were abundantly used for so long, not knowing that they remain in the atmosphere for a long time. When the ODS reaches the ozone layer, they destroy the essential ozone molecules. With less ozone present, the size of the ozone layer hole increases.

Scientists have also made an unfortunate discovery that ozone-depleting substances stay in the atmosphere longer than desired. While most of them can linger for years, there are specific ODS that remain in the atmosphere even for decades. CFCs were discovered in the 1920s, but it was only around the 1980s when it was confirmed to be harmful to the ozone layer. This means for more than six decades, ozone was destroyed faster than it was created because of the ODS present.

CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances were widely used in various consumer goods for decades, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and aerosol cans. Manufacturers even reportedly produced as much as 1.2 million tons of ozone-depleting substances in 1986 to meet consumer needs. This demand meant that there were no limits in the production of ODS and the products that use them at that time.

But with the introduction of the Montreal protocol, it led to the much-needed control over these substances. By limiting the ODS, its production lessened and manufacturers had to come up with alternatives for products that require ODSs to function. With this move, it led to the much-needed increase in the creation of ozone molecules to reverse ozone layer depletion.

Scientists have acknowledged the critical role the Montreal Protocol played in achieving this feat, which further proves its effectiveness. Despite the ozone layer being capable of “healing itself” it cannot do so if the ozone-depleting substances had not been limited or completely banned.

What Substances Deplete the Ozone Layer?

Based on scientific research and evidence, there are more than a hundred substances that deplete the ozone layer, and these are collectively known as ozone-depleting substances. These ODSs are man-made compounds or chemicals that typically contain chlorine and/or bromine and combines with fluorine, hydrogen, and carbon.

The ODS that combine any of the atoms above are known for their stability, allowing them to reach the ozone layer undamaged. And unlike other compounds, the rain cannot dissolve or push them back to earth, which means they are free to drift upwards anytime.

When these gases reach the ozone layer, the ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun will break the compounds apart and separate the chlorine and bromine, turning them into free atoms. Once they interact with ozone molecules, a reaction will occur that leads to the destruction of the ozone molecules.

A chlorine or bromine atom can singlehandedly destroy at least 100,000 ozone molecules before vanishing. And since these are abundantly present in ODS, they cause massive loss of ozone molecules that leads to the depletion of the ozone layer itself.

Simply put, any substance that contains either chlorine or bromine, or both, can become a catalyst that will cause the depletion of the ozone layer.

Which Chemicals are Controlled by the Montreal Protocol?

Because of the identification of the various ODSs over the years, the Montreal Protocol established control over the production and use of such chemicals. To make it easily identifiable, they sorted these chemicals into the following general categories:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons
  • Halons
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Methyl Chloroform
  • Methyl Bromide
  • Bromochloromethane
  • Hydrobromofluorocarbons

The full list of chemicals controlled by the Montreal Protocol can be found here.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were the first chemicals to be identified as ozone-depleting. CFCs proliferated in the atmosphere for decades because of their stability, fire resistance, non-toxicity, and effective heat absorption. They were used as coolants for refrigerators and air conditioners (with Freon being its most identifiable form), solvents, aerosol propellants, and blowing agents for foams. CFCs are a combination of chlorine, carbon, and fluorine atoms and are also considered as greenhouse gases.

Best known as an integral component of fire extinguishers, halons were also identified as an ODS early together with CFCs. Halons are made up of fluorine, bromine, and carbon and are safe for use, as long as it is within recommended levels or concentrations. Despite this, its ozone-depleting potential or ODP is the highest because of the bromine present. Halon 1301, in particular, has the highest ODP among all known ODSs.

Developed as alternatives to CFCs, hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs consist of chlorine, carbon, fluorine, and hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen makes the HCFCs more stable than CFCs and is broken down in the stratosphere, causing less damage to the ozone layer. Despite this, HCFCs are also considered greenhouse gases and this prompted it to be eventually banned.

Carbon tetrachloride was once essential to the production of CFCs because it was used as feedstock or raw material before the Montreal Protocol was enacted. Consisting of carbon and chlorine, it was also used in agricultural pesticides and fumigants, industrial solvents and paints, fire extinguishers, pharmaceuticals, and dry cleaning agents.

Methyl chloroform was also developed as a substitute, but this time for carbon tetrachloride. Known to be hazardous to humans, methyl chloroform or 1,1,1-trichloroethane consists of chlorine, hydrogen, and carbon. It was often used as an industrial solvent, particularly for degreasers, adhesives, and cleaners, especially of metals and electronics, that is why it was widely used in the manufacture of equipment and electronics.

Primarily used in the agriculture industry because of its effectiveness as a pesticide, methyl bromide or bromomethane is another chemical considered as an ODS. It is also used as a fumigant for agricultural products and soil fumigation, disinfectant for food-processing facilities, as well as in the quarantine and pre-shipment of trade goods. Composed of hydrogen, carbon, and bromine, the Protocol still allows its controlled use, as there are no effective alternatives for it yet.

Bromochloromethane is also known as Halon 1011 but is not considered halon, since it is a combination of chlorine, carbon, hydrogen, and bromine. It was also formulated as an alternative to carbon tetrachloride for use in fire extinguishers but is known as a toxic substance.

Also known as HBFCs, hydrobromofluorocarbons exhibit the same properties as CFCs, HCFCs, and halons due to its chemical composition. HBFCs consist of a frame of hydrogen and carbon, with a bromine or fluorine attached to it. But unlike its counterparts, it was not extensively used worldwide.

Among these, chlorofluorocarbons, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons emit chlorine, while methyl bromide and halons release bromine. So far, CFCs, halons, HBFCs, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, and bromochloromethane are already phased out, while HCFCs and methyl bromide will follow suit after several decades.

Montreal Protocol Countries

While it now seems that the majority of the world complies with various measures to prohibit the production and use of ODSs, not all of them are part of the original countries that enacted the Montreal Protocol. In fact, only 46 countries belonging to the United Nations back then were the first signatories. Despite this, they achieved major stride, which prompted the other nations to become signatories later on.

The 46 original signatories of the Montreal Protocol are:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Burkina Faso
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Congo
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • European Union
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Luxembourg
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Russian Federation
  • Senegal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • United States of America
  • Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Over the years, more countries signed up to become a party to the Montreal Protocol. Those who joined after the Montreal Protocol was enacted are:

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Plurinational State of Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Bulgaria
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Eswatini
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Holy See
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kiribati
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Niue
  • North Macedonia
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Qatar
  • Republic of Korea
  • Republic of Moldova
  • Romania
  • Rwanda
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • State of Palestine
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Tajikistan
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

At recent, all UN member states, as well as the Holy See and Palestine who are not UN members, are participants to the Montreal Protocol. From the original 46 countries, the member parties are now 198.

Montreal Protocol Amendments

Just like any other global treaty or law, the Montreal Protocol had various amendments over the years to keep it updated and meet the pressing needs and concerns over time. As of this time, there are five amendments made to the Montreal Protocol:

The London Amendment focused on adjusting and strengthening the original measures crafted to control the ODSs listed by the Protocol, particularly CFCs, carbon tetrachloride, and halons, and phase them out by 2000 and 2010 in developed and developing countries respectively. It also introduced methyl chloroform to the list of controlled ODSs, promoted continuous research on its legal, technical, and scientific issues and established the Multilateral Fund for developing countries to meet their goals.

The primary purpose of the Copenhagen Amendment was to adjust the timelines set so that the phasing out of the known ODSs will occur much earlier. It also set the phaseout of HCFCs to 2004 in developed countries and adjusted the phaseout (in developed countries) of CFCs, carbon tetrachloride, halons, and methyl chloroform to 1996.

Supplementing the Copenhagen Amendment is the Montreal Amendment that pushed for the phaseout of HCFCs in developing countries. Methyl bromide should follow suit in developed countries in 2005 and in developing countries by 2015.

The Beijing amendment was later introduced to have stricter control over HCFCs, particularly in terms of their manufacture and trade. It also added bromochloromethane to its list of ODSs and set its phaseout goal to 2004.

After discovering that the supposedly less harmful HCFCs are in fact worsening climate change, the Kigali Amendment sought its phasing down. It was later identified as a greenhouse house, and its manufacture and use may not contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer but it does affect the climate.

While only five amendments were made so far, it will not be surprising if the parties meet up again in the future to discuss further amendments, particularly with the scheduled phasing out of ODSs. These changes were necessary to meet the goals set and to make much-needed adjustments, depending on the severity of the ozone layer depletion.

How Does the Montreal Protocol Work?

Despite undergoing multiple amendments over the years, how the Montreal Protocol works remains essentially the same. That is, it promotes the phasing out of ODSs in both developed and developing countries according to the set timelines and in a stepwise manner.

These timelines vary according to the ODSs and the country involved, but they follow a general pattern:

  • The first step involves halting the production of these ODSs. By freezing its manufacture, member parties expect the ODSs levels to be lower compared to the reference levels set. These reference levels can either be the average level in a specific year or periods, depending on the ODSs.
  • Minus percentages relative to these reference levels should be reached by the dates set. The number of these targets will also depend on the specific ODSs; some may have only one target minus percentage by a certain year, while others may have multiple targets over the years.
  • Following the pattern of decline in ODSs levels, the phaseout dates will be set.

To better understand the process, here is the set timeline for HCFCs for developed countries, with the average level of 100% CFCs and 2.8% of HCFCs in 1989 used as the reference level:

  1. Freeze its production by early 1996
  2. Reduce it by 35% by 2004
  3. Reduce it by 75% by 2010
  4. Reduce it by 90% by 2015
  5. Complete phaseout by 2020

By setting a timeline, all member parties are expected to meet these respective deadlines to meet their goals. To track the progress of individual countries, the Protocol mandates them to provide accurate progress reports annually. This not only monitors each country’s compliance and progress in terms of the schedules set, but it also monitors the overall effectivity of the Protocol in prohibiting these ODSs.

Member parties acknowledge that developing countries will likely experience difficulties meeting the Protocol’s goals compared to developed countries, that is why they decided to establish the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. This fund serves as financial assistance to help these developing countries meet the schedules set and is replenished every three years.

These member parties also have annual meetings to check on the overall progress in terms of meeting its objectives, keep themselves updated with the latest scientific findings, and come up with ways to make all participants be more compliant and meet their respective timelines.

The overall process is straightforward, but meeting the goals of the Montreal Protocol involves a lot of work. In case a member party fails to meet its target or non-compliance, they have come up with measures that can be done. Depending on the case, these can either be by providing the needed assistance, issuing a reprimand or caution, or suspension. The purpose of these measures is to ensure compliance of member parties to the protocol.

Why Was the Montreal Protocol Successful?

Among all environmental laws created so far, the Montreal Protocol is unanimously considered as the most successful. This claim can be justified by various scientific evidence, but there is no evidence more decisive than the shrinking of the ozone layer hole.

If you recall, this hole was the result of the ODSs present over the years. These ODSs are the main focus of the Protocol since they see it as the main source of the depletion of the ozone layer. By prohibiting the production and consumption of the ODSs, they believe that the ozone layer will eventually recover, which is what is happening now.

The continued success of the Protocol is due to multiple factors, such as:

  • Cooperation between all member parties. Because they had a very specific goal backed by ongoing scientific research, it was easier for them to come up with actual solutions and ways to enforce them. They also encouraged the participation of key informants, which are the scientists, and this greatly helped them in decision-making.
  • Financial aid encouraged everyone to participate. There is a generally low expectation for low-income countries to fully participate in global treaties and laws due to financial constraints, but the Montreal Protocol begs to differ. By providing funds to these countries, it will enable them to meet protocol’s goals.
  • Awareness of the worst-case scenarios. There was widespread alarm with the discovery of the ozone layer, leading to a lot of misconceptions. In some way, these misconceptions also helped because it pushed people to take immediate actions to fix the problem. Finding out what the actual effects of ozone layer depletion are also helped because they realized that humans are not the only ones who will be affected; the situation will be that bad.
  • More freedom and less formality. Member parties were encouraged to participate and they also promoted flexibility. That is, they may have established the Protocol but there is leeway to make further changes to tailor-fit it in order to achieve their goals, hence the various amendments over the years.
  • Early identification of ODSs. Since they are aware which substances are destroying the ozone layer early on and as further research comes in, they can address them immediately and identify which ones need to be prioritized and phased out first.
  • Participation of various industries. Those who are known producers of ODSs and products that use them were more than happy to comply with the protocol because the ODSs they make or use were starting to become obsolete at that time. Finding more efficient alternatives meant they can save money in the long run.
  • Ordinary people also complied. Since people have a general understanding that the ozone layer hole is bad news, they were more active in preventing the worst-case scenarios they imagine from happening. Even basic information and misconceptions were enough to motivate them to participate in various programs that address ozone layer depletion.

All these factors were essential in ensuring the continued success of the Montreal Protocol. And since people were seeing the positive results of their actions, as well as experiencing negative effects of ozone layer depletion, they were even more motivated to reverse the problem.

Is the Montreal Protocol Still in Effect?

Given that we are getting consistently getting good news about the ozone layer lately, and the fact that it can heal itself over time, you may wonder if the Montreal Protocol is still in effect. After all, all these make it seem that there is already no need for the Protocol. The short answer is: yes. In fact, they recently added money to the Multilateral Fund for the developing countries.

While there have been major strides over the years, there is still much to be done, especially in developing countries. There are still some violators that produce ODSs, as well as products that require these ODSs, despite already prohibiting their production and use. These ODSs are also still present in the atmosphere, although they are now at generally lower levels.

The ozone layer may be quick to recover, but it is also quick to become damaged, especially since most ODSs remain in the atmosphere for years. While many ODSs are already banned, there are some that are still in the process of being phased out, which means they are still being used even in smaller amounts.

With the Montreal Protocol in place, it ensures that known ODSs will continue to decrease over time until it reaches the date when it becomes completely banned. Also, there is always a possibility that new ODSs may be discovered, just like what happened several times in the past, that is why constant monitoring is still needed. Early discovery makes early phasing out of these new ODSs possible.

Certain ODSs have already been banned, but there are still some ODSs whose phase-out dates are still decades from now. Because of this, the member parties still need to monitor each other’s progress in accordance with the Protocol. They may also need to make subsequent amendments and adjustments in the future, just like what happened in the past.

Until all these ODSs have been prohibited and the ozone layer hole has been completely repaired, you can expect the Montreal Protocol to remain in effect. It may mean more hard work for many, but the benefits for all mankind and the environment makes everyone’s efforts worth it.

We are already reaping the benefits of decades-long efforts, so there is no reason to stop now, especially because the ozone layer hole is still there, even if it is now smaller.

Welding: What is it, Definitions, Types, Processes

One of the most essential construction-related activities is welding. While there are other processes that can bind materials together, welding is the only one that can do so with metals. But most people are unaware that welding now goes beyond that definition, even already capable of binding wood and plastic. Also, not a lot of people know that it comes in different types.

The good news if you’re looking at becoming a welder – there’s currently a shortage in the industry for those possessing the skills we’re going to describe below.

Definition of Welding

For many, welding is defined as the process where two metals are joined together using extreme heat. Most people are aware of this definition, but they cannot distinguish it from other similar processes, namely soldering or brazing, and that pressure alone or combined with heat can also weld materials.

Not a lot of people are aware that welding is limited to bonding the same kind of material only. This means welding metal to metal is doable, but not metal to steel or any other combination of varying base materials. The same material should be used to ensure a strong weld; not doing so will prevent the two materials from being joined together permanently, which is the goal of welding.

And among welding, soldering, and brazing, welding produces the strongest joints when the welder does it correctly.

What is Welding?

In a nutshell, welding involves bonding two parent or base materials together that are of the same type using either heat or pressure, or even both. As a result, the two separate parent materials end up becoming one.

While welding usually involves only the base materials, filler materials can also be added when welding. Metal is added to the weld to strengthen the joint formed, while certain gases are used for shielding the weld to prevent oxidation or contamination that can weaken the joint formed.

High heat from a welding tool or machine, such as a blowtorch, is used to melt a part or section of the base material where the other one will be attached to. This softens that area or creates a molten pool of material where the material to be joined is attached to. This pool or soften material is set to cool down and once it resolidifies, the two materials are now joined to form one single material.

Pressure can also be used to weld materials together. This pressure alone may be enough to successfully weld the materials involved, or this pressure is used together with the heat generated by the pressure exerted over the base materials that need to be joined together.

Types of Welding

Contrary to what most people think, welding is not just about using a welding machine to join two metals together. In fact, there are different types of welding present, which are listed below:

  • Stick Welding – also known as the Shielded Metal Arc Welding or SMAW, it is named as such because the use of welding rods or sticks is essential for welding. These rods consist of the filler material that binds the metals and flux that aids in the binding process of the molten metals and at the same time protects them. Stick welding considered the most popular in developing countries due to its low cost, despite the weaker weld produced.

Stick welding is used in a variety of applications and industries, such as construction, aerospace, shipbuilding, marine, petroleum, nuclear, field repair, mining, structural welding, steel fabrication, and manufacturing.

  • Metal Inert Gas or MIG Welding – the second most popular type, the Gas Metal Arc Welding or GMAW technique involves the use of a welding stick or gun where an electrode current-connected consumable wire passes through. It forms an electric arc that produces enough heat to weld, while at the same time releasing a shielding gas. Wire welding has gained popularity due to its ease of use.

MIG welding is typically used in manufacturing, construction, automotive, and other industrial processes.

  • Tungsten Inert Gas or TIG Welding – this type follows the same process as that of wire or MIG welding, but it specifically involves the use of a non-consumable electrode containing Tungsten to create the required arc. TIG welding is now the most popular due to its ability to create a clean weld and high-purity, which results in a superior weld.

TIG welding is commonly used in doing repairs and creating art, as well as in the automotive and aerospace industries.

FCAW is best for doing general repairs, as well as in manufacturing, shipbuilding, underwater welding, and pipeline welding.

  • Submerged Arc Welding or SAW – while it also uses flux, this type differs from the flux-cored arc welding because welding occurs under a blanket of loose or granular flux. This results in fewer fumes and ultraviolet light, making it the safest type.

SAW is commonly used in industrial projects, especially in vessel and structural construction.

  • Electroslag Welding – typically used on thick metals that are non-ferrous, it involves melting flux to form a molten slag or pool where an electric arc will pass through. The pool will eventually reach the electrode to extinguish the arc.

Electroslag welding is also typically used for industrial purposes, such as castings, vessels, structures, ships, machinery, and pressure vessels.

  • Electrogas Welding – shares the same process as electroslag welding, but the electric arc present is deliberately left alone. Also, the arc is known to be positioned vertically and allows welding to occur in a single pass.

Electrogas welding is best for the construction of storage tanks, blast and chemical furnaces, vertical vessels, bridges, and ships.

  • Atomic Hydrogen Welding or AHW – slowly becoming obsolete, this type involves using two metal tungsten electrodes in an atmosphere containing hydrogen. This will cause the hydrogen to break apart and recombine, generating heat needed for welding.

AHW is suitable for any application where rapid welding is a must.

  • Carbon Arc Welding or CAW – known as the first type of arc welding, the CAW technique uses a carbon electrode that is non-consumable to heat the metals together, eventually welding them. This type is also becoming obsolete.

CAW is known for being suitable for use with copper, repairing cast iron parts with bronze, galvanized steel, and for thinner materials.

  • Energy Beam Welding or EBW – involves placing the parent materials in a total vacuum and shooting a beam of electrons to those materials at high velocity. The electrons fired are converted to heat that is needed to melt the materials and weld them. It has two specific types available: electron beam welding and laser beam welding

EBW is used for a wide variety of industries, namely aerospace, research, defense, medical, power generation, electronics, oil and gas, and automotive.

  • Gas Welding – best known as oxyacetylene welding or oxyfuel welding, fuel gases are mixed with pure oxygen to adjust the temperature of the flame of a welding torch used for welding. Gas welding is considered as one of the oldest types of welding.

Gas welding is normally used in manufacturing, as well as in the aircraft and automotive industries.

  • Resistance Welding – force is applied to both ends of the metal to be joined and an electric current is applied nearby to create the extreme heat required for welding. Various techniques of resistance welding include seam welding, spot welding, flash welding, upset welding, butt welding, and projection welding.

Resistance welding is best for industrial, aerospace, and automotive applications.

Among the different types of welding used, arc welding is the most widely used in various industries. Arc welding is a broad category that covers stick welding, MIG welding, TIG welding, flux-cored arc welding, submerged arc welding, electroslag welding, electrogas welding, atomic hydrogen welding, and carbon arc welding and is used in a wide variety of industries. All these require electricity to generate the arc required for welding.

Not a lot of people know that welding can also be done underwater, but only for specific types. Hyperbaric welding is a specialized type that can be done via either wet welding or dry welding. Wet welding often uses the stick welding type, with the bubbles produced by the flux acting as a shield to prevent electrocution of the welder. On the other hand, dry welding involves creating a hyperbaric chamber surrounding the area before welding following the chosen type.

Welding Processes

Aside from choosing what type to use, welders also concern themselves with choosing among the welding processes available to determine which one is most suitable for their project. Which process to choose mainly depends on the type of joint, whether edge, T, butt, corner, or lap, and the material to be joined together.

The welding processes available are broadly categorized into two: fusion welding and pressure welding.

Fusion welding is the process many are most familiar with since it involves heat to weld materials together. The edges of the parent material are heated so that when they cool down and harden, they are already joined together. Using filler material and inert gases are optional, and no pressure is needed to weld these materials together. The different types mentioned above fall under fusion welding.

It should be noted that fusion welding requires at least one of the parent materials to have a solid-state solubility, as this determines their weldability. If the parent material is non-soluble in the solid state, it will require a soluble material for welding to be possible.

On the other hand, pressure welding involves the use of external pressure to the joints to be welded. Producing these joints are done through either solid state welding, which involves adding pressure at temperatures below the materials’ melting points, or fusion state welding that requires doing so at above melting point temperatures.

Unlike fusion welding, pressure welding requires that the joints or ends of the material are free of contaminants, particularly oxides and films that are non-metallic in nature. These joints should be completely clean to ensure that the joint made between the materials is the strongest possible.

Pressure welding is normally used when the materials involved are known for being ductile or whose ductility increases as the temperature also increases. Some examples are:

  • Cold pressure welding – welds materials, specifically for electric components, wires, and sheets, without requiring heat to do so.
  • Explosive welding – necessary if the parent materials are dissimilar metals whose joints require welding, such as for cladding. This solid-state process involves using explosives to weld materials together. These explosives cause one of the materials to accelerate toward the other and weld them together.
  • Friction welding – two metals are rubbed together and the friction between them generates the heat needed to weld them. This is also suitable for dissimilar metals, but it can also be used for similar ones
  • Inertial welding – similar to friction welding, but it involves rotating one of the materials to the other, with the latter remaining stationary. This is ideal for alloys with high strength
  • Induction welding – mostly used for pipes and tubes, it involves using an induction coil that electromagnetically produces the heat required for welding. The tube or pipes involved pass through the coil at high speeds, which causes heating on its edges and are squeezed together to form a seam that joins them together.
  • Percussion welding – involves using quick electrical discharges to form an arc that has a high temperature. This discharge causes pressure to be applied to the materials involved, welding them together. This is also suitable for joining dissimilar metals
  • Ultrasonic welding – vibrations are produced through sound waves at high frequency, and these cause the materials to bond together. This is normally used for welding thin sheets and plastics.