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Factories and transportation depend on huge amounts of fuel--billions of tons of coal and oil are consumed around the world every year When these fuels burn they introduce smoke and other less visible by-products into the atmosphere Although wind and rain occasionally wash away the smoke given off by power plants and automobiles the cumulative effect of air pollution poses a grave threat to humans and the environment In many places smoke from factories and cars combines with naturally occurring fog to form smog For centuries London England has been subjected to the danger of smog long recognized as a potential cause of death especially for elderly persons and those with severe respiratory ailments Air pollution in London originally resulted from large-scale use of heating fuels A widespread awareness of air pollution dates from about 1950 It was initially associated with the Los Angeles area The Los Angeles Basin is ringed for the most part by high mountains As air sinks from these mountains it is heated until it accumulates as a warm layer that rises above the cooler air from the Pacific Ocean This results in a temperature inversion with the heavier cool air confined to the surface Pollutants also become trapped at surface levels Because of air-circulation patterns in the Los Angeles Basin polluted air merely moves from one part of the basin to another part Scientists believe that all cities with populations exceeding 50000 have some degree of air pollution Burning garbage in open dumps causes air pollution Other sources include emissions of sulfur dioxide and other noxious gases by electric power plants that burn high-sulfur coal or oil Industrial boilers at factories also send large quantities of smoke into the air The process of making steel and plastic generates large amounts of smoke containing metal dust or microscopic particles of complex and sometimes even deadly chemicals The single major cause of air pollution is the internal-combustion engine of automobiles Gasoline is
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