Air pollution can harm plants in many ways. In can injure foliage which will result in the appearance of dead tissue. It can hurt a plant slowly which will show in the yellowing of its leaves. Ozone is one pollutant in particular that affects plants which causes a kind fo flecking of spots on the plants leaves which can sometimes lead to crop loss. Sulfur dioxide (the kind of pollutant from coal plants) can injure plants as well as the plant will absorb the sulfur dioxide. Fluorides are also bad for plants and come from combustion of coal as well as production of a number of materials.
Pollutants from the air, such as dust particles, ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen monoxide, can enter a plant through its stomata (holes on the under side of the leaves through which carbon dioxide and oxygen are absorbed and water and oxygen are released). These foreign compounds can cause the stomata to close, essentially preventing the plant from breathing. They can also cause damage once the get into the plant. Ozone, for example, is toxic to plant cells, can disrupt metabolic functions, and can cause damage to nucleic acids. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen monoxide can both dissolve into ions which can be toxic to plants in high concentrations. Air quality can also negatively affect plants by depleting levels of nutrients in the air and blocking sunlight.
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