Can Industrial Factories Reduce Their Impact on Air Quality?

published Dec 30, 2019
2 min read


Pollution from factories presents an enormous threat to both we as humans and the planet we call home. Air pollution has been linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke and a plethora of other illnesses, and in 2016, it killed an estimated 4.2 million people. Heat waves, extreme weather and disruptions in food production are also directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions, threatening the environment and further impacting our health.

To combat this crisis, countries around the world are actively seeking ways to reduce their impact on air quality. One major way they can do this is to reduce industrial air pollution.

Roughly 85% of U.S. energy comes from the industrial burning of fossil fuels, creating 50% of the pollution in America. Although the odds are stacked against us, it’s possible for industrial factories to reduce their negative impact on air quality.

Strict Regulations

In the face of rising concerns about emissions and air quality, different regulations and rules have been put in place in an attempt to control and reduce the emission of these toxic gases. Many coal-fuelled plants have been shut down to cut down on smog in countries like China and India, but the change does not fully eliminate air pollution.

The United Kingdom, among many other countries, has extensive legislation to ensure clean air and regulate industrial factories. These laws have led to a decrease in air pollution and toxic emissions over time. The Industrial Emissions Directive is the main initiative in regulating these emissions, and roughly 50,000 industrial factories are required to operate in accordance with IED standards.

As companies try to meet these strict compliance standards, various chemicals and waste products produce particular problems. Often, these toxins are incredibly difficult to remove and filter out of the air. Common air purifiers and filtration systems just won’t cut it.

Wet Scrubbers

New technology is now providing industrial factories and power plants with cleaner options for filtering their emissions. One such innovation is the wet scrubber. In the most basic sense, wet scrubbers are air purifiers that filter carbon out of the gases released during industrial processes. This change ensures that the emitted gases are free of harmful chemicals and pollutants before being released back into the environment.

This technology has become relatively popular because of its affordability and resilience against both gaseous and particulate contaminants. Thus, it saves companies from having to buy additional filtration systems, reducing the amount of machinery present and optimising factory floor space. Many wet scrubbers can also withstand corrosive and combustible gases and materials, making them extremely durable, dependable and safe.

Clean Alternatives

While factories do their part to reduce and filter toxic emissions, others are working to create cleaner energy systems to replace them. Solar and wind power are popular and viable renewable energy sources that may offer a break from fossil fuels in the future, but for now, we’ll have to settle for other renewable sources.

Unlike other forms of natural gas, hydrogen is a completely clean-burning fuel, only emitting water vapour when in use. Other materials such as alcohol, wood and waste could be burned to create energy, as they have been in the past. Natural gases may also be used to replace fossil fuels, although they still emit greenhouse gases, albeit lower amounts.

More popular alternatives, like biofuels and hydroelectric energy, are gaining momentum, as they’re slightly more affordable and easier to harness.

However, there’s still much work that needs to be done before these energy sources are completely adopted in the replacement of fossil fuels. As corporations and legislators continue to reduce their impact on air quality and technology continues to advance, the world will carry on in their search for sustainable clean energy solutions — because everyone has the right to breathe clean air.


Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability freelance writer. Check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for the latest updates.