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The Effects of Smog on Plants

By Charles Pearson ; Updated September 21, 2017
Smog can have a devastating effect on plants as well as people.
Busan im smog image by Angelika Bentin from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Industries often have smog, which is a byproduct of industrial processes. This smog has a detrimental effect on human health, damages property and harms overall ecological systems. However, smog has the most detrimental effect on plants, which are completely wiped out in heavily polluted areas and struggle to survive in less smoggy areas. The loss of plant life through smog not only harms the environment, but takes a tremendous toll on agriculture and the economy.

Acid Rain

Smog creates acid rain, which can cause property damage and has a detrimental effect on human health. However, acid rain is also devastating to plants, killing some and leaving other badly damaged, according to the University of California.


Ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrate that travel close to the ground as a result of smog can have damaging effects on plants, resulting in the discoloration and damage to plants. This reduces the amount of photosynthesis that these plants can engage in, according to the University of California. Photosynthesis is the primary way in which plants receive energy; the loss in the ability to absorb sunlight can cause the growth of plants to be stunted.

Diminished Photosynthesis

Plants that are unable to engage in photosynthesis and other crucial life processes will also struggle to reproduce, which might cause certain species of plant life to be permanently eliminated from certain areas unless human intervention occurs, according to the University of California. These plants also lose the ability to store food, which makes them further vulnerable to death. Smog weakens plants, which makes them more susceptible to diseases and pests that can do further damage, according to the University of California.

Economic Hardship

The countries that suffer the most from pollution also produce the most food, which suggests reducing the amount of smog could dramatically increase the amount of food produced worldwide, according to the University of California. The food that isn’t destroyed by smog is often discolored and has less nutrients, which hurts the farming industry, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Smog reduction would also increase property values in areas with high amounts of smog, since these properties would have healthier trees.


Smog can cause a plant to lose 10 to 40 percent growth, according to the University of California. Agriculture loses 2 to 6 billion dollars a year as a result of reduced productivity caused by smog. In response, legislation has been passed, such as the Clean Air Act Amendments, which are predicted to save 4 billion dollars in lost agricultural productivity. Ozone monitors have also been installed in areas with struggling plant growth in order to track the spread of smog in these areas, according to South Coast Air Quality Management District.


About the Author


Charles Pearson has written as a freelancer since 2009. He has a B.S. in literature from Purdue University Calumet and is currently working on his M.A. He has written the ebooks "Karate You Can Teach Your Kids," "Macadamia Growing Handout" and "The Raw Food Diet."