Globally, seven million premature deaths each year result from air pollution (WHO, 2012). Recent air quality events such as the forest fires in Western North America and the extreme smog conditions in China emphasizes that air pollution is an important current issue for individuals globally. Your neighbour to the north, Canada, has recently had widespread forest fires throughout the west coast as well as serious air pollution events due to industry.
The State of Global Air report is an annually updated peer-reviewed document providing the most up to date information possible on global air quality and its health effects. The report includes a discussion of how air quality is measured, the health effects of the parameters, and analysis of the data in terms of health risk and sociodemographics. This article serves to provide an overview of their work and call attention to some of their interactive resources to view the data.
What's in the Air at Maker Faire?
What does the sizzle of a corn dog and the combustion of a giant flame car have in common? Well, they both give off a lot of particulate matter for starters. How do we know? Because we went to Maker Faire and we brought our PocketLab Air…and we bought some corn dogs….and they were delicious.
Background Information about Ozone
Ozone (O3) in our atmosphere is both good and bad. There is a helpful saying to remember is, “Ozone: good up high, bad nearby.” The “good” ozone is ozone high in our atmosphere that is part of the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. “Bad” ozone is ozone that occurs at ground level, where it can be inhaled. Ground level ozone is a pollutant and creates smog.
Background Information on Particulate Matter
Particulate matter consists of small particles suspended in the atmosphere. Dust, pollen, sea salt, soil particles, mold, soot, smoke, and other fine substances create a mixture of particulate matter that we inhale with every breath. According to the EPA, particulate matter greater than 10 micrometers is generally filtered away in our nose and throat. Particulates less than 10 micrometers can often pass into the lungs.
Carbon dioxide circulates naturally in Earth’s atmosphere as part of the carbon cycle (the process in which carbon dioxide is exchanged between the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants, and animals). According to the EPA, since the industrial revolution, humans have altered the carbon cycle through activities like burning fossil fuels, which adds CO2 to the cycle, and deforestation which reduces natural ways in which CO2 is removed.
Free Air Quality Lesson Plans
Bring the science of air quality into your classroom through hands-on activities, inquiry-based lessons and real science tools. These high quality lessons plans are free to download and were developed by King's University in conjunction with Telus World of Science in Edmonton.