We will cover the following topics:
1. Introduction to blog series and air pollutants
2. What Pennsylvania’s air looks like now
3. Different air quality standards and how they came about
4. Steps you can take to improve our air
First off, what exactly is air pollution? In short, it's the stuff that comes out of car tailpipes, industrial combustion stacks, and from aerosol cans, for example. Tiny particles, gases, and vapors are breathed deep into the lungs where they can make people sick.
To understand air pollution, it helps to understand the key players. Let's stop here to look at some common air pollutants, where they come from, what their chemical composition is, and how they impact humans. For starters, NOx refers to any nitrous oxides, be it NO, NO2, NO3, etc. The same goes for sulfur oxides SO, SO2, SO3, etc. Each of the various oxides are emitted from the same pollution sources, but NO2 and SO2 are the most prevalent.
One common form of air pollution is ground level ozone pollution (commonly referred to as smog), which forms when NOx emissions combine with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. In Pittsburgh, we see days where there is so much ozone pollution in the air that people with heart conditions, asthma and other lung diseases are unable to go outside.
Check out the infographic to learn more!
Nicole Catino is Penn Future’s 2015 Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow and is based in Pittsburgh.