Icons 1423863059 air quality icon Air Quality

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Clean air is vital to a healthy life and a healthy planet. The quality of our air is at risk when we don’t make smart choices. When we create pollution, the air quality goes down. Two of the most harmful types of common air pollution are particle pollution and ground-level ozone pollution. Particle pollution is created when fuels such as coal, oil, and wood are burned. Ground-level ozone is a primary component of smog and is made up of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Ground-level ozone pollution is created by the use of cars, industrial facilities, solvents in paint, and other causes. When temperatures are hot, ground-level pollution can cook and become even more dangerous. Poor air quality is harmful for the lungs, especially children’s lungs. Agriculture and forests are also harmed by air pollution. So, what can be done? The Clean Air Act was first passed in 1963. Since that time, pollution from chemicals and cars has dramatically decreased – even while energy consumption and car use rose. We can make choices everyday that can either improve or reduce air quality. Plant a tree, walk to the store, and reduce waste – each little thing can help keep the air you breathe clean.

Be aware of air!

Activity 1 – Monitor Air Quality

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For one week, check the newspaper for your AQI or air quality index. The AQI is a measure of the pollution in the air. AQI uses colors to show the how clean the air is for on a particular day in a particular place; the color green records clean air. Yellow, red and orange often record. The Air Quality Index uses numbers from 0 to 500. These numbers are used to decide the AQI color. On days measuring less than 100, the air is clean. If the air is dirtier, the numbers get bigger. On days measuring more than 100, the air can be bad for you to breathe. Make a chart for seven days recording the air quality. Each day be sure to spend time outdoors and breathe. Record your body’s responses when breathing while walking, biking and running. Do you have good breathing days and bad breathing days? Are they related to the AQI?

Be aware of the air you breathe!

Activity 2 – Become a Clean Air Change Agent

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Review the following steps that you can take to reduce pollution and become a clean air change agent:

Steps to Reduce Pollution

Select three of these items or come up with some of your own. Implement your pollution reducing steps at your home for one week. Write a short paper about the changes you have made. Were the steps you selected easy to do? Do you plan to continue cleaner air options?

reduce the pollution in your city!!!

Activity 3 – Design an Air-Cleaning Streetscape

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Take a photograph of a street in your community. What could be changed on that street to help the air quality? Are there many trees, flowers, bushes, or green spaces? Is it easy to walk on that street or ride a bike? Are there places to lock up a bike? Draw a plan of two blocks on that street showing where you would make improvements. Sketch a section of the street to further illustrate your ideas.

Activity 4 – Fresh air inside

The freshest air in most parts of the world, is the air that is outside and moving with the cycles of the earth. Understanding that, it is important to bring fresh air inside where people live, work, exercise, create, and enjoy life. Open or operable windows are the best solution. Operable windows are mandated in many green building agendas. If the building is completely closed, there are codes for air conditioning that require a mixture of fresh air to be circulated with the existing air within the building. Research what this percentage is per building occupancy. Make a chart of the occupancy type and the amount of fresh air needed. Do you think this is enough?

Activity 5 – Indoor Air Quality

Once you become knowledgeable about air quality, it is time to inspect the quality of the air that you breathe more than 90% of your life. Monitoring indoor air quality is a revealing indicator of how healthy the air that live, learn, and work in is. Check out Air Lab’s recent monitoring of air quality in Chicago.

Activity 6 – World Air Pollution

Where in the world is the air clean to breathe? Take a look at the World Health Organization’s series of maps by country, grid, and city. What pattern do you see evolving? Annual concentrations of fine particulates of less 10 microns in diameter constitute a base measure for polluted air. Notice that urban areas, and particularly urban areas of poorer countries, have air quality below the WHO’s standards for clean air. Choose a country. Map its areas of air quality concern and research at least three contributors to the accumulation of fine particulates.


  • Air quality can be reduced by
  • To help keep myself healthy I can
  • Vegetation can
  • Which of these steps you are taking to reduce pollution?
  • Which of the following careers deal with air quality?
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