MFA Kids | Learn About Air Quality
What is Air Quality?
Air quality describes the condition of the air surrounding us. Good air quality relates to the degree which the air is clean, clear, and free from pollutants such as smoke, dust, and smog, and is a requirement for preserving the balance of life on earth. Poor air quality can affect or harm our health and the environment.
The quality of air depends on three factors: (1) the amount of pollutants, (2) the rate at which pollutants are released in the atmosphere, and (3) how long pollutants are trapped in an area. If air pollutants are in an area with good airflow, they will mix with the air and quickly disperse. Air pollutants tend to remain trapped in the atmosphere when certain conditions or factors, like stagnant air or mountains, restrict the transport of these pollutants away from an area. When this happens, pollution concentrations can increase rapidly.
Air quality can be influenced by natural or manmade sources. Natural sources include volcanic eruptions and dust from windstorms. Manmade sources include pollution from vehicles, pollutants from industries, and burning wood. Air pollution sources emit a wide range of pollutants classified under different categories that include sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter, hydrocarbons (HC) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), lead, carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxides (NOX).
Many of these air pollutants occur as gases, but some are very tiny solid particles, such as dust, smoke, or soot. Air pollution from various sources can affect indoor air as well. Indoor air pollutants include cigarette smoke, mold, cooking oils, and fumes from cleaning products. Removing the pollutants from indoors can improve the quality of your indoor air.
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1. Watch the Video
Watch this video from National Geographic on air pollution and answer the following questions.
- What are some sources of air pollution? Can you identify any of these sources in your neighborhood? You can also look at the graphic below for ideas.
- Why is air pollution bad for people?
- Can you think of any ways to avoid air pollution?
- What can you do to help?
2. Complete the Activity
Air temperature can play an important role in air pollution. Under normal weather conditions, air temperature is cooler as you move upward in the atmosphere; the air closer to the Earth is warmer than the air above it. The word “inversion” means that something is reversed or turned upside down. So, when a temperature inversion occurs, the opposite is true about the air. During a temperature inversion, cool air is “trapped” under warmer air above it. Any pollutants in the cooler air are also trapped under the warmer air, and cannot rise and move away, until the weather changes, such as a wind carrying the air pollution away. While the temperature inversion is occurring, air quality in that particular location can get worse if there is a lot of pollution there. Click here to download this week’s activity where you’ll learn about temperature inversions.
3. Complete the Coloring Page
4. Show Us Your Stuff
Take a picture of yourself watching the video, doing the activity, or coloring, and share it with us by using the form below! You just need to complete one of this week’s activities in order to receive your MFA Kids badge.