The students are engaged by the following
problem: If cars put particulate matter in the atmosphere,
how can this particulate matter can be captured and measured?
Generally the prediction about older vehicles, and those
using leaded fuel or diesel fuel, is that they will produce
more particulate matter emissions.
will be able to:
1. Analyze results of a particulate pollutants capture; identify which vehicle
gives off more particulates and whether an initial prediction about sources
of particle pollutants is accurate.
2. In a class presentation identify sources of particulate matter and relate
to atmospheric quality in their locality.
F – Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Materials from human societies affect both physical and chemical cycles
of the earth.
Natural ecosystems provide and array of basic processes that affect humans.
Those processes include maintenance of the quality of the atmosphere … Humans
are changing many of these basic processes and the changes may be detrimental
Pollutants are generally considered gaseous or solid.
There are five major gaseous pollutants in the atmosphere:
Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen
oxides and ozone. The solid form of air pollution consists
of particulate matter, lead and others. Only small amounts
of these gases and solids need be present to pollute the
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is given off by power plants and factories
that burn coal for fuel. SO2 rises in a cloud from volcanoes
and from industrial combustion of fuels containing sulfur.
It reacts with oxygen and water in the air to become sulfuric
acid, or acid rain. Acid rain can harm animal populations
in lakes and rivers as well as trees and other plants by
damaging leaves and root systems. It can deteriorate metal
and stone on buildings and statues. Acid rain occurs not
only at the source of the pollutant, but also many hundreds
of miles away due to the movement of air masses.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a normal component
of the atmosphere. CO2 is not really thought of as a major
pollutant, but CO2 levels are increasing. Because of the
increased combustion of fossil fuels in the last hundred
years (due primarily to increases in population and industrialization)
many fear that this CO2 increase is upsetting the temperature
balance within the Earth’s atmosphere. This is called
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless
gas that enters the atmosphere when incomplete combustion
occurs. The effects of CO are headaches, reduced mental
alertness, and heart damage. It may even cause death by
reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells.
Nitrogen oxides (NO2) are mainly composed of nitric oxide
(NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These are the main components
of smog, which is a dangerous vapor that covers cities
during a temperature inversion. These nitrogen oxides combine
with oxygen and, in the presence of sunlight, form ozone.
They can combine with water to make acid rain, react in
the air to produce ozone and other pollutants, or are harmful
by themselves as a gas in the air.
Ozone (O3) is a form of oxygen, produced
during the interaction of nitrogen oxides, gaseous hydrocarbons,
If the air over a city does not move, pollutants become
trapped close to the Earth’s surface, reacting and
producing smog and ozone. Ozone can cause breathing problems,
harm trees and plants, and cause a rapid deterioration
of materials such as rubber and fabrics.
Lead (Pb) was more of a problem a few years back when more
motor vehicles used gasoline with lead additives. Strict
limitations of the level of lead in gasoline has reduced
lead emissions by 94 percent and lead in the air by 87
percent. Today, most cars in the USA use unleaded gasoline,
but there is still much leaded gas being sold throughout
the world. When leaded gasoline is burned, lead is released
into the air. When people or animals breathe lead, over
a period of time it accumulates in their bodies and can
cause brain and kidney damage.
Particulate Matter (PM) consists of soot, dust, tiny droplets
of liquid, and other materials. It is sent up into the
air primarily by the burning of coal, diesel fuel, and
wood. Particulates gradually settle back to the ground
and can cause people to cough, get sore throats, or develop
other more serious breathing problems. Pollution from particulate
matter also causes discoloration of buildings and other
structures. Many particulate pollutants are not generated
by people, but by nature. Pollen, dust, volcanic ash and
desert soils blown by the wind are all forms of particulate
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