Clean Air and Dirty Air (Part Two)
Pollutants are what make the air dirty and cause pollution. Five pollutants are used by the EPA to determine the Air Quality Index (AQI). Two of the pollutants, Ozone and Particulate Matter, make up most of the air pollution in this country.
Ozone: Ozone can be good or bad. It all depends on where it is. Ozone is good when it is high up in our atmosphere. It protects us from sunburn. Ozone is bad when it is near the ground where we can breathe it in. You can't see ozone in the air. Bad ozone is sometimes called smog. It is formed when chemicals coming out of cars and factories are cooked by the hot sun. Ozone is more of a problem in the summer.
Breathing in ground-level ozone can make you cough. It can also make it harder for you to breathe. Ozone might even make it hurt to take a breath of air. When you breathe in ozone, it can make the lining of your airways red and swollen, like your skin would get with a sunburn.
Particles in the Air - Particulate Matter: Have you ever noticed a sunbeam with lots of little specks of dust floating in it? That is particulate matter. Particulate matter is mostly dust and soot so small that it floats in the air. Soot comes from anybody burning anything. When you burn gasoline in your car engine or burn wood in a campfire, soot happens! Dust comes from lots of places, too. When a company's business is to grind things up very small or when someone drives down a dirt road, dust is thrown into the air. Soot and dust make the air look hazy.
Some particles in the air are so small you can't see them. It is not good for you to breathe in too much of the tiny particulate matter. Particles in the air can make you cough. Particulate matter can also make it hard for you to take a deep breath and you might get more colds. If you already have asthma or problems with your heart, particulate matter could make you sick enough to go to the hospital. To reduce exposure to particulate matter when the AQI is orange or worse, don't play near streets with heavy traffic. Heavy traffic areas are highways and busy streets where there are a lot of cars, buses, and trucks.