AIRE: Atmospheric Information Resource for Educators and students

HOMEChem: Investigando la contaminación del aire en ambientes interiores

Equipo para medir materia particulada en la cocina de la casa modelo de HOMEChem. Autora de la foto: Marina Vance (@marinavance)

Aunque generalmente buscamos fuera de casa cuando pensamos en la contaminación del aire peligrosa, en realidad la gente hoy en día pasan la gran mayoria de su tiempo en interiores. Los ambientes interiores presentan fuentes únicas de contaminación y muchas oportunidades para la exposición humana. Las actividades como cocinar, limpiar, fumar, o incluso las emisiones pasivas de los materiales de construcción y los muebles, pueden provocar una mala calidad del aire interior. Sin embargo, históricamente, se ha realizado muy poca investigación sobre la contaminación del aire en ambientes interiores, a diferencia del aire libre.

Durante todo el mes de junio de 2018, un grupo de científicos e ingenieros se reunió para el estudio de investigación de la contaminación del aire interior más grande en la historia, que se llama HOMEChem (House Observations of Microbial and Environmental Chemistry). Más que 15 grupos de investigación de 13 universidades trabajaron juntos en este proyecto. Los líderes del estudio son la Prof. Marina Vance, ingeniera ambiental de CU Boulder, y la Prof. Delphine Farmer, química atmosférica de Colorado State University. El proyecto fue financiado por el programa de química de ambientes interiores de la fundación Alfred P. Sloan.

HOMEChem fue una serie de experimentos en una casa modelo (UTest house) en la Universidad de Texas en Austin. Los científicos simularon actividades cotidianas como cocinar, bañarse, y limpiar la casa, mientras midieron la composición del aire. El punto culminante del experimento fue su simulacro del Día de Acción de Gracias. En este día de calor en junio, prepararon una comida completa de Acción de Gracias y simularon las condiciones del aire interior de una celebración familiar en casa.

Ahora que se están analizando los datos de HOMEChem, aparecen resultados sorprendentes y emocionantes. Anticipamos que este trabajo hará una marca indeleble en el campo de estudio de la química del aire interior. Para seguir la historia a medida que se desarrolla, sigue a @IndoorChem y busca #HOMEChem en Twitter!

ICYMI: India’s Air Pollution Crisis, By the Numbers

In this article, published in October 2017 on HuffPost India, Prof. McNeill and Dr. Julia Nunes break down the data for particulate air pollution in cities across India. Air pollution is at an unhealthy level for a large part of the year, in most Indian cities.

The pie charts show the number of days in the past year that the average PM2.5 level fell into the following three categories: Green days (PM2.5 < 35.4 μg m-3) are healthy or moderate, yellow days (35.5 μg m-3 to 55.4 μg m-3) are unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly or those with lung disease, and red days (PM2.5 > 55.5 μg m-3) are unhealthy for all. For more information on the data sources: http://outreach.mcneill-lab.org/india-aq-2016-2017/

 

How to protect yourself and your family from air pollution

This article was written by Prof. V. Faye McNeill and her colleague, Dr. Julia Nunes. It gives details on ways to protect yourself and your family from the effects of air pollution. It is the first in a set of articles. The next article in the series will break down air pollution data from across India, demonstrating that most Indians are exposed to unhealthy air for much of the year.

http://m.huffingtonpost.in/amp/dr-julia-k-nunes/no-you-do-not-become-immune-to-air-pollution-yes-it-can-kill-you_a_23241219/

Image: Smog in the Delhi/NCR area. Photo credit: Jesse Rabek.

 

Chemtrails = bunk!

We were happy to learn of the publication of “Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program,” an open access article in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters summarizing the scientific consensus on Chemtrails – i.e. that they don’t exist!

To most scientists including us at the AIRE team, it is obvious that contrails have a simple physical explanation and are not evidence of secret chemical spraying.  In fact, it is so obvious that it would never have occurred to most of us to spend the time and energy to conduct and publish a survey on the topic. But until now, a nonexpert wanting to find out the truth about this by searching on the internet would encounter tons of sites filled with misinformation and conspiracy theories, and very little legitimate scientific information.  Hopefully this article (and press covering it, like this NY Times article) will be near the top of the Google search results for a while.

 

 

Recommended Resource: Moms Clean Air Force

Moms Clean Air Force is an organization of families fighting against environmental pollution.  Their website is full of excellent resources, with information on such topics as indoor air pollution, fracking, smog, and more. Our favorite feature is the “mom detective.” They have a very active and interesting twitter feed at @CleanAirMoms. Moms Clean Air Force is sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund.

http://www.momscleanairforce.org/

Google Street View and Air Quality Mapping

Google deploys cars all over the world to acquire panoramic photos for the Street View feature of Google Maps.  Now, Google Earth Outreach has partnered with sensor company Aclima to add another dimension to the information collected by the Street View Cars: air pollution.  Sensor-equipped Street View Cars have been used to detect methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure.  More recently, the Aclima/Google collaboration  played a role in the NASA/EPA led measurement campaign DISCOVER-AQ, monitoring a variety of criteria pollutants as well as volatile organic compounds on the streets of Denver, CO.

1280px-GoogleStreetViewCar_Subaru_Impreza_at_Google_Campus
Google Street View car (Wikimedia commons)

Mobile air quality sensor networks are an interesting and potentially important complement to the stationary sensor networks deployed by the US EPA and local environmental agencies around the world.  The spatial coverage of these mobile networks will be much more extensive than any stationary sensor network.  They also offer knowledge of pollution on the roadway, whereas stationary sensor stations are usually located away from street level, for example, on top of buildings.  However, as stated by Aclima on their website, “vehicles and buses that drive repetitive routes through cities” offer the best platform for acquiring air quality data which varies with time of day, day of week, and month of the year.  The Street View cars cover a wide range of locations around the globe, but they do not return frequently to the same location. Vehicles such as the taxi fleet of New York City might be an ideal platform for a mobile air quality sensor network.

Recommended Resource: “What’s Up in the Atmosphere? Exploring Colors in the Sky,” an aerosols storybook from The GLOBE Program

Scientists and educators from NASA and UCAR have written a storybook entitled “What’s Up in the Atmosphere? Exploring Colors in the Sky” aimed at elementary school-aged (K-4) children, in which atmospheric aerosols play a starring role.  The story follows a group of curious students who, under the guidance of their teacher, investigate the connection between the appearance of the sky and asthma symptoms in their fellow students on a given day.  The students in the story (and the readers) learn about atmospheric aerosols in the process.  The storybook includes a teachers’ guide with glossary.

Recommended Resource: UMBC Atmospheric Lidar Group U.S. Air Quality Smog Blog

We recently came across the ‘Smog Blog’ maintained by the Atmospheric Lidar Group of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology .   They make frequent posts on current U.S. Air Quality, usually incorporating cool graphics from NASA or NOAA satellites, National Parks Service webcam images, or air quality model results. Check it out!

UMBC U.S. Air Quality: The Smog Blog

 

Prof. McNeill at the Chapin School

Prof. McNeill has visited the Chapin School, an all-girls private school in Manhattan, in 2010, 2011, and 2014 to speak about her research and careers in engineering.

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