Air Quality May Be Worse Than Thought
Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 29, 2012
New Study Changes Perspective on Air Pollution ControlIn a study recently released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers complicate our current understanding of air pollution and how air pollution is oxidized in the environment. The initial finds are cause for some concern. The results tend to show that our current understanding of what happens to pollution particles in the atmosphere is not correct, and that the air could be much dirtier than we currently believe.

When initial air pollution studies were completed nearly 20 years ago, they identified different types of particles that make up air pollution. Since then, air pollution control legislation has been largely tailored to target a specific set of fine particles that were thought to represent the most dangerous cross section of emission pollutants.

What this most recent study has shown is that a Secondary Organic Aerosols (SOA) comprise a larger slice of that air pollution pie. Initial air quality studies did not show the elevated levels of SOA's that were found in research completed over the last two years.

As a bit of backstory, Secondary Organic Aerosols are the combination of pollution particles that have chemically bound to airborne organic particles. So they themselves are not directly emitted by combustion engines, but are formed when particles that were previously thought to dissipate, bind to organic agents. And instead of evaporating once in the atmosphere, these new SOA's form tiny tar balls that evaporate much more slowly than originally thought.

While nature will tend to deal with pollutants over time, as the environment has and will continue to absorb and break down much of the millions of gallons of oil from the BP spill, so too will the atmosphere break down air pollution.

However, if current pollution control efforts fail to account for a secondary product of air pollution, especially one that takes much longer to break down, reevaluation of not only control measures but also actual pollution levels needs to be done.

It will take time to parse the study and evaluate it in the context of a larger pollution control effort, but those who are particularly effected by air pollution, allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers, this study is just another that reinforces the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality in your home and office. To that end, proper air filtration systems, like HEPA Air Purifiers and efficient furnace filters still remain your best tools in keeping indoor air clean and free of outdoor pollutants.

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