Improving Air Quality

Looking at NASA’s images on air quality, I wanted to know more about what they mean. The images show that the air pollution of cities in the U.S. has decreased. 

It’s important to understand the full situation; what is the cause of this air pollution? This pollution we experience in the lower atmosphere, smog, comes from cars burning gasoline and plants burning coal. From these sources comes harmful chemicals, nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone. Ozone may seem like a good thing, but that’s only true when its int the atmosphere. Ground level ozone is form from chemical reactions. The emissions from cars and coal burning plants turn into to ozone when reacting to sunlight. All of these chemicals are extremely harmful to human health. According to the EPA, “Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ground level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.”

What has caused this decrease in air pollution to cities? Technology improvements and regulations have been factors in decreasing air pollution. Cars in recent years have become more energy efficient releasing less pollutants into the air . For example, the advancement of the catalytic converter has been a big factor in reducing nitrogen and carbon into the air. Also a factor in this decrease is technology developed to filter out pollutants in the gas waste of plants. Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have also been a factor in reducing air pollution in the United States.

Given all this progress, there is still a really long way to go and a lot working against this decrease. Oil and gas companies experience exemptions from the clean air act. Another issue affecting our idea that the air is getting safer is what the standard is set at. The standard set in 2008 was set too loosely and the standard is actually not protective of public health. We still have a long way to go before our air is truly healthy to breath.