Friday, February 24, 2012

Organic aerosols contribute to smog pollution

Organic aerosols which are the major component of smog particles have been largely underestimated as major air pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is because EPA used old models that do not tell the right story about what is actually in the air and for how long it remains in the air.

The predominant theory about organic aerosols suggests that organic aerosols in smog pollution form liquid droplets that quickly dissolve potentially unhealthy gases. The latest research done by several U.S. scientists argues this by claiming that once organic aerosols are sucked into a particle, they get buried deeper and deeper which basically means that these gases are sucked into smog particles from which they cannot escape.

Smog pollution is not only major environmental threat but also major health threat that has been connected to everything from asthma to heart attacks. And since EPA and other air regulators use older models the currently predicted levels of smog pollution are everything but certain.

UCI air chemist Barbara Finlayson-Pitts explained this by saying that organic aerosols "check in, but don't check out. They cannot escape. The material does not readily evaporate and may live longer and grow faster in total mass than previously thought."

This latest study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers have already announced the need for further studies in order to straighten the older models, especially in relation with future climate change calculations where aerosols are still the big unknown.

Smog is usually caused by the burning of large amounts of coal in cities. In United States, for instance, one of the worst affected areas with smog pollution is the city of Los Angeles.

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