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Carnegie Mellon study shows skin-aging radicals age naturally formed particles in the air
Date:8/9/2012

PITTSBURGHPine trees are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. They give off gases that react with airborne chemicals many of which are produced by human activity creating tiny, invisible particles that muddy the air. New research from a team led by Carnegie Mellon University's Neil Donahue shows that the biogenic particles formed from pine tree emissions are much more chemically interesting and dynamic than previously thought. The study provides the first experimental evidence that such compounds are chemically transformed by free radicals, the same compounds that age our skin, after they are first formed in the atmosphere.

These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can help make climate and air quality prediction models more accurate, and enable regulatory agencies to make more effective decisions as they consider strategies for improving air quality.

"We have been able to show conclusively that biogenics are chemically transformed in the atmosphere. They're not just static. They keep going, they keep changing, and they keep growing," said Donahue, professor of chemistry, chemical engineering, engineering and public policy, and director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies. "Quite a few atmospheric models, which are commonly used to inform research and policy, have been assuming that that doesn't happen. What we really need to have in the models is an accurate representation of what's really going on in the atmosphere, and that's what this lets us do."

The air that we breathe is chock-full of particles called aerosols. These tiny liquid or solid particles come from hundreds of sources including trees, volcanoes, cars, trucks and wood fires. The small particles influence cloud formation and rainfall, and affect climate and human health. In the United States each year, 50,000 premature deaths from heart and lung disease are attributable to excess conc
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Contact: Jocelyn Duffy
jhduffy@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-9982
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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