The Impact on our Health and Climate
While it is known that these pollutants contribute to heart and lung disease, air pollution is estimated to cause 50,000 deaths in America each year, a better understanding of what is contained within these particles will help biologists and physicians understand and address the impact on human health, argues Seinfeld.
Seinfeld points to the interaction between man-made emissions like exhaust and natural emissions like the chemicals that give plants their scent as an example of the complexity of the atmosphere's chemistry.
"In the southeastern part of the US there are vast areas of vegetation in which there are large urban centers," said Seinfeld. "Understanding how this mixture of man-made and natural emissions behaves in the atmosphere is one of the current challenges."
The impact of the pollutants that result from the mixing of man-made and natural emissions, called secondary organic aerosols, is not limited to human health. These particles also play an important role in the earth's climate.
"These particles in our air can have two effects on climate. They reflect sunlight away from the earth and cool its surface, and also serve as the building blocks of clouds, which play a huge role in determining our climate," explained Seinfeld. "When the chemistry of clouds changes, so does our climate."
Identifying an Unlikely Killer in the Developing World
Smith was the first to identify the harm caused by smoke from the burning of fuels like wood or dung in homes in the developing world in 1981. For the last 30 years, Smith's research has focused on measuring
|Contact: Nick Seaver|