Organic Pollution

Forest meadows, fresh flowers… tail pipe exhaust?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Secondary organic aerosols–gah! These tiny particles are a class of chemicals that form the air around us. As natural and industrial gas emissions interact with sunlight, the resulting particles reflect or absorb sunlight. This affects cloud formation and contributes to unhealthy conditions and climate change.

What about industrial pollution seeping into pristine forests?

Manish Shrivastava from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory wondered. He went to the Amazon rainforest to study how human pollution interacts with nature to influence climate change.

In the Amazon, atmospheric chemistry mimics both pre-industrial and modern, urban-influenced conditions. Shrivastava collected clean air samples from above the Amazon and over the polluted city of Manaus.

The results? Urban air pollution dramatically increases production of secondary organic aerosols near forests. Scientists think these harmful chemicals wouldn’t even form in the absence of industrial pollution. Or human existence!

Turns out, when it comes to pollution, the sky is the limit! Yikes!