How Am I Supposed to Breathe

With no air? Or with no clean air?


We breathe an average of 3,000 gallons of air each day (EPA). Let’s put that into perspective. 7.48 gallons of air = 1 cubic foot, so 3,000 gallons is about 400 cubic feet. According to, “One billion dollars in new crisp one hundred dollar bills would occupy about 400 cubic feet and would fill a space 5 feet high, 8 feet wide and 10 feet long.” Can you say, “MONEYYYY?”

Air pollution continues to threaten our health and the environment. What are some examples of air pollutants? If you guessed dust, dirt, soot, and smoke, then you’re right! Air pollutants can come from primary or secondary sources:

  • Primary sources: Give off particulate matter directly (i.e. forest fires and road dust)
  • Secondary sources: Give off gases that react with sunlight and water in the air to form particles (i.e. coal-fired power plants and car exhaust)

Even the tiniest of particles can be detrimental to our health. Fine particulate matter PM2.5, which is less than 2.5 micrometers, can cause serious illness and death, even though these particles are less than 1/30 the width of a human hair. Since they’re so small, they can be inhaled deep into the lungs and affect the heart, blood vessels, and lungs.

Exposure to particulate matter can cause:

  • increased emergency department visits and hospital stays for breathing and heart problems
  • breathing problems
  • asthma symptoms to get worse
  • adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight
  • decreased lung growth in children
  • lung cancer
  • early deaths
Here are some ways to reduce air pollution:

6CO2 + 6H2O + light --> glucose + 6O2

  •  Conserve energy – turn off appliances and lights when you leave the room.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans. (This conserves energy and reduces production emissions).
  • Buy green electricity-produced by low-or even zero-pollution facilities.
  • Connect your outdoor lights to a timer or use solar lighting.
  • Wash clothes with warm or cold water instead of hot.
  • Don’t smoke inside your house (wait- don’t smoke at ALL).
  • Avoid exposure to air pollutants, especially fine particulate matter.

Unless it’s very obvious, we can’t really tell if we’re breathing in clean air or semi-clean air. So how are we supposed to know which air to avoid? Take a break from Scramble with Friends and download AirNow, EPA’s free app that allows you to check air quality and UV index by simply entering a zip code. Seriously, what can’t an iPhone do these days?

image source: youknowyourefromlawhen

Okay, time for a fun fact. Those who live in L.A. often rave about the sunsets. Many even say that it’s the smog that makes these sunsets so beautiful. Contrary to popular belief, smog actually reduces the brilliance and intensity of sunrises and sunsets.

According to, “tropospheric aerosol (suspensions of small particles)— when present in abundance as they often are over continental areas — do not enhance sky colors — they subdue them. Clean air is, in fact, the main ingredient common to brightly colored sunrises and sunsets.”

So the next time you’re driving down the 405 with a friend, instead of saying, “How about them Lakers?” you can impress them with this fact!


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