Q: Does air quality affect the weather?
A: Air pollution is mainly caused by burning fossil fuels, such as gasoline or coal, but the weather can make a big difference in how fast pollution is dispersed, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. "For example, when there are periods of high pressure during the summer months, the air can remain stable and not move much at all, causing some people to have severe breathing problems," he explains. "This is when ozone alerts are given. One recent study shows that kids who played outside when ozone levels were high had a higher rate of developing asthma."
Q: What is in the air that affects air quality?
A: It ranges from carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, sulfur dioxide and numerous other pollutants, McRoberts adds. "All of these are very harmful to people who have breathing problems. But this happens all over the world," he says. "Mexico City, for example, has some of the worst air on Earth, as does Beijing, Buenos Aires and even Cairo. In London during the 1950s, a cloud of pollution hung over the city for days, resulting in at least 4,000 deaths, leading to the passage of a Clean Air Act. Air pollution has been around a long time and will likely be a problem for years to come in some areas."