Air Pollution in the Developing World

By Beckrich, Amanda | The Science Teacher, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Air Pollution in the Developing World


Beckrich, Amanda, The Science Teacher


Recent reports of dangerous air pollution in China don't surprise scientists. In this rapidly industrializing nation, much of the air pollution comes from coal-burning power plants. As economies like China's move from agriculture to industry, "environmental quality deteriorates at the early stages ... and improves at the later stages," according to the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis (Dinda 2004).

Air pollution in less economically developed countries (LEDCs) differs from that in more economically developed countries (MEDCs). LEDCs often lack good waste disposal options and may resort to open waste burning. Also, MEDCs generally have stronger environmental regulations. In the United States, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces air quality standards, and coal-burning plants must install pollution-control technology. Sources of air pollution in LEDCs, however, go largely unmonitored. For example, Delhi, India, monitors air pollution in only five places across the sprawling city (see "On the web").

Classroom activities

For general resources about air pollution, start at the EPA's teacher resource site (see "On the web") with lesson plans and links to many activities. One EPA link takes you to the teacher resource section of AirNow, where your class can investigate your local air quality. The Air Quality Index toolkit for teachers provides resources for teaching about the connections among air quality, health, and weather, as well as actions students can take to reduce air pollution.

The lessons at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) website answer the question: "Why study air pollution?" Students study possible solutions and the responsible agencies (see "On the web"). The University of Northern Iowa offers air-quality activities such as "Particulate Matter Matters!" and "To Burn or Not to Burn," addressing coal-burning power plants. The College Board offers several laboratory activities designed for Advanced Placement Environmental Science students. In one such lab, students monitor air quality after designing and building an air scrubber. …

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