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How Clean Is The Air You’re Breathing?

You need to breathe to stay alive. But how clean is the air you breathe? It is obvious that if you breathe dirty air, you are more likely to develop health problems.

Atmospheric scientist has been studying air pollution for more than forty years.

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During the first half of the twentieth century, coal burning at power plants, factories, and homes filled the air over the midwestern U.S. with pollution. “Smoke,” as air pollution was usually called, used to block so much sunlight that people were occasionally forced to carry lamps in the middle of the day. In some eastern cities, particulate levels likely exceeded 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter—about twice as high as they are on a bad air quality day in modern Beijing, now one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Extreme pollution outbreaks in the United States and Europe did much to put air pollution on national agendas. Satellites and astronauts accelerated the process by providing the raw imagery that helped inspire the environmental movement. As early as 1968, Stewart Brand published an image of Earth’s fully illuminated disk from Applications Technology Satellite 3 on the cover of Whole Earth Catalogue. In 1972, an Apollo 17 crewmember captured a similar shot en route to the moon. Known popularly as the Blue Marble, the photograph is perhaps the most reproduced image in human history and a global symbol of Earth’s fragility

See the interactive on the Atlantic website at

Read more about global air quality at