All About Air Pollution

Just because the sky is blue, it doesn’t mean the air we breathe is clean! Air pollution affects all of us, even our pets! We have to be aware of our air quality in the summer because of smog.


Here’s how smog is made:smog_diagram1When “NOx” and “VOCs” come together and react with sunlight, they create smog, which pollutes our air!STA_particles2

VOCs come from:

  • Gasoline
  • Paint fumes
  • Charcoal lighter fluid
  • Hair spray
  • Furniture polishes

STA_particlesNOx comes from cars, trucks, buses, construction equipment, farm equipment, power plants and other sources of combustion, such as gas-powered lawn and gardening tools.


When temperature inversions occur (that is, when warm air stays near the ground instead of rising) and the wind is calm, smog may remain trapped over a city for days. As traffic and other sources add more pollutants to the air, the smog gets worse. Smog is often more severe farther away from the sources of pollution, because the chemical reactions that cause smog take place in the atmosphere while pollutants are drifting on the wind.

smog_diagram_bowlSmog is unhealthy for you to breathe. It can affect your lungs and your heart. It’s even worse for younger kids, pregnant women, the elderly and people who have lung diseases, like asthma or bronchitis.


You can help us reduce air pollution. Here’s how!

  • Find ways to reduce the number of car trips your family takes. Carpool to school with friends, ask your parents to do all of their errands in one trip and take public transit when you can.
  • Turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Buy food from a farmers’ market! The less your food has to travel, the less gas emissions are created.
  • Plant a tree. Trees absorb ozone and other greenhouse gases.


  • Ozone: A colorless gas, which forms the ozone layer high up in the atmosphere above earth. This ozone layer is a shield that protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. But down where we live and breathe, it’s harmful.
  • Ground-Level Ozone (smog): Air pollution that is unhealthy to breathe. About 70 percent of the Sacramento region’s ozone problem is caused by vehicles, including trucks, buses, agricultural and construction equipment, along with gas-powered lawn and garden tools. Those things produce NOx (oxides of nitrogen) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that react in the sunlight to form ozone pollution.
  • Air Pollution: Occurs when things like gases, dust particles or smoke are introduced into the atmosphere and make the air harmful to humans, animals and plants.
  • Particulate Matter: Very small particles (like dust!) that are released into the air from vehicles, factories and smoke from things like campfires and wood burning fireplaces.