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Science Matters

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About EPA Air, Climate, and Energy Research

Here’s a riddle:

I touch your face,
I'm in your words,
I'm lack of space,
And beloved by birds,
I make soda bubble,
And without me, you are in great B-I-G trouble...

What am I?

(Give up?)

The answer is…(drum roll please)….AIR!

What's in the Air?

Air is always a good thing to have—and not just for solving riddles!
Answering questions about air is the job of many scientists and engineers who work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA for short).
These researchers work to figure out what pollutants are in the air and what breathing pollutants can do to someone’s health—especially to young kids, the elderly, and anyone who has asthma.

What these scientists and engineers learn helps EPA enforce rules in the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act started in 1970 and is a powerful law that protects people from harmful air pollution. Part of the Act tells EPA to protect public health by setting limits for pollutants in the air.

And that’s where the research comes in.

EPA scientists and engineers conduct research that helps the Agency know where to set the limits to protect people from unhealthy air.

The Clean Air Act has worked great so far!
Today, the country’s air is a lot cleaner and healthier than it was before we had the Clean Air Act. In fact, a recent report found that the Clean Air Act will save the country $2 trillion by 2020.

The reason the country will save so much money is because it is far less expensive to keep people healthy than to pay lots of money for visits to the doctor and miss work because air pollution made them sick.

Without EPA’s science, we wouldn’t know the true cost of air pollution or what we can do to help clean the air.

How Do They Do It?

As you might imagine, studying something you can’t see, touch, or feel—such as air—can be hard to do. EPA scientists and engineers use a number of computer tools and devices to figure out what kinds of pollution are in the air around us.
One example of this work is the Agency’s “ Air Sniffing Car.” This car uses high-tech devices to measure the air pollution along roads.

Scientists can also look at information to find out how air pollution can affect our health. In one study, scientists looked at how many people went to the Emergency Room in an area of North Carolina where there was a big wildfire.

Then, by checking records about how many people needed to go to the Emergency Room for breathing trouble and comparing that to information about how much smoke was in the air, the scientists could see how smoke from the fire affected people’s health.

Something in the Air
Throughout this article, there were a number of words and phrases in purple letters. Each is an answer in the word search below. See if you can find them all!

ACE Kids Word Search


Learn More!

See EPA’s Air Quality Now Kid’s Page

Find out more about the “Air Sniffing Car”

Why is Coco Orange?
Read how Coco and his friends at Lizard Lick Elementary solve a mystery as they learn about air quality and how to stay healthy when the air quality is bad.

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