Researchers Trying to Update Pollution Prediction Models

Monday, July 20, 2020 - 13:23
Pollution Prediction Models

University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers are making efforts to update pollution prediction models to account for emissions from common household and commercial products like pesticides, paint and cleaning products.

Current models used to predict ozone pollution and air quality rely on the outdated idea that cars and other vehicles give off most of the emissions, said principal investigator Matt Coggon, a research scientist at CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Daily Camera reports.

Coggon also studied volatile chemical products in 2018, finding that personal care products like deodorants and lotions contributed to pollution in Boulder and Toronto.

While current prediction models treat volatile chemical products and tailpipe emissions the same, they are different molecules and react differently in the atmosphere, Coggon said, which means they could form different amounts of ozone or particulate matter.

“If we can improve our predictions of ozone, we can make predictions that today is going to be a bad day, stay inside and don’t go outside and exercise, so people have less stress on their lungs and there are fewer visits to hospitals,” Coggon said.

Finding out if different emissions cause different pollution levels will also impact federal regulations and guide efforts to improve air quality, Coggon said. The Environmental Protection Agency awarded Coggon and his team a $396,135 grant to revamp the air quality and pollution models.

“If you want to improve air quality — and we do — if you want to keep making those improvements, you can’t just focus on tailpipe emissions. You have to start thinking more broadly about all these other emissions,” Coggon said.

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