Breathe Easier: There’s Less Nitrogen Dioxide in the Air

Whenever we hear news about the environment, it’s usually bad news. Levels of such and such pollutant continue to rise. We have only X years before the damage becomes irreversible. All the cute and cuddly animals are going extinct. I think one of the reasons people don’t seem to care about the environment is that we, as individuals, feel helpless, but finally new reports show we’ve made some progress.

Image courtesy of NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio
Image courtesy of NASA.

Images from NASA’s Aura satellite reveal that the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in our atmosphere have declined by 50% or more across the continental U.S. Even major urban areas like New York City show definite improvement. Nitrogen dioxide is one of six common air contaminants monitored by the E.P.A.

Image courtesy of Greenhorn1 and Wikipeida.
Image courtesy of Greenhorn1 and Wikipedia.

When concentrated in smog form, nitrogen dioxide appears as a reddish or yellowish gas (according to Wikipedia, the color depends on the temperature). It has an acrid smell, and when inhaled it basically f***s up your lungs, though the effects are not immediately felt. It comes from car emissions, power plants, and other sources.

Yes, we as individuals can and do make a difference.

I’ll be happy to breathe 50% less of this stuff. And part of the credit goes to everyone who decided to walk to the store rather than drive, or rode a bike to work, or took advantage of public transportation. If we all keep doing stuff like that, maybe we’ll start seeing more good news about the environment.

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