How We Can Protect the Air We Breathe
How We Can Protect the Air We Breathe
How We Can Protect the Air We Breathe


Audience: Students 8th - 12 grades

Overview: In this lesson students learn about pollutants, mitigation and how to monitor air quality. In the first activity students apply what they have learned to identify sources of pollution in their neighborhood, city or state. Students strategize how to reduce pollutants and protect air quality. The final product is a written plan or a creative work such as a flyer, commercial, multimedia presentation, or illustrated journal. In the second activity students learn how to read and interpret air quality data. In the third activity students identify how they or their school may be contributing to air pollution through their own activities and suggest ways to mitigate their pollution. In the fourth activity students research occupations in which they are interested and identify how they contribute to pollution, cope with the effects of pollution, or work to reduce pollution.


Standards to Be Addressed:

Louisiana Science Content Standards

Middle School

Grade 8.SI GLE 3. Use a variety of sources to answer questions (SI-M-A1).

Grade 8.SE GLE 50. Illustrate possible point and non-point source contributions to pollution and natural or human-induced pathways of a pollutant in the ecosystem (ESS-M-C8).


High School

Environmental Science

GLE 12 Give examples and describe the effect of pollutants on selected populations (SE-H-A11)

GLE 19 Determine the interrelationships of clean water, land, and air to the success of organisms in a given population (SE-H-C1)

GLE 20 Relate environmental quality to quality of life (SE-H-C2)

GLE 22 Analyze the risk-benefit ration for selected environmental situations (SE-H-C4)

GLE 23 Describe the relationship between public support and the enforcement of environmental policies (SE-H-C5)

GLE 25 Discuss how education and collaboration can affect the prevention and control of a selected pollutant (SE-H-D2) (SE-H-D3)


Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.   (Check Disciplinary Core Ideas)
HS LS2-7 Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.  (Check Disciplinary Core Ideas)



1)      Students will research air pollution to develop a plan for reducing air pollutants in their community and in their daily lives and have the knowledge to make choices that protect the environment throughout their lives.

2)      Students will research occupations or hobbies in which they are interested to determine what impact they have on air quality.



1)      Students will analyze a setting, e.g., neighborhood/city/state and identify in writing at least six potential sources of air pollutants as well as three modifications that already have been made to improve air quality.

2)      Students will identify at least six ways that they or their own families may be contributing to air pollution and consider modifications that might be made to reduce pollution.

3)      Students will examine the risks and benefits of possible modifications and consider which modifications would be most effective in reducing pollution while retaining necessary services and an acceptable quality of life.   

4)      Students will write a plan or produce a creative work that explains or illustrates the selected strategies to reduce pollution, why the pollutants were targeted, why the modifications were selected, and how these choices impact services and quality of life. 

5)      Students will monitor the air quality in their area and track how it changes throughout the day and week.

6)      Students will explore how occupations are related to air quality, such as involved in regulating, monitoring, or reducing air quality, coping with the effects of air quality, creating or engineering ways to eliminating air pollution at the sources, or contribute to air pollution to become aware how all occupations and activities impact air quality.




Some air pollutants, like ozone, are caused by chemical reactions among airborne substances in the presence of sunlight.  Examples of other air pollutants are particulate matter emitted from various sources such as vehicles or agricultural processes or are naturally occurring and not controllable by DEQ such as methane emitted by cattle, and compounds emitted by vegetation or released by the soil.

Businesses and industries are regulated and monitored by the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to reduce air pollutants and improve air quality.  DEQ inspects businesses and industries to provide permits stipulating the processes that must be used to lessen air pollution for the business or industry to operate.


Federal, state, and local regulations require businesses and industries to implement processes to lessen emissions.  A by-product of some processes is steam, which sometimes can be seen as large plumes emitted from plants.  These plumes may sometimes be mistaken for air pollution.  Many sources emit pollutants that cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

The EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have multiple functions they use to reduce pollution:   regulating, permitting, inspecting, monitoring, and educating.  It is important to reduce pollution to preserve a good quality of life.  Pollution can aggravate existing health problems such as asthma and emphysema thereby diminishing the quality of life for some people. Unregulated air pollution can result in visible air pollution, called haze.  We have seen examples from places like Beijing, where severe pollution causes burning of eyes, throat, and lungs. 

DEQ continuously monitors air quality and makes this information available through website, email and mobile phones so the public, including students, can take precautions to prevent adverse health events and modify their activities to lessen the potential impacts from air pollution. 

EnviroFlash is website that provides a visual representation of air quality anywhere in the country.  Subscribers can receive alerts by email or phone when the air quality is poor.  With these alerts subscribers can take precautions to lessen the health impact of pollution or employ methods to reduce pollution and avoid worsening the air quality.  

DEQ regulates the producers of products and services that the public and students use but DEQ does not regulate individual activities, so each person must know about air pollution and act responsibly to protect air quality.  Some student activities or school activities add to air pollution. 


Students can be proactive in identifying their own activities or activities at school that contribute to air pollution, consider possible modifications and design a strategy to reduce their own air pollution. 


Many careers are involved with ensuring good air quality.  Some careers are within agencies such as the Federal EPA, the state Department of Environmental Quality or local environmental agencies.  Other occupations research aspects of air quality or the effects of air quality on humans, animals, crops.  Medical careers may treat individuals who are sensitive to air pollutants. Careers in Engineering, Chemistry, and Biology may be directly involved in creating strategies to reduce pollutants at their source or in the environment.  Meteorologists report air quality and weather conditions that may intensify air pollution.  How well mechanical repairs are made to engines and other pieces of equipment can influence air quality as can numerous other occupations, hobbies, and activities. 


In these activities students have learned how to identify sources of pollution, consider potential modifications to lessen pollution and its impacts, consider the impact of the modifications, and select the most appropriate modifications that protect the air, essential services, and quality of life.  Students also have to identify personal activities that contribute to pollution and ways to mitigate pollution.  Students have learned to monitor air quality and noted how it changes through the days and weeks. Through a final plan or creative product, students have illustrated the process they followed, the strategies that they have selected, and explained their rationale.  Students also have explored how the occupations they may be interested in pursuing contribute to, mitigate, cope with, or study air pollution.  Through these activities students have gained the knowledge needed to enable them to be good stewards of the environment and make choices to protect the environment throughout their lives.