Air Quality Health Index classroom kit, grades 5 and 6, environment: chapter 6

A. What happens when we extract, process, and burn fossil fuels to generate electricity?

Fossil of ancient plant life

Fossil fuels are non-renewable natural resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas, formed from the remains of ancient plant and animal life.

Extracting and Processing Fossil Fuels:

The processes of extracting, processing and storing fossil fuels have environmental effects. For example, some fossil fuels can evaporate. This means that it goes from a liquid to a gas and becomes a pollutant in the air we breathe. Sometimes we can smell the pollutant in the air, like at a gas station. The word volatile means “goes into the air,” so when this happens the pollutants are called VOCs.

Burning Fossil Fuels:

When we burn fossil fuels, we make air pollution that affects human health and the environment.

What burns fossil fuels?

  • Motor vehicles, marine vessels and airplanes
  • Power plants (generation of electricity)
  • Factories
  • Space heating (oil and gas furnaces)
  • Gas-powered garden tools

Adding it Up:

When VOC combine with NOx, it can make ground-level ozone.

Common Air Pollutants

  • carbon dioxide
  • methane
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • particulate matter (PM)
  • NOx (nitrogen oxides)
  • sulphur dioxide
  • carbon monoxide

Did You Know?

Some air pollutants are greenhouse gases. These cause changes in the global climate. Not all air pollutants are greenhouse gases, and not all greenhouse gases are air pollutants.

Actions that reduce air pollution may also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.



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