Sock It to Them!
Science, Social Studies
1 class period
The students will do the following:
In 1986 there were almost 500 million vehicles operating worldwide. If the present growth rate continues, by the year 2030 there will be one billion vehicles world-wide. As the number of vehicles on the road increases, so does the atmospheric pollution. Presently more than half of the air pollution in North America is the direct result of mobile sources, such as cars, planes, trains, and boats. Emissions from motor vehicles contribute to five of the six criteria air pollutants: lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and airborne particulate matter.
Motor vehicles are the main source of carbon monoxide, an invisible, odorless gas resulting from the incomplete combustion of fuel. Inefficient burning of gasoline usually occurs when vehicles are started in the morning, idled, or moving slowly in heavy or congested traffic. Nitrogen dioxide, a reddish-brown toxic gas, is also produced by combustion sources, such as vehicles. Ozone, a major component of smog, is produced when sunlight triggers a chemical reaction between naturally occurring atmospheric gases and pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons. Diesel engines are considered a major source of particulate matter pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to reduce the amount of vehicle emissions by setting vehicle emission control programs. State and local governments have implemented other important control programs, such as E-checks. New technologies to reduce motor vehicle pollution are actively being developed, as are a new breed of car, such as the new gasoline/electric hybrids, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Many vehicles are being designed to have greater fuel economy, more efficient burning of gasoline, and to reduce wind drag.
Setting the Stage
Have students use the information to make posters of the most heavily polluting models by year or model. Discuss alternative transportation and how alternatives to individual cars can be made to work (mass transit, biking, and walking can also be discussed).
This lesson is from the Air Quality Resource Guide, Grades K-12, developed by the Kentucky Division for Air Quality and Air and Waste Management, in cooperation with the EPA.