Caption: Daniel Tkacik studies soot particles from vehicles in his temporary lab: the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh. , Credit: Image: Reid R, Frazier
Image by: Image: Reid R, Frazier 
Daniel Tkacik studies soot particles from vehicles in his temporary lab: the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh.  

Tracking the 'Secret' Life of Soot

From: Reid Frazier
Length: 05:54

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In recent years, scientists have found that particles like soot and other pollution live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchhikers before making their way into our lungs. What happens to these particles once they’re in the air? And how does it affect our health? Reid Frazier looks at the evolving science into the secret life of particles.

Daniel

For a long time scientists have known that breathing in soot from vehicles and power plants is bad for us. But the soot itself might not be the problem—at least not entirely. Scientists have found that particles live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchhikers before making their way into our lungs. Recent research has found that a lot of the ‘goop’ that gloms onto particles in the atmosphere comes from an unlikely source: trees. What happens to these particles in the air? How does it impact our health? Does this mean trees are actually a cause of pollution? Reid Frazier looks at the evolving science into the secret life of particles.

Piece Description

For a long time scientists have known that breathing in soot from vehicles and power plants is bad for us. But the soot itself might not be the problem—at least not entirely. Scientists have found that particles live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchhikers before making their way into our lungs. Recent research has found that a lot of the ‘goop’ that gloms onto particles in the atmosphere comes from an unlikely source: trees. What happens to these particles in the air? How does it impact our health? Does this mean trees are actually a cause of pollution? Reid Frazier looks at the evolving science into the secret life of particles.

Transcript

HOST INTRO:
For a long time scientists have known that breathing in soot from vehicles and power plants is bad for us. But the soot itself might not be the problem—at least not entirely. Scientists have found that particles live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchhikers before making their way into our lungs. Reid Frazier looks at the evolving science into the secret life of particles.

FRAZIER: To study air pollution, sometimes you have to go to some really weird places.

RAISE TUNNEL SOUND

TKACIK: So, those are the cars.

FRAZIER: Daniel Tkacik standing inside the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh. We’re actually one floor above I-376, which courses through the tunnel. We’re peering down at the highway through these narrow ventilation slots. And yeah, I’m pretty sure the slot is big enough for me to fall through.

TKACIK: ...and I...
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Intro and Outro

INTRO:

HOST INTRO:
For a long time scientists have known that breathing in soot from vehicles and power plants is bad for us. But the soot itself might not be the problem—at least not entirely. Scientists have found that particles live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchikers before making their way into our lungs. Reid Frazier looks at the evolving science into the secret life of particles.

OUTRO:

This story is part of the STEM Story Project, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Additional Credits

This story is part of the STEM Story Project, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.