Villains in the Air: Particulate Matter

This comic lets particulate matter, or aerosols, speak for themselves. It turns out that big hazards can come in small packages.

A large yellow particulate with a mask and curly mustache, near a construction site: "I'm particulate matter, also known as PM10. I lurk in dusty places and then blow in the wind. I'm about a tenth the thickness of a hair. I can get into your eyes, your throat, and even your lungs. I'm EVIL!" Second panel. Large particulate matter: "Hey! Who are you, little guy?" Small red particulate wearing a blue mask: "I'm particulate matter, too. They call me PM2.5." Large particulate: "You're more cute than evil." Small particulate: "No I'm not. I'm more dangerous than you." Third panel. Small particulate: "I come from car exhaust and smokestacks and fires. I get very deep into people's lungs and even get into their BLOOD!" Large particulate: "You are TERRIFYING!"  Fourth panel. These villains of air pollution are nasty, but they can be defeated by YOU. Large particulate: "What are these people doing?" Small particulate: "Drat! They have foiled our evil plans." Various speech bubbles from off-screen: "We're using wind and solar energy because they don't pollute." "I'm saving energy to limit pollution." "I'm walking not driving." "The Air Quality Index is high? I'll be inside." To learn more about particulate matter and other air pollutants, visit Cartoon by Lisa S. Gardiner at the UCAR Cetner for Science Education.

Teachers: Visit the Air Quality Teaching Box for lesson plans and activities to explore air pollution with your students.