Thursday, May 9, 2013

Learn Something New Everyday: Air Pollution

Some rights reserved by ninahale

I, perhaps like you, thought the worst air pollution in the world was in places like Beijing and Mexico City. The following is the journey I took resulting in now knowing that is not true.

It all started with a job posting. We are actively looking for our next home. The list of possibilities currently include Morocco, Lebanon, Vietnam, China, Mozambique, Thailand and France.

And then I saw Mongolia.

Mongolia! I was so excited. I don't know what the allure is, but the idea of living in Mongolia seemed so cool. (I realize that to some of you the fact that we live anywhere besides North America is pretty cool.)

I sent in my cover letter, CV, and letters of reference. Every time my mind wandered across the idea of Mongolia a smile would appear on my face and I would do a little dance.

Then I got the email asking for an interview - with the school in Mongolia!

(Are you noticing how much excitement this was generating for me?)

Prior to an interview I always to kick up the amount of research I have done on a school, city, and country. In the process I was shocked to find this article listing the top ten worst air polluted cities in the world. China is no where to be seen! In fact, five of the cities are in Iran. Pakistan and India are well represented. And then the big shocker, Ulan Bator (the capital of Mongolia and the location of the school) is number two!

How is all of this calculated? The most basic explanation is this, the main number used looks at the number of particles smaller than ten micrometers (PM10). (See the article for a fuller explanation.)

Now that we are armed with a unit of measurement, let's look at the statistics for some cities.

Beijing is 121 PM10. Since this is so often the city used as an example of horrible air pollution, I'll use it as comparison.

The worst air pollution in the U.S. is Bakersfield, CA with 38 PM10.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada 3 PM10

Seattle, at least today, is 21 PM10.

Ulan Bator? 279 PM10

I'm still going to have the interview, but that is a HUGE deterrent.

Want to know more? Read this, this, this, and this.

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