Magnetic Levels in Tree Leaves Indicate Levels of Air Pollution
By October 20th, 2009Tuesday, October 20, 2009 13:53 on
Researchers at Western Washington University are trying to find low-tech ways to measure levels of air pollution and air quality. They have come up with a new study which shows that leaves along bus routes were up to ten times more magnetic than leaves on quieter streets. The magnetism comes from tiny particles of pollution, such as iron oxides from diesel exhaust, that float through the air and either stick to the leaves, or grow right into them.
“Using trees is a nice, low-tech way to do these studies and you don’t need to use fancy particle collectors,” geophysicist Bernie Housen said. “If it works, you could easily collect a lot of data from a region. You could even have kids collect leaves. That makes it a powerful tool to see variation of particulate matter on a very detailed level.”
These scientists admit that many details still need to be worked out as theirs is one of the first studies to apply the magnetic pollution measuring technique in the United States, although European researchers have been exploring the idea for a while.
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