From: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Published May 4, 2017 06:54 AM

Study measures air pollution increase attributable to air conditioning

When summer temperatures rise and people turn to their air conditioners to stay cool, something else also increases: air pollution.

A new study published Wednesday (May 3, 2017) in the journal Environmental Science & Technology shows that the electricity production associated with air conditioning causes emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide to increase by hundreds to thousands of metric tons, or 3 to 4 percent per degree Celsius (or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

“The hottest days of the summer typically coincide with the days of highest air pollution,” says study lead author David Abel, a graduate student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “We quantified the relationship between daily temperature and power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide on a state-by-state basis in a comprehensive manner that hasn’t been done before.”

Increased emissions of these gases can affect not only the environment but also people’s health. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides — both of which are regulated in the U.S. — can cause respiratory problems, particularly in children, people with asthma and the elderly. Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas targeted by power plant regulations.

Continue reading at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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