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8th-Local Pollution Sources and Impacts

Sister cities, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, home to over two million people, host the heaviest southern U.S. thoroughfare, a major north-south route for binational commerce, an oil refinery, a large military base, and about 200 U.S. manufacturing centers in the low-income communities in Ciudad Juárez. Four international ports of entry carry commercial movement of an estimated six percent of the U.S. economy. For almost a century, a giant copper smelter operated on the border, near the heart of both cities, spewing pollutants over the binational region.Students explore recent research and real-time data to find the major pollution sources affecting El Paso's air quality.

Teachers:Nancy Barraza, Maria Reyna, Monica Chavez


  • Many human activities contribute to air pollution: interstate traffic, vehicles waiting on the international bridge, the airport, military bases, and industry. Most of these activities release carbon into the atmosphere, thus increasing the levels of CO2 and other chemicals.
  • Ground level or "bad" ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.
  • Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOC.
  • Ground level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs.
  • El Paso is located in a geographical area where, at times, the air near the ground is cooled more quickly than the air in higher atmosphere, thus trapping pollutants in the layer of cool air near the ground. These are thermal inversions.

8th Introduction

8th Background Information

8th Inquiry Activities