The Story of Air

Why Do We Need Air?

Did you know that humans take 23,000 breaths every day? We need to breathe in order to get oxygen from the air for our lungs, heart and blood to survive. When air is dirty, it can make it hard to breathe and sometimes, it can make you sick! Plants and animals also need air because they breathe too.

How Does the Air Get Dirty?

Dirty air comes from pollution. Pollution comes from human-made sources like cars, trucks and smokestacks. Some pollution comes from natural sources like wildfires and volcano eruptions!

Air with Smoke 

What is Ozone?

Ozone is a gas that can be both good and bad. In the upper atmosphere (way above the clouds) ozone is good. This kind of ozone forms a layer that protects us from the harmful rays of the sun, kind of like sunscreen.

Near the ground, ozone is bad. This kind of ozone forms when certain types of pollution mix with sunlight and get trapped near the ground. This ozone is called ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is bad for both humans and the environment. It can make you head hurt and it can make it hard to breathe.

How do I Know When Ozone is Bad?

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) gives reports on ozone everyday from mid-May to mid-September. When MDE gives a code red report, that means that ozone is very strong! On code red days, kids should limit outdoor play time and find other things to do inside. When the Maryland Department of the Environment gives a code green report, that means that it is okay to play outside.

Code Red - Stay InsideCode Green - Okay to Play 

What else does Air Pollution do?


Humans are hurt by air pollution, but we are not the only ones! Animals like birds, butterflies and even fish can be affected by air pollution. Dirty air can make it hard for plants to grow. Buildings and statues may start to wear away too!

How does the Air get Clean?

Did you know that plants breathe too? Green plants use a process called photosynthesis (sounds like foto-sin-the-sis) to turn carbon dioxide, and other gases that are bad for us, into oxygen that we need. By taking these gases out, plants like trees and bushes help clean the air. That is one reason why it is so important to grow and protect these types of plants. But they need our help in keeping the air clean!


Have you ever...

Ridden a Bike?Cars and trucks make pollution, but bikes, skateboards and rollerblades do not. You help the air every time you use these things instead of riding in the car!

Ridden the School Bus?Some trips are so long that you need to use a car or truck to get where you are going. When people ride buses, there are fewer cars and trucks on the road!

Let Someone You Know Ride With You?This is called carpooling and it puts fewer cars on the road too!

You Have Helped the Environment