Dozens of Sulfur Dioxide Contributors were Discovered by Researchers

Researchers from Canada’s environment and climate change department and other institutions in the United States and Canada have found out an efficient method to figure out sources of air pollution through satellite data and wind information.

Chris McLinden, a research scientist from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the new study’s lead author stated: “For each satellite measurement, we would know wind speed and direction and thus, using both pieces of information together, we can actually detect the location of where the sulfur dioxide is coming from.” He also said that they can apply the new efficient method in figuring out pollutants around the world.

The results were compared to the recently recorded data. 500 new pollutants were disclosed as new major sources of sulfur dioxide. 75 of these new cases were from volcanos, therefore, natural sources, while the remaining were from human-imposed pollutants. 39 of these cases were not matched on existing probable causes. 14 out of 39 unmatched causes were from the Middle East. 12 were from oil refineries and other gas operations. The remaining 25 were spread in different contents were power plants are eminent.

“Generally, these previously unreported sources tended to pop up in more developing types of nations where perhaps their legal requirements for reporting are not as rigorous as what we might be used to in the U.S and Canada, for example,” McLinden said.

Due to the limitation of satellite technology, about half of the anthropogenic sulfur dioxide were not captured.

“[The satellites] have a relatively coarse spatial resolution — it’s not like these instruments that can picture the head of a dime from space,” McLinden said. “It measures maybe 10 kilometers at a time, 20 kilometers at a time. So you can imagine a very small source that doesn’t emit that much sulfur dioxide would go unnoticed.”

Sulfur dioxide does not last in the air. Typically, it only stays for about a few hours or days. However, it is important to ensure that these contributors are tracked so as to inform the public about the air quality and climate models. This will also inform officials on how to efficiently create pollution-cutting policies.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide could result to several health risks, including airway inflammation, heart failure, pulmonary edema, eye irritation and increased asthma symptoms.