One Of These Filters Is Full Of The Pollutants We Breathe Every Day


We talk to a lot of parents on a daily basis. I mean A LOT. One of the most common reactions that we get from Ann Arbor parents is the utter shock that their outdoor air has the same amount of pollutants as living with a smoker for 3 months of the year (see how we calculate that here). So, we did a simple little experiment to show that you are breathing air pollution even if you cannot see it. Try it yourself if you want! The results are the picture above. Which do you think comes from outdoor air?

Materials Needed

-Coffee Filters

-Rubber Bands

-Vacuum with hose attachment

-Power Source



For each treatment group, you must use a coffee filter to cover the open end of the hose attachment on your vacuum, and use the rubber bands to keep it in place. This simulates the function of a lung – the vacuum “inhales” air when it is turned on, and the white coffee filter shows any impurities in the air that it is sucking in.

Treatment 1

Attach a coffee filter to your vacuum in the manner described above. Bring your vacuum cleaner outside (if you will be present for the entire experiment), or open a window and put the hose attachment out the window (if you will not be present). Turn on the vacuum. Ensure that it is not running at full power so that it does not destroy the coffee filter. Let the vacuum run for 16 hours in this manner (or for any time of your choice). Make sure that the vacuum does not overheat by checking on it a few times through out the experiment.

Treatment 2

Attach a coffee filter to your vacuum in the manner described above. Bring your vacuum cleaner outside and turn it on. Ensure that it is not running at full power so that it does not destroy the coffee filter. Light one end of your cigarette to simulate smoking, and hold the hose 2-3 feet from the burning end. You may need to relight the cigarette intermittently to keep it burning. Continue to do this until the cigarette has burned down to the filter.


Inspect each coffee filter afterwards. Did your filters change colors like ours did? In the picture above, the first filter resulted from running the vacuum outdoors in Ann Arbor for 16 hours at an average outdoor particulate matter concentration of 9 micrograms per cubic meter. The second filter resulted from “inhaling” a cigarette that burned all the way down to the filter. Makes the pollutants entering your lungs a little more visible, eh?


Air pollution becomes pretty darn visible once you are able to trap it on a medium visible to the human eye! You can run this easy, low-cost experiment if you want to see air quality for yourself. Try this experiment on days with average PM2.5 levels of 5ug/m3, 10ug/m3 and 15 ug/m3 or greater and see how the results differ. And that filter changes color after only 16 hours! Imagine what happens when you breathe that stuff every single day…

–The Vivergy Team


5 Ways That Air Pollution Harms Children’s Health Today

In the wake of the encouraging Clean Power Plan announcement from the White House, we the people must take a step back and ask whether we are satisfied. Although significant reductions in dirty fuel use may be achieved between now and 2030, what about the time in between? What can we do to make the air safer to breathe between now and then? Most importantly, can we rally to create even more transformative change so that by the time 2030 rolls around, we can laugh about how puny those goals seemed compared to actual accomplishments? Sounds ambitious, so this post is all about the reasons to keep pushing TODAY and rid our air of those dangerous pollutants that the Clean Power Plan seeks to address.

Here are 5 big way that the use of dirty fuels affects the wellbeing of people we love today through pollution.

Asthma Attacks

Children’s and grandparent’s lungs are especially sensitive. Children’s lungs are not as capable of defending themselves from pollution. In addition, children inhale more air per unit of body mass than adults, so they are exposed to an extra dose of toxins. This can lead to asthma attacks among asthma sufferers. An estimated 7 children in the average Michigan classroom have or will have asthma.

Low Birth Weights

In a study of childbirths in Los Angeles, researchers found that children whose mothers live closer to highways were more likely to be born at an unhealthily low weight. The risk of a low birthweight increases by 18% for every 5 microgram per cubic meter increase in fine particulate exposure for a mother during pregnancy (study).

Heart Attacks

Fine particulates are so small that they can bury deep into lung tissue, and can even get absorbed into the bloodstream as blood passes through the lungs. A Rice study found that for every two-day period that particulate matter was elevated by 6 micrograms per cubic meter or more, the risk of out of hospital cardiac arrest increased by 4.6 percent (study).

Heart Disease

Chronic exposure to particulates can lead to terminal heart disease. An MIT study indicated that an estimated 200,000 Americans die per year due to cardiopulmonary diseases and lung cancer, with power generation second to only vehicle emissions as a cause of early death (study).

Lung Cancer

Particulate matter invades lungs in the same way that cigarette smoke and secondhand smoke do. In fact, many public health studies quantify both cigarette smoke and air pollution in terms of fine particulates. The World Health Organization estimates that lung cancer due to air pollution kills 42,000 people annually (source).

Want to do something about it? Head on over to

–The Vivergy Team