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AUS research team launches campaign to study air pollution in the UAE
A research team from American University of Sharjah (AUS) has begun a year-long campaign which aims to observe air pollution in the populated cities of the UAE, in collaboration with the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, Florida. This study is significant as it will explore new insight into the physical/chemical process which takes place at this location, and the role of ozone and its precursors (NMVOCs) in air pollution. It will also contribute to the public awareness of atmospheric pollutants and their impact on global warming.
The funding for this campaign, led by Dr. Tariq Majeed, Associate Professor of Physics, is provided through a faculty research grant from the Office of Research and Graduate Studies Office at AUS. The campaign is particularly concerned with observing year round non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) in the populated centers of UAE with emphasis on July and August, during which ozone is at its highest levels, potentially posing a hazard to the health of humans, animals and plants. The study's interest in summer months springs from the fact that surface ozone is formed with interactions of NMVOC and oxides of nitrogen during the day and has a strong correlation with temperature. Consequently, reactive NMVOCs act as an oxidizing power of the atmosphere affecting climate and air quality.
In its early stage in 2008, the study found that the lower atmosphere across the UAE is moderately polluted compared to other mega cities in the world like Karachi, Mexico City and Santiago according to the standards of US-EPA National Environmental Research Lab. The results were presented in Asia Oceania Geosciences Society international conference which was held in Brisbane, Australia in 2013. "On the average basis, toxic acetylene and benzene in Sharjah and Dubai are three to 10 times smaller in magnitude than those observed in above mega cities," said Dr. Majeed.
Recently, some of the VOC toxics, urban smog in particular, have received significant interest because of their potential to cause adverse environmental effects, and health effects associated with cancer risk, reproductive effects and birth defects.
The research team will conduct the study by observing NMVOCs coincidently with carbon monoxide (CO) across the populated emirates of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi for one year. It is expected of the daytime ratios of NMVOCs to CO to provide new insights into UAE air quality. Moreover, a strong correlation between the species can lead to useful insights in developing emission inventories in the UAE. The study also aims to investigate seasonal and wind transport effects of pollutants on UAE air quality. A comparison of species ratios and VOCs to CO ratios will be determined among the three emirates of the UAE and other megacities of the world.