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NASA Studying Air Pollution Over Maryland Waterways

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) --  Turns out unhealthy air, the kind that triggers Code Orange and Code Red days isn't isolated to cities -- it also hangs out over the water.

The challenge to studying air pollution over water is finding some place solid to do the research.

In the Chesapeake Bay, NASA scientists have chosen Hart Miller Island to plant their instruments and make measurements, collecting data to better understand a peculiar phenomenon.

"In the morning some of the pollution from the land gets transported over the water and during the day it cooks and makes some secondary pollutants like ozone, and then comes back in the afternoon," acccording to NASA Research Dr. Barry Lefler. "So it's very strange."

The instruments range from traditional weather balloons to high tech lasers and drones, measuring chemicals at different altitudes. What is already known is air pollution migrating from the land to water to back to land is not unique to Baltimore.

"This could be a health issue for many people. In metropolitan areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and Baltimore, a lot of places up in the northeast as well, experience this issue,"  NASA's principal investigator John Sullivan said

"People go to the water to get some fresh air," said Lefler, "and sometimes if the wind's blowing the wrong way, they're breathing more polluted air."

Part of the national study involves testing the accuracy of a new air pollution instrument, which will eventually be launched into orbit.

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