EPA Shares the Dirt on Pollution

Have you ever wondered what kinds of pollutants are hiding in the air around your home or community? Or whether you live near a toxic waste site?

Well, now you can find out by using the Environmental Protection Agency’s EJSCREEN tool. The EPA has shared this mapping tool with the public, allowing anyone to learn about the environmental conditions in their community.

Map showing ozone level in Washington, D.C.

This map displays ozone levels in Washington, D.C.. Educators can use this map to teach students about ozone, when ozone levels are good or bad, and how ozone levels affect neighborhoods.

EJSCREEN uses environmental and demographic data to display the environmental conditions in communities in the U.S. Some of the demographics employed are income, race, language, and age. The tool uses environmental indicators that exhibit air and water quality, ozone levels, and presence of lead, among others. Users can also manipulate basemaps, which include road maps, terrain maps, and aerial maps. All of these options give the user a customizable experience to allow him or her to observe how the climate and humans interact.

How can educators use EJSCREEN?

Students are more likely to care about national or global environmental concerns if they can make a personal connection to the issue. EJSCREEN can help provide this connection. The tool is interactive, and students can get a hands-on experience in learning about environmental hazards and how the hazards may impact their own community; it’s a great introduction to environmental science and GIS.

  • Help students see how various environmental indicators, such as ozone levels, lead levels, or air quality may change across neighborhoods. They can use the simple GIS tools, like manipulating the basemap and environmental indicators to learn how to read choropleth maps. This will encourage  interpretation of simple data and help them become more acquainted with mapping and geography.
  • Showcase the relationship between human activities and pollution. Prompt them to discover if a relationship exists between high population levels and air pollution levels.
  • EJSCREEN’s “report” feature is a great tool to introduce students to the effects of climate change on their neighborhoods. For example, the map below of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. gives an environmental report of the air quality, ozone levels, and pollution, and it compares the area to the rest of the region and the entire U.S.
  • Have students construct their own environmental story by manipulating demographics, environmental indicators, and basemaps. These tools allow students to be creative in expressing the many environmental and human factors that make up a community. They can add specific demographics layers to the map, like income, combined with environmental indicators, like air quality, to see how various communities are affected by pollution.
EJSCREEN report of the National Mall

An EJSCREEN report of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. showing environmental indicators, such as air quality, lead levels, traffic levels, and others in comparison with the rest of the region and the U.S.

EJSCREEN is easily customizable and ready-for-use, since the EPA has already constructed all the data and map layers for users. All students have to do is access the website and begin experimenting with the map. With the guidance of educators, students will benefit from using mapping and simple data analysis to learn about climate change in communities around the U.S.

For a quick guide on using EJSCREEN click here.

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

EPA: EJSCREEN

EPA: What is EJSCREEN?

EPA: Understanding EJSCREEN Results

One response to “EPA Shares the Dirt on Pollution

  1. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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