Geologist shares facts about pollution, advice on improving air quality in Wichita, nationwide


Wren Johnson

National Clean Air Month was in May, and even though the month is over, geologist Toni Jackman shared some tips to support environmentally friendly and conscious behavior.

Clean air has been a heavily-discussed topic in recent years regarding climate change. The high-risk air quality on the East Coast has affected millions of people early this month due to wildfires in Canada. 

Geology lecturer Toni Jackman said that different activities, changes and behaviors can affect air quality and cause different types of pollutants. 

“Globally, there is a lot of particulate matter that comes up,” Jackman said. “We get dust blowing off the Chinese desert that comes all the way across 8,000 miles and affects the weather in California.” 

Jackman said what we are dealing with globally is human-responsible types of pollution, such as the ozone, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

“Carbon monoxide is very detrimental to humans,” Jackman said. “(Carbon monoxide) can be reused for a period of time and can be fatal or make you very sick.”

Jackman said that carbon monoxide can come from factories/power plants and incomplete combustion from the internal combustion of car engines. 

Jackman also explained that volatile organic compounds from burning pistons are part of the problem when it comes to air quality. 

“We’ve cut some of that through the catalytic converters that we put on our engines now that lead to a more thorough combustion,” Jackman said. “But we don’t have those on things like mowers and lawn maintenance machinery.” 

Catalytic Converters on car engines convert toxic gasses such as carbon monoxide into less-toxic emissions such as carbon dioxide and water. 

Jackman said problems arise when we put gasoline into lawn maintenance machinery because it can lead to a lot of volatiles spilling out, which can cause more issues.

All states have to meet an air quality standard set by the government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are fined if they go over the standard. 

Jackman shared some tips on ways we can improve air quality county-wide and state-wide. These tips can also be found at

One of the tips Jackman shared includes not idling your car while stuck in a lane during heavy traffic. 

“That wastes fuel,” Jackman said. “But it also leads to a lot of uncombusted fuels escaping into the atmosphere.” 

Another tip that Jackman gave was to drive less. 

“The less (you) drive, the better,” Jackman said. “If you carpool, bike, or walk, that’s a good thing.”

Jackman said that Kansas is one of the leading states in the country for using wind energy, which does not create particulate matter, ozone or any of the downsides that coal-burning energy has.

“Wind energy is now slightly higher than coal burning energy, which is a really good thing,” Jackman said. “It was supposed to be 20% green energy by 2020, and we’ve exceeded that to 30-40%.