High school students in San Francisco test what's in the air

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- They say, the proof is in the pudding, in this case, the Petri dish. We've been told about how bad the air quality is, but students at Burton High School in San Francisco decided to see for themselves what we are breathing.

Dozens of Petri dishes coated with vaseline were used over four days to capture stuff--bad stuff that is found in our air.

"We had two Petri dishes and one of them was the control so we had the lid over it with vaseline so no particles could get in and then we had a different one, we did not have the lid on the experimental," explained Karen Kwan, a student who used a microscope to examine both dishes.

Using a grid, students picked three random boxes and averaged the number of particles.

"We saw many particles and that tells you that the air is not clean, there's a lot of smoke in the air, it's like unhealthy," said Walter Sit, a student at Burton High.

The size of particles are usually described in microns. One micron is equal to one millionth of a meter.

To give you an idea of how small a micron is, take a human hair, the diameter is between 60 and 80 microns, particles than are ten microns or less are breathable and can settle into the lungs making it unhealthy.

"That fire it has burnt down towns, it's burnt cars, forest down and that's all part of that smoke so yes there are going to be chemical involved as well," said Evan Mundahl, the science teacher who led this experiment.

"Yesterday I was getting headaches, breathing it in. I don't think it's really good, complained Jallahna Butler, also a student here.

The teacher told us what they learn from this experiment will hopefully give them a different outlook on catastrophic situations affecting the state.

"As our fires continue to get more intense, more frequent, our droughts get worse, students can think about prevention and start thinking maybe about solutions because this is going to be the generation of solutions,"
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