Breathe in and breathe out: an inside look at pollution in Des Moines


Rogelio Alvarado-Diaz, Writer

It’s an early September morning, you wake up craving a warm morning coffee to start off the day. Once you grab your cup of coffee, you head over to the window to see the view. You immediately notice there isn’t a single cloud in the sky. You then notice your neighbor is mowing the lawn outside, you go out to say good morning when suddenly you are hit with the most refreshing air breeze you have ever felt. This is what it is like when pollution levels are low in Des Moines.  

Well with all this talk about pollutionwhat exactly is pollution? 

 “Pollution is the introduction of a substance that is harmful to the environment,” sophomore Faith Nguyen said.  

For example, plastic is a major pollutant. Most plastics today are made of polyethylene terephthalate, basically meaning they are almost indestructible by natural means. Also, Carbon dioxide is a pollutant, by causing the greenhouse effect, in which it heats up the Earth’s atmosphereLeading to higher temperatures 

What are the major causes pollution?  

“Well, as of right now the leading causes of pollution overall are Carbon Dioxide emissions and littering.” said Daniela Mendoza 

All of these seem to be at a Global level, but it has either negative or positive effects on a local scale. 

Prior to COVID-19 hitting Des Moines, this city was third in greatest change in increasing emissions in the Midwest, falling behind Omaha and Indianapolis. “In metro Des Moines, total greenhouse gas emissions from transportation increased 85 percent from 1990 to 2017,” according to a New York Times analysis of new data released by Boston UniversityIt was safe to assume Des Moines was not doing good on our air pollution levels before Covid hit. Though after it seemed different.  

Globally the difference between January 2019 and January 2020 is significantly less. According to The International Energy Agencyif lockdowns continue, the annual energy demand will decrease by six percent wiping off the past five years of demand growth. This sort of decrease has not been made in 70 years 

Concluding the lockdown and quarantines introduced were very effective what specifically makes them so effective? 

 “Well, because were staying inside the CO2 emissions go down since we are staying inside and reducing out use of transportation. Cars and trucks burn gas which releases fossil fuels into the air,” Nguyen said. 

 Considering this pattern, it’s a fact air pollution is down but by how much? Well on an Air Quality Index prior to March, which measures the air quality specifically on a scale of good to hazardous based on the pollutants in the air. Des Moines averaged the good levelbut it had several moderate days where the air could’ve been harmful towards those who are sensitive. Those who are considered to be sensitive are those who have breathing problems, such as asthma and lung disease. After COVID-19 hitting Des Moines, we average only good days, with moderate days being very rare 

With all the mess that occurred this year there are many possible outcomes. The future lays unpredictable so far. 

“Hopefully there will be more technology and awareness. We only have one earth and it’s a kind of cool planet,” environmental science teacher Nikki Dorr said.