UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
I have been to LOS ANGELES and I stayed there for four days and my eyes started to hurt so I was wondering if pollution affects eyesight that cant be treated.
Answer 1:

If it was the air pollution that caused your eyes to hurt, you will be fine. Air pollution can cause your eyes to sting and water but this is only temporary and you will be OK later in the day--usually at night when the pollution isn't as bad. The air pollution is called smog. Here is a very good web site for you to look at : http://www.aqmd.gov/kidspage/

Answer 2:

You're right that smog can temporarily irritate your eyes.The biggest permanent danger to your eyes is sun, not smog. Sunlight can make the outer layer of your eye (cornea) cloudy. This condition is called "cataracts". It is more common in old age because it can take the damage a while to build up to a noticeable point. Why do you think the pollution is LA is so bad? What could be done to reduce it?

This site has a nice summary of the effect air pollution has on eyes :
http://www.intr.net/napenet/apslides/35_eyes.html

This site will tell you more about how ozone up in the atmosphere protects your eyes, while ozone down where we live hurts them:
http://www.miljoedata.com/ozon.htm

These sites have information on LA and its smog problem:
http://www.un.org/Pubs/CyberSchoolBus/special/habitat/profiles/losangel.shtml
http://gola.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa080197.htm
Thanks for asking.



Answer 3:

Air pollution in LA is a problem for a few reasons: 1) LA has a lot of cars and car exhaust forms "smog", 2) LA's geography is such that it is surrounded on 3 sides by mountains so winds can't blow the smog away and disperse it, 3) LA's weather is perfect for the chemical reactions which need to take place to form smog. Thus, LA has been known as a hazy area for 500 years (well before cars were around). That is because there are other, naturally occurring compounds that can also form smog. It's just that car exhaust is a really concentrated source of these smog-forming compounds. Other cities around the world have smog problems for the same reasons, such as Mexico City. Smog forms many compounds in the lower atmosphere or troposphere that are harmful to animals and plants. Your car exhaust produces chemical compounds known as hydrocarbons (hydrogen + carbon) and nitrogen oxides. These react with air (Nitrogen gas and Oxygen gas) using the energy from sunlight to form other really nasty chemical compounds. One of the products formed is ozone. Ozone is very detrimental to human health; it can cause wheezing and coughing. This is a little strange because ozone in the upper atmosphere or stratosphere is naturally occurring and absolutely required for life on earth. If the ozone starts to degrade in the stratosphere you have an ozone hole and too much of the sun's UV radiation gets through. UV radiation damages cells' DNA and can cause cancer. What chemical compounds that have recently been banned cause degradation of the ozone in the stratosphere? PAN and aldehydes are also products of the smog reaction, these can act as eye irritants. I know of no mechanism by which PAN and aldehydes can effect your ability to see, however they will make your eyes burn. When your eyes burn, it doesn't necessarily mean your vision is being impaired. It's like something that makes you sneeze but you'll still be able to smell. Treatment for irritated eyes by smog, stay indoors, limit time spent in the very smoggy areas of LA.

Answer 4:

It is definitely true that your eyes can sting while in thick smog. I don't know about any long-lasting effects, but the short-term stinging is probably from acids in the smog. Your eyes react with acid sometimes when you cut an onion. When an onion is cut it releases something into the air that converts to sulfuric acid when it hits the moisture on your eyeball. So your eyes sting because of this acid. Eventually it stops and your
eyes feel better, and there is no permanent damage. I think the same thing probably happens with smog.


Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use