6. Air pollution

6.4 Activities

Sticky dust

Monitor how much dust is in the air by trapping it with sticky tape.


  • A4 paper
  • sticky tape
  • pens
  • Blu Tack or equivalent
  • magnifying glass
  • scissors

Choose three or four safe places to set up dust traps in outdoor locations.

Write the location, start date and time on a sheet of paper for each trap. On each piece of labelled paper, create a loop of sticky tape with at least 10 cm of the sticky side of the tape exposed to the air. Using a small piece of Blu Tack, attach the pieces of paper to a wall or window in each location.

After a week, collect the papers. Take a photo of the trapped dust. Next, remove and examine the exposed tape (a magnifying glass may help).

You can record your results in a table.

LocationExposure time (days)Observation of tape


1. Where did you trap most, and least, dust? Suggest reasons for the differences.

2. Would the results be different if the pieces of paper were left in position for months? Suggest why or why not.

Bright particles

See particles in the air


  • Powerful torch
  • Sheets of white and dark paper (or equivalent)

This is a very simple experiment. Wait a few minutes for your eyes to adjust in a dark room or outside at night. Then turn on a bright torch shining away from you. Do not look directly at the light.

What do you see in the light beam? Placing a sheet of white and then dark paper behind the beam may help you see particles.


1. Can you estimate how many particles there are in, say, a cubic centimetre of air?

2. Are the particles moving? If so, why do you think this is happening?

Plotting particles

Graph monthly concentrations of Particulate matter 2.5 to identify any trends.


  • Computer or tablet, or graph paper and pencil

The Monash air quality monitoring station in Tuggeranong takes measurements every hour throughout the year. Below is a table listing concentrations of Particulate matter 2.5. These are an average of all the Particulate matter 2.5 readings taken each month. In the ACT, air particles come from home wood heaters, industry, motor vehicles, controlled burns, bushfires, dust storms and plants in the form of pollen.

MonthAverage Particulate matter 2.5 concentration (micrograms per cubic metre)

Using a computer spreadsheet program or graph paper, plot average Particulate matter 2.5 concentration in air against month from January to December 2019.


1. During which months are Particulate matter 2.5 concentrations greatest? Can you suggest reasons why?

2. The concentration of Particulate matter 2.5 in the ACT’s air was high in November and extremely high during December 2019. Can you suggest the reason for this?

3. How does poor air quality affect human health and wellbeing?