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C. Measuring the Effects of Atmospheric Nanoparticles

Narrator: This is Science Today. The term nanotechnology tends to conjure up images of tiny computers. But the air we breathe is full of nanoparticles, which can be measured only on the smallest scale. They are created through all kinds of combustion, including automobiles and factories. According to Dr. Anthony Wexler of the University of California, Davis, these nanoparticles are tiny but can have a huge effect.

Wexler: They affect human health. The EPA estimates that particles of this size kill something like 50,000 people per year in this country from inhaling them. So of course there are big health effects.

Narrator: Because nanoparticles are so small, measuring them has presented scientists with a big problem. But Wexler's team at Davis has the only instrument in the world that can test the size and make-up of nanoparticles one-by-one.

Wexler: And currently we're doing it in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, working with the EPA. There's big measurement programs going on there called the EPA super-sites that measure all kinds of things about particles in the atmosphere. .

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.