Would it be possible to clean up air pollution with giant outdoor filters?

I was reading Cecil’s recent column on what happens to the rubber that wears off tires. Apparently a lot of it winds up in our lungs! :eek:

Would it be possible to clean up particulate air pollution of this kind by erecting giant outdoor versions of the indoor air cleaners some of us have? (Of course that wouldn’t help any with gaseous pollution such as CO2, only particles.) Would that require too many such filters, and use too much power, to be practical?

If it were possible – what would be the environmental effect of filtering all that pollen out of the air together with the man-made pollutants? (I can think of no way to filter the one but not the other.)

Since the mass of the earth’s atmosphere is something around 5,000 trillion metric tons I am thinking any filtration system would be hugely impractical.

For CO[sub]2[/sub] filtration plant some forests.

Given the mass involved, you’d need something like filteration machines that are also solar powered Von Neumann machines ( machines that replicate ). We can’t build those yet.

What about if they were installed in really polluted areas, like LA? If they were put along highways, powered by solar panels, it seems like it would have to help at least some.

Let’s say you did get a giant particulate filtration system to work around some of the most polluted areas. What are you going to do with the used filters that are all clogged full of your collected nastiness? Launch them into outer space?

Bury them, or reclaim what’s in them for some industrial use ( if any ). If it’s out of the air, it’s far more controllable.

Of course, it would be better to not put the stuff in the air in the first place, but that’s another thread.

Easy! Just rinse them off, and transfer all the pollution into the water!

CO2 is not a pollutant.

:dubious: It wasn’t. It was simply a product of natural processes. But since humans started putting it into the atmosphere as a product of industrial and transportive activities, it is a pollutant, and we are all going to be paying sooner than you think.

Of course it is, if there’s too much of it. Too much CO2 raises the greenhouse effect, and really large concentrations are lethal. Not to mention invisible and odorless; a CO2 cloud can kill people without warning; drop them in their tracks.

A natural product can be a pollutant; acid rain from a major meteorite impact is just as nasty or more so than anything humans have done. The difference is, if nature does it, the pollution sometimes lasts long enough for life to adapt, and then it’s not pollution any more; oxygen being the obvious example.

There was an interesting article in Discover magazine about this very subject a couple years ago. Turns out there’s a guy who proposes taking CO2 out of the atmosphere with a whole bunch of giant filters. I have no idea whether it’s even remotely feasible, but it’s definitely been proposed:


They are called scrubbers and fit on power companies smokestacks. They reduce asthma nd respiratory diseases. Oh wait they were going to be put on until Bush came in and halted it . Sorry.