Collecting Air-Pollutant Samples With Household Items

We all know that we need food and water to live. Even more important than that is oxygen, which we get from breathing air. That’s why we breath by instinct. Without oxygen, you would die in minutes.

But have you ever wondered what else you’re breathing in besides air? The quality of the air you breathe has a definite effect on your health, so you should be concerned about the toxins and pollutants commonly found in areas where humans reside.

Some examples of bad air causing health problems is how lung cancer is commonly found in heavy smokers, and how asthma is more prevalent in industrialized areas.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wonder for long. Soon you’ll have a clear idea of what kind of pollutants are floating around your home, school, work, etc. You can do a simple experiment to test the quality of the air you’re breathing. This is an excellent project for teachers or parents to help children with.

All you need are a few commonly found supplies:

– A clean milk carton

– Petroleum Jelly

– A hole punch

– Strong string

– A strong magnifying glass

Once you have gathered these supplies, you’re ready to collect air-pollutant samples that show you what you’ve been breathing into your lungs everyday.


  1. Cut the top off of your milk carton and give it a good wash. Let it air dry
  2. Cut your milk carton at the seams on the sides and bottom. This will leave you with 5 testing squares.
  3. Punch a hole at the top edge of each of your testing squares.
  4. Cut your string into pieces that are about 9 – 12 inches long.
  5. Tie each string to a testing square.
  6. Determine which areas you want to test. You can either place multiple squares around one location, or use just one square per location.
  7. Label the very bottom of your testing squares, corresponding to which locations you plan to place them at.
  8. Take your testing squares and ties them to tree branches, rails, or signs. If you want to test an area indoors you can ask permission to tape the squares onto walls.
  9. Smear a thin layer of petroleum jelly onto each square after you have it in place.
  10. Come back to collect your squares in 3 to 4 days. If the weather gets rainy before your experiment is over, you’ll need to take your testing squares down and try the experiment another time.
  11. Examine the testing squares with your magnifying glass to determine which areas have the healthiest air, and which areas have the dirtiest air.

Most people who try this experiment are shocked at how many particles are found on the testing square. Can you imagine breathing all of that stuff into your lungs everyday?

Remember that it’s important that we all do our part to keep our air clean and healthy.

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