Expert speaks about air pollution

Guest speaker Godwin Severa and professor Leticia Colmenares at the chemistry forum on Nov. 19 – Debbra Baetz

Guest speaker Godwin Severa and professor Leticia Colmenares at the chemistry forum on Nov. 19 – Debbra Baetz

Pollutants are emitted into the air every minute of the day and can be detrimental to our health.

A chemistry forum on “Chemical Approaches to Air Pollution Mitigation” took place Nov. 19 at Hale ‘Imiloa and featured speaker Godwin Severa, who has a doctorate in chemistry and a masters in business administration. Severa is also an assistant researcher at the Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute at the UH-Mānoa.

The forum was co-sponsored by WCC and the American Chemical Society-Hawai‘i Section.

“Primary pollutants are really pollutants that are emitted from the source so those are the ones that are, for example, emitted from industrial plants into the air or from your automobile into the air whereas secondary pollutants are a result from reactions that involve primary pollutants,” Severa said.

Primary pollutants include gases like nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, as well as flue gas, which comes out of the tailpipes of industrial plants. These gases can cause health problems like serious lung complications and even death if high concentrations are inhaled.

Acid rain, which is formed by sulfuric and nitric acid, is an air pollutant that Severa said endangers marine life. When acid rain comes in contact with water, it is known to cause fish to die as it affects their respiration.

Severa said that some air pollution comes from natural sources like the vog from volcanic emissions. Mitigation for this type of pollution is limited. But we can do something about the air pollution that originates from anthropogenic activities like the use of pesticides.

“For agriculture, you could grow organic crops so you’re not using any pesticides,” Severa said. “For industrial plants, you can try to find efficient ways to clean out those bad gases before those flue gases emit into the atmosphere. For automobiles, it’s really efficient filtration of the gases or better engines.”

Severa said that “there are a lot of original materials that are under study so the future is still bright especially with students like you. You can take it to the next step …”

Other chemistry forums are scheduled at WCC throughout the year and are usually open to all students. For more information, contact Leticia Colmenares at


by Debbra Baetz, Ka ‘Ohana Editor in Chief