Scratch Interactive Game Project – Air-ducate: The Air Pollutant Family

Introduction & Instructions

The clock is ticking. With every passing minute and second, more air pollution is being created from fossil fuels and taking lives around the world, yet not many are aware of it. According to a study, air pollution has killed 10 million people. To treat air pollution as a status quo would be to unjustly validate all these deaths throughout the years. Thankfully, we still have hope because we know you, who are reading this right now and about to play this 5-minute interactive game, are taking the first step in tackling air pollution by educating yourself on the issue of air pollution. The seemingly invisible matter of air pollution is given a voice in this interactive game through vivid graphics and animations and stark statistics.

By clicking the green flag, you will first be presented a 1-minute broad overview of the urgency of air pollution, then taken on a 4-minute journey to meet the mischievous Air Pollutant Family — fine suspended particle (PM2.5), respirable fine particle (PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) —, where you will briefly learn about their health impacts and sometimes be quizzed with some fun short questions. You also do not have to follow the order of the air pollutants designed for this game – by clicking on the “Main Menu” button on the top right-hand corner, you can skip around and choose the different pollutants you would like to be introduced to at any time!

Click on the following image to access the game!

Notes and Credits

I started this Scratch project as part of my internship with the Hong Kong Clean Air Network (CAN), where I was tasked with curating resources for this education website for air pollution by the domain name Thank you to my colleagues at CAN for the original conceptual and graphic design on the Air Pollutant Family, which I developed upon in this project.

Last but not least, thanks to Beethoven for composing his classic infamous Symphony No.5, which boils with a sense of urgency and fervor that matches our concern for the pressing issue of air pollution too well to be not selected for the game’s background music.


One-minute Overview of Air Pollution

The air on Earth was originally fresh and clean. However, following the development of human activities and urbanization, pollutants insidiously emerged in the air. They have invisibly pervaded and contaminated the air, disrupting our health and climate, and amplifying inequities in our society. Air pollution is an especially severe health issue in Hong Kong. It affects each and every single one of us, yet not a lot of people are fully aware of its health implications. (On screen, Hong Kong news headlines about the severity of air pollution, which are cited in the bibliography of this script, are presented in a clockwise manner, resembling that of the ticking clock.) If you would like to learn more about this pressing issue, come with me on a journey to meet the key members of the Air Pollutant Family — including the PM brothers, the dioxide sisters, and Mr. Ozone — and learn about the mischief they make on the human body. If you are ready, click on the bubble with the PM brothers to launch our journey!

The PM Brothers — PM2.5 (Fine Suspended Particle) and PM10 (Respirable Fine Particle)

They are the PM Brothers, where PM stands for Particulate Matter. This is Little Bro PM2.5, also called a fine suspended particle. And this is Bigger Bro PM10, also known as a respirable fine particle.

Pop Question! What do you think the numbers in their names refer to? Is it their age, diameter, or extent of harmfulness?

You’re right!/ Oops!
The numbers in their names actually refer to the diameter of the particle in micrometers.

These two brothers, PM10 and PM2.5, are universally considered to be the most dangerous air pollutants, with the World Health Organization categorizing them as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means it’s proven to cause cancer in humans! They love bringing toxic substances into the human body, causing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and even birth defects in childre! Little bro PM2.5 is even more cunning. With its small size, it can easily infiltrate the bloodstream and penetrate deep into the lungs. In Hong Kong, our PM2.5 level is three times above the World Health Organization’s recommended guidelines.

The Dioxide Sisters — SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide) and NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide)

Have you ever felt a tingling in your nose or throat when you walked on the streets? Well, it’s very likely that you’re attacked by the Dioxide Sisters, NO2 and SO2, standing for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. They each have a nickname, Nono and Soso. One of their common hobbies they share…

Shhh!! They’re coming. Let’s spy on them and see what malicious acts they’re plotting to do. (See NO2 and SO2 hovering around the eyes, nose, throat, trachea.)

Looks like they’re trying to tickle some of our human body parts! Can you name the four body parts they’re trying to tickle? Type them in the text box below!

Bingo! / You’re very close!
Both of the Dioxide Sisters, NO2 and SO2, love tickling and irritating our eyes, nose, throat, and trachea. Moreover, they are collaborative partners. After NO2 causes allergic rhinitis, asthma, chronic respiratory diseases, and a decrease in lung function, SO2 targets the vulnerable lungs to further narrow their airways through bronchoconstriction, which further exacerbates respiratory diseases. This is why 1 out of 4 people in Hong Kong suffer from allergic rhinitis, or nasal allergies. If you find yourself often sneezing and blowing your nose, you probably have already become the victim of the Dioxide Sisters.

Mr. Ozone — O3 (Ozone)

What’s even scarier is that nitrogen oxides, or NOx, a category of air pollutants that includes nitric oxides and nitrogen dioxides, can photochemically react with volatile organic compounds known as VOC, to give birth to another air pollutant family member — Mr. Ozone!!! Mr. Ozone is pale blue in color. In the atmosphere, he is traced at an altitude of 20 to 30 miles above the ground. The ozone layer protects us by blocking ultraviolet rays from the sun and thus reducing damage to our skin. Seems like a good guy, right? But on the surface of the Earth, he is our antagonist… If a person inhales Mr. Ozone, he will irritate the eyes, nose and throat, just like the Dioxide Sisters! He can cause headaches, lung inflammation, and difficulty breathing in normal healthy people. If a person with asthma is exposed to high-concentration ozone for a long time, Mr. Ozone can provoke asthmatic attacks!

Let me test your memory retention. Do you still remember how Mr. Ozone is created? Drag the correct components into this hoop!
Options: VOC, NOx, SO2, CO2, Sunlight
Correct answers: Sunlight, VOC, and NOx

Concluding Remarks

Now that you’ve learned about the air pollutant family and their dire health consequences, you might have gotten a sense of how dangerous air pollution is. However, the impacts of air pollution extend beyond the personal level of our human body. It also affects the ecosystem and climate, and brings about environmental injustice. Thank you for taking the first step of educating yourself in your journey of tackling this humanitarian crisis. You are always welcome to come back and revisit information about the air pollutants PM2.5, PM10, NO2, SO2, and Ozone. If you would like to learn about the deeper causes and the broader impacts of air pollution, or brainstorm ideas on how you can play a part in tackling it, feel free to visit May you strive for the fresh air that you and every other human being have the right to breathe.