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BOULDER - Gardens at CU-Boulder's Museum of Natural History and the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Laboratory aim to help people visualize air pollution.

Scientists are growing plants that show black and brown spots on the leaves when exposed to high ozone levels. The pictures in the photo gallery show the progression of a snap bean leaf being exposed to air pollution. As exposure increases, so do the amount of black and brown spots.

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Kateryna Lapina, a post-doctoral researcher at CU-Boulder and one of the founders of the garden explains the importance of this project.

"The main idea was to help people to understand that even if pollution is invisible, like ozone, it is still in the air. It can cause damage for living systems like plants and humans," she said.

Lapina notes there are a number of factors that contribute to high ozone levels, such as intense sunlight and heat during the summer months and car emissions.

Ozone damage continues to plague Colorado in both our cities and national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park recently reported ozone damage and the Denver-Boulder area recently recorded ozone levels higher than the EPA standards.

The researchers working on the garden hope the visual representation of pollution on the plants shed light on this issue and inspire people to make small changes in their life to help reduce ozone levels.

The Ozone Gardens are open and free to the public.

More information can be found at http://cumuseum.colorado.edu/ozone-gardens and http://scied.ucar.edu/visit.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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