Monday, April 2, 2007

You ARE What You Breathe!!

Our wealthy economy comes with a price – air pollution. Everyone is aware of the health hazards air pollution poses, but I still think it is important to lay it out.

The health problems caused by air pollution can vary from relatively minor to seriously debilitating. Some hazards carry the risk of death with them! The following scale put out by the EPA shows these risks in the image above. Scary!

We know these problems exist, but my point is this: our industrialized nation, while making us wealthier, is making us sick. I by not means advocate shutting down factories and destroying millions of jobs in the process. But does a wealthy nation and a healthy nation have to be mutually exclusive of each other? Is polluted air a necessary byproduct of mass production and transit?

Smog is something we are all familiar with. When smoke from factories and cars combine with fog, that is what you get – an ugly, and very dangerous brown haze that just settles over the city! This is especially bad in cities that are nestled in valleys or near a river. Kids can’t play outside and it is common for an elderly person or two to die on days when smog is really bad. Back in 1952 in London, smog was really bad and within a few days, 4,000 people died from inhaling the pollution!

There are plenty of things we can, and SHOULD do to prevent dangerous air pollution, especially smog. I come from an area where smog is a huge problem in the summer, so city residents are advised to do the following on days when the smog advisory is high: mow grass after sundown, gas up at night (fumes escape during pumping), don’t use aerosol hairspray, try to carpool, and avoid using oil-based paints and other cleaners that can contribute to smog.

But what about other pollution that is expelled into the air regardless of what we do? What about the factories? There actually are things they can do! For example:
1. Using a low pollution, invisible flare burner, which removes hydrocarbons from the atmosphere. For info. on how this works, visit I am not scientifically minded, so I really don’t understand how it works, but it works!
2. Changing from coal/oil burning to natural gas combustion machinery. The combustion of CO2 that comes from running on natural gas can actually be used as a source of heat, that can then be used to power the plant! (check out the Domino Sugar plant in the Everglades – it runs on the heat produced from burning the left-over sugar cane that isn’t used! They save money, energy, AND pollution!)

While these measures are expensive, potentially costing about $800,000,000, it may help to look at from this view: think of how much money is spent every year on treating people who suffer from the adverse effects of air pollution. The costs of complying with clean air initiatives will more than likely offset the costs of caring for sick people (especially terminally ill cancer patients), and more so, the loss of human lives!

So, while this blog may sound like an environmental one, it really is about human health, which, in my opinion, is inevitably tied to the environment’s health. You are what you eat, and you are what you breathe! Let’s start acting like we are what we breathe, and maybe our wealthy nation can also be a healthy one!


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