Archive for the ‘Air Pollution’ Category

Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is a significant cause of health problems worldwide. Urban and rural outdoor environments contain infections, allergens, irritants and chemical toxins that can reduce the quality of life and cause disease. Inhaled air pollution is directed at the the nose, throat and lungs. The exposed airway allows hazardous pollutants to enter the body and all tissues are ultimately exposed.

Fine-particulate air pollution is known to contribute to cardiovascular and lung disease, increasing the risk of heart attack and a heart-related death. Researchers at Brigham Young University and Harvard School of Public Health compared changes in air pollution from 1980 to 2000 with residents’ life expectancies, They concluded that a reduction in air pollutants in 51 U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000 added an average of five months to life expectancy. Residents in cities that made the most significant improvements in air quality, such as Pittsburgh, PA, lived almost 10 months longer. For every microgram per cubic meter decrease in fine-particulate air pollution, life expectancies rose by more than seven months.

Airborne chemicals contaminate food and water. They may be ingested and are also collected in the nose and throat and swallowed, often in mucus that attempts to protect exposed surfaces. Airborne chemicals entering the digestive system include well-known toxins such as pesticides, organophosphate, PCBs, dioxin, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. In addition occupational exposures to airborne pathogens can be intense and can cause cancer.

While ambient air pollution is a major concern, indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air. Building materials and furnishings are a source of volatile chemicals. A decrease in indoor air quality is the result of reduced ventilation and efficient construction practices, sealing homes and office buildings from the outdoor environment

The tolerance for environmental destruction is ancient and human history is littered with civilizations that failed because humans indiscriminately exploited natural resources and spoiled their own nest. Humans adapt easily to deteriorating conditions and will persist in following daily routines even when air pollution is severe, traffic is congested, water and food supplies are at risk, and social order is unstable.

Smoking tobacco remains a personal method of producing air pollution that remains popular worldwide, despite overwhelming evidence that tobacco smoke produces a long list of disabling and fatal diseases. It is estimated that 30% of all fatal cancers could be prevented if tobacco smoking were eliminated from the list of air pollutants.

The really sad part of our current predicament is that all the right ideas for creating a healthy environment have been around for decades and have been clearly articulated in many forms by a host of intelligent people. The right ideas involve unselfish and compassionate behavior. The right ideas involve long-term planning, conservation and deep commitment to preserving the natural world. Without a healthy natural environment, there will be few or no healthy humans.

Our big environmental problems are built from many small, personal decisions – little mistakes that add up over time. If there is a solution, it will emerge from the collective value of millions of better decisions made by individuals all over the globe. The environmental action plan is to think globally and act locally – it does make sense.