Tag Archives: air pollution

Air Pollution Linked to More than Global Warming

Air pollution is not good for you or me. Our current elected officials may say otherwise, but global warming is real and we can thank air pollution for that. And now we can thank it for the diseases it can cause.

The Donora Smog in 1948 ;Photo from www.post-gazette.com
The Donora Smog in 1948; Photo from www.post-gazette.com

In 1948, a little town in Pennsylvania awoke to an unusually sooty sky. This area was notable for its daily haze coming from the nearby zinc and steel plants. This was the price to be paid for feeding your loved ones. The next day, the smog was so bad that the local high school quarterbacks couldn’t pass the ball to the receivers.  For five days, Donora, Pa. was filled with so much smog that 20 people were killed, one-third of the town was sick, and another 50 died in the coming months. After the tragedy, the federal government began clamping down on pollutants, leading to the Clean Air Act in 1970, 22 years after the events in Donora.

Air pollution can lead to heart disease. The American Heart Association in 2010 updated their stance on air pollution, finding it consistent with morbidity and mortality. It also leads to weight gain. Frank Gilliland, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of Southern California became intrigued when studies suggested that pollutants interrupt the actions of hormones, leading to weight gain. At first, Gilliland said of the claims: “I was very skeptical.” He would go on to study 3,000 children across California and found an association to the claims, although they couldn’t rule out other explanations. Gilliland explained, “Maybe the kids aren’t getting exercise because there’s a lot of traffic out.”

The newest study linked ozone concentrations in the air to diabetes.  Children who live in neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide have experienced great decline in insulin sensitivity. People with diabetes have trouble producing insulin.  Radford has an army ammunition plant that releases those same chemicals in open burns that can cause diabetes. The plant has been controversial for years now because of the open burns. Recently, however, the plant had a drone test the air quality in the open burn sites to “exchange public fears for facts.”

Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, VA; photo from www.wsls.com
Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, VA; photo from www.wsls.com

Whatever the case may be, the evidence is there. Air pollution can cause more than global warming; it could affect your life.


Air pollution takes 5.5 million lives prematurely each year

Contaminated air is responsible for taking more than 5.5 million lives prematurely each year, with more than 50 percent of those deaths occurring in China and India, as indicated by new research presented on Feb 12.

Smog in Santiago. Image from joeskitchen.com
Air pollution causes lung cancer, heart disease and other respiratory diseases. Image from joeskitchen.com

Researchers are giving notice that the premature death toll will increase throughout the next two decades unless we do more to battle the issue.

The research was carried out by scientists from Canada, the United States, India and China who collected approximates of air pollution levels in India and China and evaluated their effect on health.

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease,” said Michael Brauer, University of British Columbia professor, on Friday, ”reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population.”

The research concludes that two of the planet’s most populated countries, India and China, have the most contaminated air on the planet.

Specialists state that minuscule matter radiated into the atmosphere in those countries causes 55 percent of deaths caused by air pollution worldwide.

Dan Greenbaum, president of the non profit organization Health Effects Institute in Boston, that examines the health effects from several sources of air contamination, said that “living in areas with higher pollution can cause people to have increased heart and lung disease, and to die prematurely as a result.”

The greatest origin of air pollution is burning coal, in China, although Greenbaum said that they were beginning to try to solve the general issue. In India, meanwhile, individuals burn wood and biomass fuels, cow dung and several other sources.

Greenbaum expressed that “the levels in China are eight to 10 times higher than the healthy standards set by the World Health Organization”. Unless China embraces more rigorous air pollution standards, restricting coal burning and emissions from power plants and factories, the report approximated that over 1 million individuals would have premature deaths by 2030.

Medical specialists say air pollution causes lung cancer, heart disease, and other respiratory illnesses.

The research’s findings on air pollution were exhibited at the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

No scientists for EPA, thanks

In recent years some might find themselves in a minority as an American (specifically in a college community) supporting the federal government. A new bill was passed recently by our U.S. House of Representatives stating we should no longer use any ol’ scientist to tell the Environmental Protection Agency what is or isn’t safe. Instead, legislators feel it would be better for everyone if companies or industries referred their choice of scientists to advise the EPA on what would be the safest route regarding the environment and chemicals, etc.

This new legislation, now passed it’s first federal checkpoint, has been under consideration since 2013 and would prevent scientists from voting on advisory panels regarding the safety of any chemical on which they are working. Okay, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, right? But what it means is that research scientists would be barred from advising on any topic that might “directly or indirectly involve review and evaluation of their own work.”

china copy
“Legislators feel it would be better for everyone if companies or industries referred their choice of scientists to advise the EPA on what would be the safest route regarding the environment and chemicals, etc.”

So the only people who wouldn’t be allowed to advise the EPA on a particular chemical (if the bill becomes a law) are those who have actually studied its toxicity or effect on the environment and understand its effects.

That sounds rational, right? Those who understand an issue best not being allowed to decide whether it is or isn’t safe?

The bill is part of a package of legislation by the House GOP in order to limit the EPA’s ability to issue new regulations. Their argument centers around EPA transparency and some stipulations of the package include making more of their research public record (including documents that may conflict with patient confidentiality) and reducing the EPA’s ability to update air pollution acts. Because we wouldn’t want them to keep changing those rules every time they got more information on the environment and our effect on it! It’s so annoying to prevent air pollution and create a safer world for our children.

However, according to Cristina Marcos of The Hill, “the White House issued a veto threat on Monday [Nov. 17] against the bill, saying it would ‘negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.'”

Good looking out, White House. Maybe next time the House of Representatives will hear “a bill  designed to prevent qualified, independent scientists from advising  the EPA” and also jump to “hey, this is a really stupid idea.”