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Air Quality

Published on May 25th, 2019 | by Cynthia Shahan

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State of Global Air 2019 — A Special Report On Global Exposure To Air Pollution & Its Disease Burden

May 25th, 2019 by  


It’s a fine balance to stay above the depression point when one is educated about the state of our environment, the state of our union, the state of our planet, the state of politics, and the legacy we are leaving for our grandchildren. A new report on air pollution doesn’t really help with that depression, but it is important for us to cover nonetheless.

Grist, in an article titled, “The royal baby is cute and all, but hello, the planet is on fire,” reported on how the big media networks have their priorities a little out of balance. “ABC’s World News Tonight spent more than seven minutes reporting on the birth of royal baby Archie in the week after he was born — more time than the program spent covering climate change during the entire year of 2018.” I love the story, too. The interesting Prince and his lovely wife find happiness and bring a beautiful child to the planet. That child will live out the legacy of the planet’s well-being with our children and grandchildren. Hopefully these generations will have more energy to cut air pollution than the baby boomers have. I like the Grist comparison, as well.

Understanding the precursors of health, well-being, or degeneration, and how to mitigate the precursors to disease, is how we can improve quality of life. Scientists, doctors, lung associations, medical journals, and another recent report, State of Global Air 2019, have conducted tens of thousands of studies on such topics. At this point, the message is clear — we need stronger policy action.

Image via Health Effects Factsheet

James Balog explains, in a recent documentary, that we can’t see the air, but we have an incredibly intimate relationship with it. “You fill your lungs with air more than 20,000 times a day.”

Screenshot from The Human Element

Magnetite Pollution Nanoparticles In The Human Brain

Dealing with the science for a moment again, though, a 2016 press release out of Lancaster University states that, “Researchers at Lancaster University found abundant magnetite nanoparticles in the brain tissue from 37 individuals aged three to 92-years-old who lived in Mexico City and Manchester. This strongly magnetic mineral is toxic and has been implicated in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) in the human brain, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.”

Some of that air contains certain minute particles found within pollution that don’t just enter the nose and stop. Those particles, those precursors to disease, enter the lungs, the bloodstream, literally every part of the human body, including the human brain — by people breathing them in.

Another previous study linked those particles to degenerative Alzheimer’s disease, reinforcing the point.

A recent report, “Fine-scale damage estimates of particulate matter air pollution reveal opportunities for location-specific mitigation of emissions,” states, “We estimate that anthropogenic PM2.5 was responsible for 107,000 premature deaths in 2011, at a cost to society of $886 billion. Of these deaths, 57% were associated with pollution caused by energy consumption [e.g., transportation (28%) and electricity generation (14%)]; another 15% with pollution caused by agricultural activities.”

CNN quoted Dr. Brian Christman, a spokesman for the American Lung Association, as he tried to put these numbers into context:

“If two planes were going down every day — that’s about the same number of deaths in this study — this would be on the front page of every newspaper,” said Christman, who was not involved in the research. “This should be seen as a call to action.”

CNN also pointed out, “In August, the Trump administration announced plans to let states set their own coal-fired plant emission standards. By the EPA’s own risk analysis, the additional pollution will result in up to 1,400 more premature deaths a year by 2030. By the same year, the Obama administration’s Clean Air Plan, which the new rule will replace, would have avoided 3,600 premature deaths, according to the analysis.

“Christman noted that the authors of the new study mention the need to balance health issues with regulatory burdens, but he said that when politicians say this, it always feels like a ‘false equivalency.’

‘This is America. We can always find new ways to generate energy or create technology that doesn’t hurt our people,’ Christman said.”

The recent release of State of Global Air 2019 (that anyone can read) has in the form of an interactive online site as well. Browse the site here or here.

 
 





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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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