Polluted air: A global health threat of epic proportions?

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]While bandied (and sometimes heated) climate change debate seems inexorable (see: “Global warming ‘hiatus’ puts climate change scientists on the spot,” in the Sept. 22, 2013 Los Angeles Times), there is no denying air pollution or its effects.

In support of the latter position is a Sept. 23, 2013 report in U-T San Diego (formerly the San Diego Union Tribune) titled: “Clearing the air: Climate expert receives award for discoveries tied to soot as pollutant,” written by Deborah Sullivan Brennan.

In the article, Brennan wrote: “As carbon dioxide made news for its role in climate change, Veerabhadran Ramanathan made a striking discovery: Soot and other climate pollutants are 30 to 3,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and cause millions of deaths per year.

“The silver lining to that dark cloud is that the compounds last just weeks or months in the atmosphere, compared to the decades that carbon dioxide persists. And many of them can be swapped with simple, eco-friendly replacements.”

Dr. Ramanathan’s discoveries helped earn him the “2013 Champions of the Earth” award, the highest environmental acclaim offered by the United Nations, according to Brennan. “[Ramanathan] is a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla [California],” the U-T San Diego reporter added.

There was reference made in the Brennan piece regarding how the way in which food is cooked inside homes in many of the world’s developing nations can produce highly toxic fumes.

“Inefficient cooking stoves – used by half a billion families in developing countries – emit about a quarter of all black-carbon (soot) emissions and cause an estimated 3.1 million premature deaths from smoke inhalation, especially among young women and girls, according to Scripps,” Brennan wrote.

Related to this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that the effects of indoor air pollution has led to the premature deaths of about two million worldwide and added that the effects of outdoor urban air pollution contributed to approximately 1.3 million more. The numbers are unsettling.

In other news, on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 350.org’s “This is how we Draw the Line on Keystone XL,” posted by Rae Breaux, brings attention to those around the world who stand in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline; a pipeline, that, if built, would pipe Alberta, Canada tar sands oil to Gulf Coast refiners.

“350 Seattle had over a thousand people draw the line between the Puget Sound and the train tracks that could lead to exporting an inflated fossil fuel dependency. In Texas, folks drew the line against the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline right on TransCanada’s home turf. On New Orleans, a marching band drew the line against continued threats to the Gulf Coast communities. In Nebraska, landowners built a barn ON the line of the proposed northern segment of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In Detroit, the line was drawn between the residents and refineries burning tar sands,” Breaux wrote.

Image above: NASA

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