Air awareness: ‘We the people’ and pollution

SMOG_-_NARA_-_542581.tif[1]On the morning of Day-2 (Tues., Apr. 29th) of Air Quality Awareness Week 2014, I made my way onto the patio outside my home after having just returned from a moderately brisk neighborhood walk. Temps in the 70s and air reasonably good.

Subsequent to sitting in one of the several patio chairs, I gazed skyward. Overhead, in my view were not one, but two southeast-to-northwest-traveling jet-planes, the duo passing within minutes of each other, the pair following almost identical flight paths, their separate sets of contrails eventually becoming one.

Almost immediately, my attention turned to the air. Thinking even more intently, I now contemplate the changes the air has gone through and how lives have been affected or altered. More locally, less globally, I consider how my life has been shaped by the presence of dirty air.

Dirty air being old as dirt itself, natural forces and human factors are contributors to – and the culprits of – the air that is damaged. So, air, even at the time of my birth 61 years ago, was impure. In time, my concern over such grew, closer and closer attention was paid, I cared more and my indifference waned. So, what happened?

As it has to do with this, I absolutely believe there was this one instance when “it hit me!” when it suddenly dawned on me, waking me up, so to speak; a “Houston! We have a problem” moment, if you like.

Summertime scourge

Smog, resulting from a mixing of ozone and various other unpalatable chemicals and compounds in the presence of sunlight and heat is the scourge of summer.

The first time I encountered noticeable smog where I actually became aware of its presence was in 1972 when visiting Anaheim and Fullerton in Southern California. Noticing its presence couldn’t be helped.

Then roughly five years later in 1977 a repeat occurrence, only this time the setting was approximately 250 miles to the north in Fresno, in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley. It was the tail end of summer and downtown buildings were obscured by a cloak of grayish-brown haze.

Then another encounter, followed by another and then another after that. More and more I paid notice, my becoming more and more aware.

And the problem seems no less evident today compared to that which I noticed for the very first time decades ago as the numbers of San Joaquin Valley smoggy days grow.

An unsettling ‘chill’ in the air

On the other hand and in regard to the season opposite – winter – wood-smoke emanating from residential fireplace chimneys, outdoor fire pits, chimineas and the like, filling the air, wafting in it that unmistakable wood-smoke smell, its odoriferous odor often strong, at times persisting, pervasive, smoke highly unpleasing to the eye, lungs, nose and throat.

Of course, the main air irritant at this particular time of year is soot, which often goes by another name: particulate matter pollution. (I plan to have more about this going into far greater detail in an upcoming Air Quality Matters post). And its sources are several: the transport, residential/commercial/construction and industrial sectors among others.

What’s not to understand?!

I have come to the realization – call it an epiphany if you like – that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that conditions in the roughly 24,000 square-mile big Central Valley have reached the breaking point, so to speak, where there are more bad-air days than good, where healthcare costs related to polluted air’s effects stagger, mushrooming to an estimated annual $6 billion, and what should prompt serious concern and correction as in something needs to be done in terms of mitigating the damaging, deleterious and deplorable air – and not just here but elsewhere too.

As I have enunciated before, this is not a pretty picture. Oh, and one more point here that seems particularly fitting:

What part of the big-picture perspective are some interests just not getting? Can we do better? Absolutely!

All of which brings this discussion to this place and time, hence coming full circle.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

– Alan Kandel

15 thoughts on “Air awareness: ‘We the people’ and pollution”

  1. Air pollution does not just alter the lives of people. It also affects plant- and wildlife. Soot and other pollutant particles can form a layer over the leaves of plants, prohibiting photosynthesis from occurring. Increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the air and in turn contributing to global warming. This is hazardous for animals, who can not always efficiently adapt to climate changes. They are already exposed to the same health challenges as we are for example cancer causing air pollutants, poisonous mists and lung-damaging agents.

  2. Air pollution does not only destroy the environment,it plays a huge role in affecting human health.Many respiratory diseases are due to air pollution,the question is; what are we doing to reduce air pollution?Each year deforestation levels are increasing and the very same trees people are chopping down are the ones that could be of great use in reducing the impact of air pollution.I personally think that stricter laws regarding air pollution should be enforced then can we overcome the issue of air pollution.

  3. Pollution affects all living creatures – plants, animals and humans – and it is crucial that we find ways to reduce pollution and the effects of it. There is to our knowledge only one planet which can sustain life and that is Earth. If our atmosphere becomes too toxic for us to survive, how can we continue with life? Where will we find another refuge with breathable air? This planet is the only one we have. We must protect it. It is our duty and responsibility. After all, if we don’t put a stop to pollution, who will?

  4. Pollution has been a huge problem around the world. The worse is air pollution especially in winter and people are the main root of causing air pollution, in return the effects of air pollution affect the people in the way of causing health problems. Some of the effects are respiratory problems, irritation of eyes, lung cancer and brain damage from suffering from severe headache. Air pollution does not affect humans only but also other living organisms cannot survive in the air that is toxic. The main solution for reducing air pollution is by following the laws of greenbelt.

  5. Pollution has been a huge problem around the world. The worse is air pollution especially in winter and people are the main root of causing air pollution, in return the effects of air pollution affect the people in the way of causing health problems. Some of the effects are respiratory problems, irritation of eyes, lung cancer and brain damage from suffering from severe headache. Air pollution does not affect humans only but also other living organisms cannot survive in the air that is toxic. The main solution for reducing air pollution is by following the laws of greenbelt of not removing trees as they absorb carbon dioxide that is released by vehicle and industries. Planting can reduce air pollution but not only that will also make our atmosphere to have clean air.

  6. Air pollution as we know is the mixture of solid particles and gases in the air.Air pollution is a result of human activities as well as natural and agricultural activities. Pollution in the air destroys the earth as well as human health. Lung diseases , bronchitis , asthma are example of sicknesses caused by air pollution. The only solution to this great problem is for the world to come together and “GO GREEN”, Stop using using chemicals that causes air pollution because the pollution can lead to a decrease in human life.

  7. Pollution is the introduction of harmful substances in the natural environment, although there are different types of pollution air pollution seems to be the one having a lot of adverse effects on humans and the ecosystem. Air pollution is mainly caused by human activities and the major primary pollutants produced by human activities include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide , nitrogen dioxide ,etc. The CFCs are harmful to the ozone layer these are the gases released from the air conditioners and refrigerators and they rise to the stratosphere and combine with other gases and cause damage to the ozone layer (ozone depletion) . We all know that the damage done to the ozone layer causes the harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the surface of the earth which leads to skin cancer, eye diseases and causes damage to plants.

  8. Air pollution, and pollution in general has proven to be a mojor problem in the maintenance of the earth. I suspect that the problem is not ignorance, as the article states one can ‘feel’ the difference between polluted and clean air, but the rather the problem seems to lie in the consumatory nature of humans, and how we seem to see ourselves as invincible, at least to the effects of air pollution. More people than sufficientky needed to make a tangible change of the state of our atmosphere are aware of air pollution, but it seems not enough people are willing to change their lifestyles to reduce air pollution. Most air pollution comes from industrial areas in the business of energy ‘production’, and from the by oroducts of many forms of energy ‘consumption’, for example petroleum in cars. Nevertheless, seeing as it is unlikely to persuade tha majority of the population to change their lifestyles, another solution lies in the widespread use of alternative energy sources, which must be extensively proven to be equally or more convenient to consumers than fossil fuels, as that is the most likely reason for people to be motivated enough to switch. The air of overconfidence in our ability as humans is frankly, frightening. We tend to value our needs as second to none and pay no serious attention to the damage done to our environment, focusing only on short term advantages. Are we that short sighted? Are we so arrogant to believe that we can live on and off the Earth without replenishing its natural resources forever? If so, then evolution must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

  9. Human species are the most adaptive creatures to have ever lived in this world. They have conquered the impossible but air pollution has proved contrary. It has contaminated the “once” pure source of life and turned it to a mere death-trap to lung related illnesses suffers.
    Now this begs the question: if humans cannot cope with it,will other creatures and other life forms prevail the battle?
    The answer is No!
    To substantiate: there are various types of air pollution and their effects. The one caused mainly by human activities through their carbon-sulphur emissions tops the hierarchy . Diseases like lung diseases , bronchitis , asthma are example of sicknesses caused by air pollution. To a certain degree,there has been some loss of life.
    Now,serious measures should taken to mitigate the negative impact brought by air pollution.

  10. Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or
    outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or
    biological agent that modifies the natural
    characteristics of the atmosphere. Mainly you find
    that humans are the ones who are playing a major role
    in causing air pollution.Household
    combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial
    facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution.
    The only way to reduce air pollution is by following the laws of
    greenbelt and not remove trees as they absorb carbon dioxide.

  11. Reading this, I realize that we human beings often do things that will in the end not only hurt us, but also the environment and the world we leave in, everything in it. in the end it all comes back to harming us the most because we need the environment and our world to be a clean and safe place to be in. As a result of air pollution, diseases are prevailing everyday and the life span is being decreased. studies show that it decreases life expectancy by up to 5.5 years . It is then very important that we find effective ways to stop this and protect ourselves from ourselves because we are our own worst enemies.

  12. I find this posting to be very true and I am almost certain that there are a lot of people who feel the same way but not enough. A lot of people are aware of air pollution but are they doing anything? No.
    I believe that people should be made aware of the shocking consequences that air pollution will have on us all in the future, maybe even near future. Everyone hears about air pollution but I personally think that they should be shown what will happen, for people usually seeing is believing (and the start of them actually caring and trying to contribute or help). Also I would say that it is hard for lower class people to help with prices as steep as they now are and pockets as empty. People with cars with exhausts that are killing our clean air and who do not have the funds to fix it should be helped by their state and solar panels should be made cheaper so the middle and lower classes can also contribute in that way. If helping the environment and reducing pollution is expensive, only the rich will be able to and they are not enough to make the change this planet needs.

  13. Air pollution affect all living things, there are different kinds of pollution, some are visible and others are invisible and most of them are caused by humans. Air pollution is a big problem in the world, the dangerous gases that released to the atmosphere have a damaging effect on living things. Carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas are the main pollutant. Living organisms inhale carbon dioxide when they breathe which will result to health problems. Cars, planes and other human activities like burning of fossil fuels are the main contribution of air pollution. To reduce pollution a variety of measures need to be taken. But a question is can we overcome air pollution issues?

    • “But a question is can we overcome air pollution issues?”

      The answer is: Yes. Though, there are more questions, such as: Will we? Another being: How can this be accomplished? While still another is: What part will manufacturers of products that, when used, pollute, they themselves play in terms of manufacturing more efficient, less polluting product to help lessen negative impact on the air and environment?

      Recognizing air is polluted and the threat to health that polluted air poses, is the first step. Stepping up the work, both proactively and reactively speaking, from all interests to once and for all time remove from the air all of its toxicity, this is when victory in this longstanding fight can be declared.

  14. Air Pollution from all forms of biomass burning, industrial pollution, including indoor wood burning devices, and outdoor open air burning (know as Residential and Recreational wood burning, have a negative impact on the air we all share.

    Woodsmoke pollution when inhaled goes deeply into our lungs causing irreparable damage to our cells. Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) when inhaled can also cross over into the bloodstream causing cancer.

    “Woodsmoke components are detected in our bloodstream and exhaled breath within 60 seconds of inhaling it.”

    “Woodsmoke particles were found to be more powerful than other kinds of air pollution causing potentially cancerous changes to DNA.” Source: Steffen Loft

    The Canadian Medical Association states: Air pollution accounted for 21,000 deaths in Canada in 2008, with associated costs of 8 billion dollars. By 2031, the estimate is more than 38,000 deaths with an associated annual cost of over 13 billion dollars.
    Additionally, between 2008 and 2031, hospital admissions from exposure to air pollution are estimated to rise over 62% to 18,000 annually.

    Woodsmoke contains many of the same cancer causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

    See: Burning Issues

    Speak up and take pro-active in your community to ban/end/prohibit all forms of biomass burning. Say no to Woodsmoke polluted community air!

    Everyone deserves the right to breathe healthy air–air that is Woodsmoke-free.
    Caring for the air begins in our own community. This is where we begin to help others understand the need to care for our air. In time, hopefully, people will become informed about the dangers of air pollution and realize that we are all connected on this planet.

    We have the ability to heal. We have the ability to help. We have the ability to hope and know that with effort, we can make a better healthier world! We must never give up!

    Our air is precious. Protect It! Don’t pollute it with Woodsmoke.

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