Our precious air: Why must it be mistreated so?

I know people who either suffer of have suffered at one time or another, unfortunately, from air pollution’s effects. One has asthma; the other twice had sinus infections, this person’s diagnosing physician expressing the cause, at least in the first instance, anyway, was more than likely on account of polluted air. I never spoke with the examining doctor. I only know what the information the person I know relayed to me. I just took their word for it. It seemed probable considering both sinus infections occurred during times when the air was heavy with pollution.

Los Angeles basin smog
Los Angeles basin smog

As for the asthma sufferer, well, this person has lived in two different locales having vastly different air quality conditions. According to what I was told, in the location with poor air quality (the San Joaquin Valley), the asthmatic, in this case had to rely on a number of symptom relievers which included an inhaler plus a number of other prescribed medications to help make symptoms less severe. When residing in the area with markedly cleaner air (this time in the central coast region), on the other hand, this particular individual said that they had few if any symptoms at all related to asthma and, in fact, for this person when flare-ups did occur, it was during the time of the year when there was a considerable amount of pollen in the air. The lesson here is that regarding air quality, our bodies and our senses, at least the sense of sight – and perhaps smell – can tell us much, that is, if we just pay attention.

When I regularly traveled between California’s San Joaquin Valley and either the San Francisco Bay Area (Fremont) or the South Coast Air Basin (Long Beach) for a time, I witnessed with my own two eyes on many an occasion changes in the quality of the air in going from one area to another. I could see the pollution in both leaving the Valley via the rear- and side-view car mirrors and in returning straight out the car’s front window. Sad, so sad indeed.

What is more, I distinctly recall people telling me that in traveling by car southbound on Interstate 5 and in their descents of the south side of the Grapevine (between the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles basin) and on their approaches into southern California, they said they felt a burning sensation in their eyes. To me, as strange as this sounds being that these folks were from the Valley where pollution is also highly problematic and, although I have never had this experience myself, I must remember that not everyone exposed to polluted air is affected by such in identical ways.

That said, the biggest and perhaps best lesson we can, if not should, take away from this is that the effect polluted air can have on our bodies, whether it be a burning sensation in the eyes, an uncomfortable feeling in the chest when breathing polluted air in or experiencing debilitating asthma effects and even regarding what our eyes detect when it comes to pollution’s presence – think smog (seeing, after all, is believing), is that our senses and symptoms don’t lie and we should be paying attention. But, more so than that, we should be making every attempt at mitigating pollution at the source or, at least, trying to significantly lessen its impact.

As I’ve said in the past, it’s not like we: 1) don’t know it’s there; and 2) don’t understand how the stuff got there or what its effect is on human health. We do, on all three counts.

Similar to viewing pollution directly out of the car’s front window or indirectly in the rear- and side-view mirrors, that more can be done about pollution in our air, but isn’t, well, that too is so sad. So sad indeed.

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

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