… pack of cigarettes every 24 hours whether you like it or not.” L.A. Resident
Recent estimates show more than 100 million Americans breathe polluted air in major cities across America. Air pollution increases lung cancer, asthma susceptibility and injects tiny particles coated with chemicals into human beings' bodies. Pregnant women breathe poisonous air into their fetus' delicate and developing tissue. Many other health consequences cascade from air pollution.
Every day in America (on average):
• 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.
• 30,000 people have an asthma attack.
• 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
• 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
• 11 people die from asthma.
* An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma (1 in 15 Americans), and 50 percent of asthma cases are "allergic-asthma." The prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.
* Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children.
* Asthma is more common among adult women than adult men.
* Asthma is more common among male children than female children.
* Asthma is more common among children than adults.
* Annual cost of asthma is estimated to be $18 billion.
* 400,000 Americans die of lung cancer annually.
Data source: Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA.
If you live in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Houston and other large cities, you can 'see' the air you breathe. It's brown, yellow or tan in color. It shifts in layers over the skyline. Tall smoke-stacks belch unending streams of poisons from power plants — diesel trucks spew polluting toxic smoke ribbons along the expressways — cars by the millions emit tons of particulates into the air. Millions of homes burn wood, oil and natural gas that exhausts into air over our cities. Sewer systems spew toxic air into our once clean environment. Massive bovine herds emit methane gas by the millions of metric tons.
Do you smoke tobacco products? Why? Why not? Whether you do or not, if you live in a large city, as stated in the quote at the head of this chapter, you smoke the equivalent of a pack of cancer producing cigarettes every 24 hours. Your children absorb the same toxins with every breath of their young lives. Your health stands at risk with every breath — because you breathe thousands of toxic particles every day.
In cities like Denver, Colorado, the "red-warning" flag flies scores of days during the October through April period, typically. No one can burn wood in their fireplaces on red flag days!
During the many summer "temperature-inversion days" in Denver, as you drive toward the city on I-70 out of the mountains, you can see the "brown soup" that you are about to breathe. When I come back home from a weekend in the pristine air of the Rockies, I'm sickened that I'm back to breathing that toxic air with every breath I take.
Can it get worse?
You bet! Denver expects to add two to three million more people in three decades as the rest of the country adds 100 million people by 2040. Some experts tell us those numbers are much higher. The 2008 PEW Report reported 138 million people added by 2050. That means we could reach an added 100 million by 2035 or sooner. It means greater air pollution for every city.
In the summer of 2007 in Denver, Colorado, air quality monitors registered 74 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate — the highest ever recorded for dirty air over the metro area.
As Denver's Rocky Mountain News journalist Todd Hartman reported, "Dirty air over the metro area could linger into today, prolonging a stretch of toxic pollution that has prompted warnings even for healthy people. Air monitors have recorded unprecedented levels of particulates — this is gritty air."
Colorado regulator Mike Silverstein, at the state health department said, "We are praying for winds." Winds from the west tend to sweep the pollution toward the east.
What happens when those winds blow air pollution out of our cities? It falls as acid rain on the land, in our lakes and into our rivers. It poisons the earth and water. It creates havoc with nitrogen-fixing-bacteria in our top-soil. It kills entire fish populations in lakes and rivers. It kills trees and native vegetation by changing their soil PH balance. It's insidious, deadly and growing worse. And worst of all, it often finds a route to other nations.
At this time, China places a new coal-fired electrical plant on line every two weeks. The resulting pollution falls on North America in ever increasing amounts of particulate.
What are we doing about air pollution?
As a result of expensive clean-up actions by industry, emissions have been reduced – but the awkward and unplanned growth overwhelms clean-up efforts. Lacking an overall strategic growth-plan, pollution pockets arise overnight.
In the next three decades, if we add 100 million people, that will add up to 50 to 60 million more cars, trucks, planes and trains to the mix. We will add at least 30 million homes, thousands of schools, malls, firehouses, sewage treatment plants, commercial businesses, power plants and more air pollution generating facilities. That human growth adds millions of miles of roads, cuts down millions of trees, and paves-over millions of acres of beautiful open-space lands – some of which give us the vegetables we need every day.
Our breathing-oxygen comes from the green plants we destroy both on the land and phytoplankton’s in the oceans.
How many other physical health consequences do we suffer as human beings live in air polluted cities? How about eye irritation? How about toxic heavy metals and nasty chemicals transported to our brain tissue – carried by the oxygen to the otherwise life-giving cells of our lungs. How about birth defects caused to children? How about long-term effects on plant and animal life downstream from air polluted cities?
Willy-Nilly Population Growth Continues – Unchecked.
How long until our eyes open to the surety that we create tomorrow's unfathomable consequences for future generations by our irrational population growth? Even if we mandated zero population growth in the United States today — by shutting down all immigration, our own population momentum adds 35 million people to this country in the three-generations born here by 2040. In other words, we're placing future generations into a no-win situation.
As I sit here after researching material for this book; as I offer this information for the public; as I review my world travels having already seen what's coming–I'm crying quietly out of frustration.
Our civilization stands frozen on the tracks – ironically bewildered — in the headlights of a runaway population freight train of our own making.