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Pollution and Kids Health
Pollution isn't just ugly to look at, it's damaging to our health! The lungs of growing children, and the fragile state of the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of particles in the air. The health consequences of pollution in the air manifest itself in ways such as:
- eye, nose, and throat irritations
- particle matter in the air may affect insulin resistance!
- long term damage to brain, lungs, liver, kidney's.
- chronic respiratory disease
- heart disease and heart attacks (Source)
- and lung cancer. (Source)
(Picture via Kennecott)
Drastic measures, billions of dollars, and lot's of government regulations has actually helped to improve air quality over the last three decades. The number of particles in the air have dropped between 1980 and 2000! But it still needs improving.
In Utah particularly in the winter, we have it pretty bad. When cold days are mixed with nasty pollution, our kids aren't even able to play outside for recess. Outdoor exercise is discouraged (unless you can get in the mountains above the muck). But we aren't alone! Check out the 11 worst cities for short term particle solution:
- Bakersfield-Delano, CA
- Fresno-Madera, CA
- Hanford-Corcoran, CA
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
- Modesto, CA
- Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
- Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT
- Logan, UT-ID
- Fairbanks, AK
- Merced, CA
- Provo-Orem, UT
Why is it so bad and what can we do about it? First of all, harmful particles are formed by three sources: Mobile (our cars etc.), point sources (like factories and plants), and area sources (such as homes and small businesses). It's easy to point the finger at big industry, because they do have a big impact and they are an easy target. This is why industries spend billions of dollars to be compliant with government regulations, and government is quick to pass standards they must meet.
While it's good and I encourage you to lobby to your local and federal government to continue to put the pressure on big industries, but more than 80% of the problem is the unregulated individuals like ourselves! We have to regulate ourselves if we want to make a change!
But what can we do?
- STOP IDLING!! (These one thing really gets me fired up! Your car does not need to be on when you are waiting to pick up your kids!)
- Take public transportation
- Combine errands to reduce trips
- Ride bikes
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products in your home.
- Limit uses of wood burning stoves
- Use your heater less.
- Shovel your driveway instead of using snow blowers.
- Use electric, rather than gas lawn equipment.
- Put your lights on a timer (source)
- Lower your water heater to 120 degrees
- Wash clothes in warm or cold (instead of hot)
- Move to a tropical island with no electricity (Who's coming with me??)
While it might seem like an overwhelming task, I really believe it's getting better. Technological advancements in energy is getting cleaner and people are getting smarter. I had the opportunity to have this conversation with Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake about the things they are doing to stay compliant with clean air standards. Although they may have lots of opposition, I was impressed with their understanding of the problem, and their efforts to improve. They are a big employer in Utah, and the minerals and metals they mine are a huge part of our modern society. Some of the changes they made include:
- They spent 10 Million dollars on a new 6.2 megawatt combine heat system that reduced their emissions by 90%
- They capture 99.9% of sulfur emissions at their smelter, making it the cleanest in the world.
- Purchased more efficient haul trucks.
- Instituted an idling reduction program to decrease emissions.
So, while Kennecott is doing their part, so can we!
*I was compensated by Kennecott for this post with the intent that we all look at ways to improve air quality! I agree! It needs to be on the top of minds of everyone!