Breath In, Breath Out

Breath In, Breath Out

David Dang, Staff Writer

A recent study by the World Health Organization indicates that over 3 million people from around the world die every year as a result of air pollution.

Air pollution is the direct result of burning fossil fuels from power plants, vehicles, and manufacturing facilities. The dangerous pollutants they emit include ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. Continued exposure to these chemical compounds cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer.

Jos Lelieveld, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and leading author behind the study, states, “The total number of deaths due to HIV and malaria is 2.8 million per year… That’s half a million less than the number of people who die from air pollution globally.”
This number is predicted to grow larger as our need for fossil fuels continues to grow. The World Health Organization predicted that, “…6.6 million premature deaths globally” by 2050. Lelieveld commented, “If this is to be avoided, intensive control measures will be needed.”

The worst examples of air pollution can be seen in eastern Asia, particularly in the Chinese capital of Beijing. Smog from industrial complexes in neighboring provinces, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia, have covered the entire city. The citizens living in Beijing describe it only as an “airpocalypse”.
On January 15, 2015, an “Air Quality Index” of Beijing stated that the air quality was “beyond index,” literally meaning that the air pollution was so hazardous, it was “off the charts”.

Richard Muller, scientific director of Berkeley Earth, states, “When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes…It’s as if every man, woman, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour”.

Similar events are occurring worldwide-Lucknow, India; Khorramabad, Iran; and California. In local areas, such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Riverside, the American Lung Association, states, “people in the U.S. still breathe air dirty enough to cause health problems”.

Since the 1940’s, Los Angeles has been infamous for air pollution. For instance, on January 6, 1948, Char Miller, W. M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College, stated, “[the air was so polluted] parents kept their kids out of school; athletes trained indoors; citrus growers and sugar-beet producers watched in dismay as their crops withered; the elderly and young crowded into doctors’ offices and hospital ERs with throbbing heads and shortness of breath.”

Despite Los Angeles’ efforts in improving air quality, the American Lung Association states,“[Los Angeles and its surrounding area] still has the nation’s highest levels of ozone and fine particle pollution”.

To keep our air clean and clear, it’s important for members of our community to take action. Solutions for air pollution include the use of public transportation, the conservation of energy, the concept of “reuse, reduce, and recycle”, and the emphasis on renewable energy. Together, we can make change.