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Some Costs of Polluted Environments

Each of us has our own thoughts about what we individually, non-profit and for-profit companies, our community, our state, our nation, and the world should do to help address worldwide problems such as air pollution, hunger, disease, and homelessness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released a report on the extent to which air pollution is harming children under age five (WHO, 3/6/2017). Quoting from the report:

"A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children," says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

It is important to understand that pollution is a global, national, regional, and local problem. Thus, you may have a strong opinion on this topic and you may want to help address the problem. Quoting again from WHO (3/6/2017):

More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments. Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children [worldwide] under 5 years, say two new WHO reports.

The first report, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment [WHO, 2017], reveals that a large portion of the most common causes of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years – diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia – are preventable by interventions known to reduce environmental risks, such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.

Notice the mention of dirty air in the quote from Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. There is substantial literature on this topic. Quoting from (NRDC, n.d.):

[Smog and soot are] two are the most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog, or “ground-level ozone,” … occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot, or “particulate matter,” is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens, in the form of gas or solids, that are carried in the air.

The EPA’s “Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act” states, “In many parts of the United States, pollution has reduced the distance and clarity of what we see by 70 percent.” The sources of smog and soot are similar. “Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines—anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gas, or natural gas,” Walke says. The tiniest airborne particles in soot—whether they’re in the form of gas or solids—are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks, and even hasten death.

Levels of air pollution vary widely among different cities throughout the world. Beijing, China, is notorious for its super smog. In the United States, quoting from a CBS News report (Roppolo, 4/30/2014):

Almost half of the U.S. population lives in areas where air pollution levels are often dangerously high for them to breathe, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association.

Note, however, that the United States has made progress in reducing air pollution. Quoting from the website of the American Lung Association (2015):

The State of the Air 2015 shows that progress in improving the nation’s air quality was mixed. Many cities experienced strong improvement and many others suffered worse episodes of unhealthy air. While most of the nation has much cleaner air quality than even a decade ago, a few cities even reported their worst episodes since the report began. Nearly 138.5 million people—almost 44 percent of the nation—live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. Fortunately, that represents fewer people exposed than in our previous report.

What You Can Do

Increase your understanding about what you, personally, are doing that contributes to air pollution. You might find it helpful to make use of a Carbon Footprint Calculator, such as the one provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, n.d.). Make and implement a personal decision to decrease the size of your Carbon Footprint. Then, share your insights and progress with others.

Take a similar, proactive approach on other major local and world problems such as hunger and homelessness. There is plenty that each of us can be doing.

References and Resources

American Lung Association (2015). State of the air: 2015. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

EPA (n.d.). Carbon footprint calculator. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

Moursund, D. (7/1/2016). Neuroscience, global education, and world cooperation on problem solving. IAE Blog. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

Moursund, D. (2/1/2016). Improving worldwide quality of life. IAE Blog. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

NRDC (n.d.) Air pollution: Everything you need to know. Natural Resources Defense Council. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

Roppolo, M. (4/30/2014). Air pollution dangerously high for almost half of U.S., report finds. CBS News. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

WHO (2017). Atlas on children’s health and the environment. World Health Organization. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

WHO (3/6/2017). The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO. World Health Organization. Retrieved 3/12/2017 from

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David Moursund on Saturday, 08 April 2017 00:43
Comment from Dave Moursund

I have recently been reading about the terrible air pollution in China. The US contributes to this because people in the S buy a lot of goods manufactured in China. I had not previously thought about this type of cause and effect.

I have recently been reading about the terrible air pollution in China. The US contributes to this because people in the S buy a lot of goods manufactured in China. I had not previously thought about this type of cause and effect.
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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

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