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What if we lived in a world where we had to walk around with oxygen because the air was so bad, breathing it could be deadly to humans? Believe it or not we are heading down that path. Air pollution is slowly affecting our daily lives without people paying any attention. Some people think that it does not exist, often saying that it’s a scam from a certain group of individual or even the government to get their hard earn money. Air pollution is real, and it is something that we should all be worrying about. Because we have neglected the issue for so long our we are beginning to feel the effects of this phenomenon. From increasing weather, bad air quality, to morality rates increasing because of car emissions, are something we need to address.
Cracking down on exactly what is air pollution and how does it affect us, is something everyone wants to uncover. If not, maybe not in our lifetime but in our future generations they will need to filter the air because it’s not breathable, or worse we could destroy the Earth’s ecosystem if we are not careful. For people in California, air pollution is starting to become a part of daily life, because all the factors that play into California that are contributing to air pollution. California is now pushing more and more legislation to stop air pollution, but the real question remains for California just how bad has air pollution damaged California, people, and the ecosystem.
How it works
To understand this topic, we must first find a clear and definitive definition for what is air pollution. The Environmental Pollution Centers defines air pollution as the presence of toxic chemicals or compounds in the air, at levels that pose a health risk (What is air pollution). The environmental Pollution center also went on to list things that cause air pollution, the most common being human activities. Human beings have been the leading source in all the pollution on the planet. Things like transportation, construction, industrial work, agriculture, smelting, and mining or all human activities listed by the pollution center that effect the amount of air pollution a nation might have. It is also important to know that not all air pollutants can be smelled.
This is important because sometimes we tend to focus on just the pollutants that we can smell, not focusing on the ones we cannot smell are just has harmful. Yes, there are certain pollutants that our ozone layer needs to protect us from harmful radiation from the sun, however too much can be damaging the protective layer and be very harmful to us. Next, we need to go in depth into the actual effects air pollution might have. Mention above, were some of the effects air pollution has on our ozone layer. The damaging of the ozone layer causes another important topic, global warming. Global warming is a separate, controversial topic, however briefly will it be discussed as it does pertain to air pollution. Janet Currie and Olivier Deschenes in an article for Futurechildren.org, wrote about how air pollution and climate change will affect our future children.
They found that the Earth in 2015 had an average global temperature of 1.6 more than normal. Currie and Deschenes estimate that if the pattern continues or increase by 2050 the global temperature will increase around 36. To 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (Currie). This is all cause by the air pollution weakening the ozone layer. With the thinning of the ozone layer, more of the Sun’s rays get through cause warmer climates than normal. The rise of air pollution begins to affect the quality of air that humans are breathing in. Now, air pollution does not solely effect humans, it is also affecting the aquatic ecosystem as well as the terrestrial ecosystem. Gary M. Lovett and a group of his collogues decided to investigate the effects air pollutants were having. Their research concluded 4 major air pollutants Sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, and ozone. In their research they focused on the effect of the 4 air pollutants listed above, and how they affect the terrestrial ecosystem and the aquatic ecosystem.
Lovett and his group concluded that the effect that Sulfur and Nitrogen have on the terrestrial ecosystem depends on the how well the two elements can move within the soil and canopy. They went on to explain how high concentrations of these two elements can positively charge ions in the soils, which can form aluminum. High concentrations of aluminum in soil can toxify roots, which can go into water stream that can affect the animal’s. The aquatic ecosystem is a little different when it comes to the 4 pollutant’s. Mercury is one of the most harmful to the ecosystem, because too much in aquatic food can alter the behavior and reproduction of organisms at high tropic levels (Lovett). During the time they did the research, they found ozone and Nitrogen to have unobservable effects.
Since air pollution is affecting so much around us, it was only a matter of time before there would be negative effects in the health of humans. The question remains, what exactly is air pollution effecting when it comes to human health. Varsha Gopalakrishnan led the research on air quality and the impact of human health. They concluded through their research that air pollution related illnesses include respiratory diseases, pulmonary illness, and cardiovascular disease (Gopalakrishnan). The leading air pollutants causing these diseases are ozone and particle matter referred to as PM2.5. Fabio Caiazzo, in his research on air pollution estimated about 200,000 early deaths each year due to U.S. combustion emissions (Caiazzo). Caiazzo, went on to state that the leading causes of these amounts of combustion emissions are due to road transportation and power generation.
All of this is affecting the quality of air that we breath, which if we continue to breath in all these chemicals, can deteriorate our health. With all this information you might be wondering, why is any of this relevant to California. California is more susceptible to air pollution. California has the largest population than any other state, 39,849,872 million people. With all these people, imagine all the combustion emissions produced in California alone. Also, imagine the extent the state must go to provide 39 million people electricity. What about all the food we need to feed these people, and the rest of the world. California, especially the Central Valley are one of the leading agriculture producers in the world. Mark Z. Jacobson investigated the effects that agriculture plays in the air pollution that California has.
California is one of the leading producers in agriculture, and that also comes with a burden. We live in the Central valley, surrounded by farm land and agriculture. Agriculture itself, with the use of pesticides and other chemicals contaminate the air. This is a known fact, but has anyone ever talked about how air pollution is affecting agriculture? Jacobson did just that in his paper, underlining the affects that Los Angeles air pollution is having on the Central Valley’s agriculture. He mentions the fact that irrigation is the biggest part that is being affected, being that agricultural irrigation occurs in the eastern basin, where air pollution is highest (Jacobson). This could potentially lead to hazardous crops that can affect the people that are consuming it.
This graph shows the bad air quality days for Southern California. Provided by the Los Angeles Times, in 2017 there were a total of 145 bad air days. Their concern is that in 2016 and 2017 there was less emissions report, yet there were more than 140 days of bad air quality. This is because there are other forms besides emissions that can cause air pollution. These other factors that we are barely beginning to find out about, have been silently polluting the air. What exactly is the take away from all of this? Believe it or not California is suffering from air pollution. It could be that we might not see all the affects that air pollution might have during our life time, but our kids and grandkids will feel it. Yet, we are feeling the partial effect that air pollution is having on people’s health.
Even, though we cannot see it, that does not mean it is not there. Researchers have done extensive test, concluding that air pollution is affecting everyone, especially California. 200,000 deaths due to combustion emissions is something to worry about, especially because who knows how many deaths can be linked to air pollution. Yes, there are companies that are profiting from air pollution, providing alternative forms of electricity, and transportation. At the end of the day, we need to focus on not blaming people for causing, starting, or profiting from air pollution. We need to focus on how to prevent or at least stopping the continuing pollution that is happening. Air pollution is real, and it is up to us put an end to it, unless we want to be walking around with oxygen takes because the air is no longer breathable.
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