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Alex Naydenov
English 1001, Sect 181
Ms. Klees-Starks
Unit 3 Essay
Air Pollution and Health
Air pollution has become one of the leading environmental issues in todays society.
Whether at work or at home, indoors or out, we are all exposed to pollutants in the air we breathe.
Both, urban and rural outdoor environments contain allergens, irritants and chemical toxins that can
reduce the quality of life, cause a disease and even death. According to the World Health
Organization data report on air quality released in September of 2011 in many major cities of the
world the air pollution is reaching dangerous levels that threaten peoples health (Osseiran, Nada).
The data documents the disturbing fact that over160 million tons of pollution is still emitted into the
air and about 2 million people die every year from breathing those harmful particles present in the
indoor and outdoor air (Osseiran). In spite of the numerous organizations that have been created to
monitor and control air quality such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the
significant technological improvements that we have achieved, clean, healthful air still eludes us.
Air pollution remains a major environmental health hazard and it is vital that we, as a society,
continue to raise the public awareness of the health risks and demand tighter regulations to preserve
our environment and quality of life.
It is a well-known fact that the air pollution has plagued crowded urban areas for centuries.
However, it is imperative to understand all facts and be well educated on what the major air
pollutants are and how they affect human health. According to Pamela Myer et al, a leading
environmental epidemiologist, in the course of a day, we breathe 5,000 to 15,000 liters of air

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necessary to maintain the human life. With each breath, we inhale life-sustaining oxygen, which is
absorbed in our lungs and carried throughout our body. Air also contains pollutants, including
pollen, microbes, particles such as soot and dust, and gases such as carbon monoxide-substances
that can harm the human body (Myer et al). The contact with these harmful substances first affects
the respiratory system and triggers several defense mechanisms such as coughing, sneezing, and the
production of secretions. When a person is overexposed to pollutants, his organ tissues are damaged
or destroyed (Myer et al). Dr. Vinod Mishra, a prominent expert in various environmental issues,
dives even deeper into the air contamination problem, providing detailed scientific evidence on the
negative effects pollution has to the human body. In his article Health Effects of Air Pollutions he
delivers well documented scientific studies and facts to prove the relation between the air pollution
and human health. The main purpose of the paper is to offer broad background information for the
Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) Cyberseminar in December of 2003 and to
foster a discussion that will lead to identification of key health issues caused by the air pollution. Dr.
Mishra explains the health changes to the human body that range anywhere from minor irritation
of eyes and the upper respiratory system to chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, lung cancer,
and even death. Judging from the extensive research and credible medical data on air pollution he
undoubtedly proves that scientists have solid evidence that poor air quality is the leading cause for
acute respiratory infections in children and chronic bronchitis in adults. In addition, people with
preexisting heart or lung disease are especially vulnerable to the ill effect of the air pollution
because it triggers and aggravates the severity of their attacks. Dr. Mishra strongly supports the
argument that both, short-term and long-term exposures have also been linked to premature
mortality and reduced life expectancy of the population. It is imperative that we, as a society,
understand the dangers of the air pollutions and continue to be proactive in raising the public
awareness and safeguard our health.

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With the progress of industrialization several episodes in the United States and Europe have
accelerated the harmful effects of air pollution which resulted in serious injuries and death of
hundreds of people. In the article Air Pollution and Health Pamela Myer et al, builds her
argument that air pollution could lead to catastrophic environmental disasters and the existing laws
and regulations must be even stricter in order to protect peoples health. One of the worst air
pollution episodes in the United States, states Myer, occurred in Donora, Pennsylvania, on October
26, 1948, when sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and metal dust emitted by local zinc smelter
smokestacks was trapped by stagnant air and formed poisonous compounds over the industrial
town. In the course of five days, 43 percent of the 14,000 people in the community became sick
and 19 people died (Myer et al). Statistically, only two deaths would have likely to occur in a town
with such small population. After the Donora catastrophe people began to realize that air pollution
was more than a nuisance and demanded changes in the existing environmental regulations
(Myer et al). However, the government was still slow to respond with the appropriate measures. The
problem with lawmakers is that they wait for a disaster to strike and then to work on the laws to
correct a situation, instead of not allowing it to happen in a first place. Evidence of governments
lack of initiative is the severe episode of air pollution happened in London, England, in December
of 1952, when stagnant air trapped thick fog and air pollution for several days causing the death of
over 4,000 people (Nakaya). These tragic events stirred the public awareness of the deadly effects
the polluted air can have on the environment and the urgent need of government intervention to
protect the peoples well-being.
Immediately after these acute episodes of air pollution, the United States and other European
countries implemented ambient air-quality standards and strategies to reduce emissions that
contribute to air pollution. As a result of the enactment of these standards, air contamination levels
have decreased in many parts of the world and nowadays people do have a better and cleaner

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environment. In her introduction article to the book Is Air Pollution a Serious Threat to Health
published in 2004, the chief editor and environmentalist Andria Nakaya acknowledges the progress
that has been made so far. Nakaya claims that the first most important step in the fight against the
air pollution happened in 1970, when the Congress passed the Clean Air Act, which has formed the
basis of the nations efforts to control the air hazards. The Act gives the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) the authority to establish and enforce National Ambient Air Quality. The EPA
monitors emissions of the six major air pollutants ozone, particulate matter (such as dust, dirt,
smoke and soot), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur and lead (Nakaya). The Clean Air Act
also establishes guidelines for EPA to periodically review the latest scientific studies regarding air
pollution and updating standards as necessary to protect the publics health. The act was amended
with more stringent emissions standards in 1977, 1990, and 1997 and as a result of the relentless
measures, the quality of the air has improved significantly. According to the EPAs 2003 air quality
report the aggregate emissions of the six major pollutants have decreased 48 percent since 1970
and the improvement occurred despite the 42 percent increase in energy consumption and 155
percent increase in vehicles sales(Nakaya). Today, the air quality in United States has improved
because of the measures the government has taken over the years and the elevated public awareness
on the danger of the air pollution. However, we have to be vigilant and responsible on a personal
level not to pollute the environment around us. After all, improving air quality is everyones
The government has taken significant measures in the last forty years to address the air
pollution by implementing stricter laws and regulations but the concern remains: do we really
breathe clean air? Regardless of the EPAs Clean Air Acts and improvements to the air quality,
according to the American Lung Association in 2003 more than half of the population continued to
breathe polluted air which was detrimental to their health. As a major point in building her argument

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Nakaya uses Bernie Fischlowitz-Roberts study (from the Earth Policy Institute), who in 2002
presented a shocking discovery in an attempt to raise the public awareness. He stated that in the
USA, traffic fatalities totaled just over 40,000 per year, while air pollution claimed 70,000 lives
annually. U.S. air pollution deaths were equal to the deaths from breast cancer and prostate cancer
combined (Nakaya). The findings are disturbing and they point to the conclusion that air pollution
still continues to threaten the health of millions of people. Some opponents of this statement may
argue that deaths from heart disease and respiratory illness seem less dramatic compared to the
victims of the automobile crashes however, Nakaya debates that they are no less real and the
existing situation must be further addressed. In researching additionally who Bernie FischlowitzRoberts is and whether his allegations are credible I came to realize that he is an honest and
passionate environmental activist who has written numerous articles alerting the public about
ongoing studies on air quality. I do support Nakayas and Fischlowitz-Roberts opinion that the
quality of the air we breathe is not safe. The entire book Is Air Pollution a Serious Threat to
Health, which is compilation of leading environmental articles, provides series of credible research
studies that support their point of view. The problem is that the presented facts are inconvenient for
certain individuals who do not want the truth about the air pollution to be a hot topic in the media.
In the current political environment I strongly believe that politics plays a major role how
the air pollution problem is handled in the United States. When industries must reduce their profits
and the CEOs has to cut their bonuses to become compliant with the laws for a cleaner
environment they would find evidence that the air pollution and the human health are not related.
In reality, they fund studies with the sole purpose to prove that air quality is not a cause for concern.
In the media there is a widespread debate whether the air quality really threatens the health of our
nation. Greg Easterbrook, a researcher from the Brookings Intuition, an organization devoted to do
research and analysis of public policy, states that the quality of U.S. air is so good that it should

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be a national cause for celebration (Nakaya). Disagreements about whether or not air pollution is
currently threatening Americans health are at the bottom of another major debate regarding how the
air quality should be monitored and regulated. The main argument against the stricter EPA
regulations is that checking the harmful emissions is very expensive for the many industries. Some
researchers even claim that the cost of the EPAs anti-pollution measurements far outweighs its
benefits. They argue that the huge expenses of implementing increasingly stringent standards
impede technological innovations and hinder industry productivity, seriously harming the U.S.
economy while only slightly benefitting the health of the American population (Nakaya). It is a sad
fact that today there is still no uncontested strategy to clean the air to the satisfaction of health
experts and environmentalists while easing the regulatory burden sufficiently in the eyes of
industry. Nakaya presents a valid point that environmental measures against the air pollution have
a huge price tag and the economy suffers as a result of the stricter regulations but the human health
is more important than the industry profits and it must be better protected. I do agree with Suzie
Ormond, prominent financial advisor who always reply to money and profit related questions that
people always come first.
Reams of scientific studies have shown conclusively that air pollution is extremely
dangerous for human health. Emerging research is linking the air contamination to lung cancer,
birth defects, strokes, and heart attacks. Opinions presented in the articles of Dr. Mishra, Pamela
Myer et al and Andria Nakaya all provide extensive evidence that brings invaluable knowledge
about air pollution and its impact on human health. However, it is imperative for us as individuals to
be aware of the dangers of the air pollution and to safeguard our health from the ill effects as much
as we can. It is even more important that we participate in a lifestyle that contributes to this
pollution as little as possible. Everyone is responsible for cleaning up the planet and for helping to
improve an abused environment.

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Works Cited
Mishra, Vinod. Health Effects of Air Pollution. Background paper for Population-Environment
Research Network (PERN) Cyberseminar, December 1-15, 2003. 29 October, 2011
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Myer, P., Mannino D., Homa, D., Naeher, L., Redd, S., Air Pollution and Health Overview.
Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, vol 14, 1999, 29 October, 2011
Nakaya, Andria C. Introduction: Is Air Pollution a Serious Threat to Health. Opposing
Viewpoints: Air Pollution. Ed. Andrea C. Nakaya. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, August
2004. 30 October 2011.
Osseiran, Nada. Tackling the global clean air challenge. World Health Organization, Media
Centre, 27 October, 2011