According to the World Health Organization (“WHO”) the basic act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more. Calling air-pollution the “new tobacco”, the WHO is sounding the alarm bell for over 90% of the world’s population who suffers the harmful effects of breathing toxic air. Rich, poor, young, old, the toxicity of our biosphere cares not, and virtually no one can escape air pollution in this day and age, creating a needless epidemic of preventable deaths and disability. Study after study is showing further harms from toxic air, including a “huge reduction” in intelligence, millions of diabetes cases and the first direct evidence of pollution particles in mothers’ placentas.
With smoking on the decline globally, air pollution now causes more deaths annually than tobacco according to the WHO. And the cost of the lost lives and ill health is a gargantuan economic burden, calculated to be an eye-popping $5 trillion (with a “T”) dollars a year, according to a World Bank report.
The most vulnerable segment of our population is children, who are at the greatest risk of air pollution’s harmful effects, which include respiratory diseases, heart attacks, cancer and brain damage. The source of these harmful diseases stems largely from the very small particulates put into the air through various industrial processes, including transportation and energy production. These micro-pollutants can penetrate the body’s lungs and enter the body’s circulatory system where these particles can be transported and deposited throughout the body and cause all sorts of harm. Unfortunately, some of the most harmful sized particulates are also the smallest and can evade the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
Although, globally-speaking, the U.S. fairs relatively better than many other countries, locally, we Ohio Valley residents face some of the greatest risks of any Americans from air pollution, due in large part to the heavy concentration of coal-burning power plants that line the Ohio River Valley, along with the added burden of benzene, a potent carcinogen, from natural gas drilling being injected into our air at levels well-above those considered safe.
It is beyond unacceptable for West Virginians to be forced to pay the price for energy operations where the vast majority of the economic benefits are enjoyed by out-of-state, multibillion-dollar corporations while the real costs of such operations are foisted upon the public at-large. But unfortunately, there appears to be no legislative momentum to responsibly regulate the practices that pollute the air and cause such needless suffering amongst populations of all stripes. Here’s hoping that our elected officials soon recognize the danger and act to protect those they were elected to serve. Until then, if you believe you have contracted leukemia, cancer, or some other illness from polluted air, you should contact an experienced attorney right away to explore the matter further.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.