Two Bits About Air Pollution

Can you see bad air? Do you think you can? There is a lot of misinformation about air pollution. Right now, price in Utah, clinic bad information disguised as news is becoming mainstream and front page news.

In article in KSL I read, order made the following statements. “we know the bad effect air pollution has on pregnant women.” To many, and perhaps most, it sounds solid. The assumption is, “this author writes for a living, he must know what he is writing about.” The many medical reports I have read that were focused on the affects of increased amounts of air pollution and tried to show a increase of unhealthy outcomes of births, were all inconclusive. This means there isn’t a cause and effect.

Time Magazine, which doesn’t print MISINFORMATION, published an article a few months ago about a link between autism and air pollution. The link is that increase in air pollution sometimes has an increase in autism rates. The problem is what is a link? It means there seems to be a correlation. But a correlation certainly isn’t a cause and effect.

100% of everyone last year who died breathed oxygen. (that is a correlation but certainly isn’t cause and effect)

Links don’t say much. In the case of the Time Magazine article, the newly discovered link may just be due to an increase in population is generally associated with larger outbreaks in flu, and the more outbreaks of flu the more autism we tend to see in the population..but there isn’t any proof of that either. The link could simply be a data collection error as in rural areas data can be misreported or unreported just because the hospital staff is smaller and many not have a full time person to collect it, research it, and publish the results.

Now that we know air pollution doesn’t seem to have a negative impact in pregnant women, and there is a new discovered link that doesn’t really mean much. What other false claims are there.

The author of the article also tried to claim that the sickness was caused by air pollution. This also is unproven, and is also false. If sickness was caused by air pollution then groups of outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, and even Boy Scout troops who after a few days spent sitting around a camp fire breathing horrible toxic air pollution would have an outbreak of influenza, whooping cough, strep and the like. Sickness has been proven to be passed from person to person. Very commonly from a sick person preparing food (ah, Mother you REALLY shouldn’t have) and then received by a person (children/victim) who ate the food. There are other ways but that is the most common. (even Bible in Leviticus 4 talks about disease transmission but sometimes today it isn’t common knowledge) If you believe hand washing helps, your right. If you also know that washing your hands is mostly about under those nasty finger nails, your rare indeed! If you think that anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers have increased the sickness for the general population, then you must have read the research. Here is a link.

Although defined as anything in the air that can be harmful, Air Pollution, is only widely tested on 6 things. Too bad it isn’t a big scientific report. I would love if the EPA used a wide spectrum…. Throw in every bad smell from acrylic nails, to my neighborhood barbecue as air pollution. The news stories along would be fantastic, the morning mall walkers in the Orem Mall this morning may not see the light of day as a new nail tech spill some acrylic hardener in the North quadrant of the mall Tuesday. But unfortunately, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), where the EPA gets its guidelines, only monitors 6 things.

Carbon Monoxide, Lead, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, Sulfur Dioxide and Particle Pollution. If you want more details here is the link.

Forgo the sudden urge to enroll in more college-level science or starting your own crusade of environmental research and just focus enough to learn a couple basics. For example, air quality constantly changes because our environment is constantly changing …painting, vacuuming, running the HVAC, mowing the lawn, tilling, forest fires, breathing dust, campfire smoke, hairspray, cooking, cleaning, and many, many more actives cause the air quality in your lungs to change. This doesn’t mean that you suddenly die because a nearby dessert artist in the kitchen got a little carried away with the powdered sugar, but it is important to understand that air quality changes on a small scale in our own lungs and certainly also changes on a large scale such as in our neighborhood and cities. This is normal, it is normal for the air quality to change.

In the air standards are provisions for unusually high amounts or surges. This is not only natural, but normal. We should also understand that many of the larger things in the air, like dust, is easy for our lungs to avoid. We have a built in biological filter system. But our filter system has some limitations. For example, smaller things in the air….and I mean super, small particles, tend to be harder for our lungs to avoid. This means if you can see it in the air, the lungs can usually avoid it or filter it out. This doesn’t mean you plug your nose into the exhaust/dust outlet of your home wood sander, but does mean if a diesel burning-motorist slams the peddle to the floor and blankets you with a black cloud grimy exhaust, you should assuming that dieing from lung cancer resulting from the cloud is unlikely and almost statistically impossible. Prolonged exposure (measured in decades not hours!!) to unhealthy conditions is the culprit, but this prinicple doesn’t only apply to air pollution, it is a general rule to health.

If your driving around in Utah, and seeing the inversion, don’t think the sky is falling (or hurting), think if it as the one bad day or week in the year and remember that Utah is still ranked in the nation for GOOD AIR. If your really, really concerned, would it matter to you that the reason Utah air is “off the scale” for air pollution is for PM 2.5 readings. Would be almost silly to realize that the PM 2.5 during this time of year in Utah is basically water. You could still think there were tons of other harmful, nasty, cough-causing “bad stuff” in there but wouldn’t that show up on the EPA report too? But it didn’t. You can rest well knowing that it is just a ton of little bits of water and over load of bad information.

Remember in the movie, Joe verses the Volcano, when Joe thought he was dying from a Brain Cloud. Well, that movie is old and outdated, but today, we die of small water droplets, such as ones that are IN CLOUDS, we just call them PM 2.5 and everyone freaks out. In the news this week a DOCTOR wore a mask and stood in front of the capitol building to protest the air. He has a right to, but it doesn’t mean he is on the cutting edge of enlightenment. He isn’t a pulmonologist, he is a rheumatologist. Maybe next week he will make a statement about internal medicine, or plastic surgery, or delivering babies without pain!! I can hardly wait!