Every addiction has its side effects, some of them deadly. In the case of our worldwide fossil-fuel addiction, the side effects are numerous, including carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution.
Air pollution, in turn, leads to other problems, such as smog. Now, smog may seem, at least to those who haven’t experienced it, a cosmetic problem, at best. At its worst, however, air pollution kills people every day. In China, for example, the air pollution is so bad that the youngest lung cancer patient, just eight years old, was diagnosed last year. Here in the United States, in spite of the fact that we have, at least on paper, some pretty good emissions laws, hundreds of thousands suffer from respiratory problems due to air pollution.
Asthma, for example, afflicts some twenty million people in the United States, and kills about 4,000 every year. Hospitalization costs about $18 billion each year. In New York, not even one of the top ten worst cities, asthma costs the State about $1.3 billion each year. Asthma-related deaths in New York have actually been on the decline in recent years, but Medicaid costs have risen by more than 26%.
In poor areas of New York City, where air pollution is at its worst, one can find bus depots, expressways, and waste treatment facilities. In those same areas, such as Hunts Point, in the Bronx, the incidence of asthma is three times higher than that of the Upper East Side. Hunts Point has the highest incidence of asthma in the entire State.
If there is still anyone out there that doubts the absolute necessity to eliminate fossils fuels from our transportation systems and power supplies, I wonder if they’d sing a different tune, or sing at all, with their lungs locked up by an asthma attack brought on by air pollution.
Photo credit: GDS Infographics / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)