Since the Industrial Revolution, associated with learning how to use fossil fuels to perform work, air pollution has increased and, with it, sentenced millions of people to death.
Fossil fuels, essentially the concentrated hydrocarbon-rich remains of plant and animal life from hundreds of thousands of years ago, can be extracted, refined, and used to generate power. Crude oil, after extraction and refining, finds application in multitudinous industries, such as transportation and power production. Coal finds numerous applications in industrial and power production, as well. Use of fossil fuels, however, generates air pollution.
Aside from carbon dioxide emissions, not poisonous in themselves, but a major long-term threat, air pollution, specifically particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) in diameter, is a significant and immediate threat to human lives around the globe. For example, a recent study indicated that the United States spends some $18 billion annually, caring for asthma victims, the majority of whom live, and sometimes die, in areas of concentrated air pollution.
In spite of rising health costs associated with air pollution, the death rate seems to be falling, at least in some areas. Still, the number of deaths related to air pollution is staggering. According to a recent study, as many as 0.9 million people die every year from ozone exposure. The study went on to say that as many as 3.0 million deaths occur every year from PM2.5-related cardiopulmonary diseases and lung cancer.
Currently, China holds the record, if there is one, for the youngest lung canceer patient in the world, but let’s not forget that California is still one of the worst states for air pollution. The next time someone moans about “yet another Clean Air Act regulation” by “the MAN” designed to “keep the little guy under his boot” (i.e. the Environmental Protection Agency), maybe you can kindly ask them what they think of lung cancer in an eight-year-old.
“Maybe that kid should have laid off the stogies,” or “Maybe it was forced on him by a world which doesn’t care for his life.”
Photo credit: wellcome images / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)