You could go days without food and hours without water, but you would last only a few minutes without air (if that). As human beings, on average, we breathe over 3,000 gallons of air each day. In addition to consuming up so much air in 24 hours, over the course of 365 days humans manage to inhale precisely 1,095,000 gallons of air throughout the year. That’s a large amount of air that humans not only need but demand as a means to survive in everyday life, if you ask me. Better yet, wouldn’t it be to our benefit as humans if we lived in a non-polluted environment/economy? The only possible logical answer to that question would have to be a sound and potent “Yes!” But, the “oh so” popular question still remains the same, why should you be concerned about air pollution? When it’s all said and done, it’s only common sense to figure out that you must have air to live.
Air pollution comes from many different sources such as: factories, power plants, dry cleaners, cars, buses, trucks and even windblown dust and wildfires. Today, motor vehicles are responsible for nearly one-half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Also, motorized vehicles are held responsible for more than half of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States. Motor vehicles, as well as non road vehicles, are now accountable for 75 percent of carbon monoxide emissions nationwide. Between the years of 1970 and 2005 the total vehicle miles people travel in the United States has increased 178 percent and continues to gradually increase at a rate of two to three percent each year. As a result of United States evolution from driving simple cars in the 70’s too modern vans, sports utility vehicles (SUV’s), and pickup trucks, these enlarged vehicles typically consume more gasoline per mile and many of them pollute three to five times more than cars.
Breathing polluted air can make your eyes and nose burn. Due to inhaling polluted air, it can irritate your throat and make breathing difficult. In fact, pollutants like tiny airborne particles can trigger respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. In today’s society, just about 30 million adults and children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma sufferers can be severely affected by air pollution. In contrast air pollution can also aggravate health problems for the elderly and others with heart or respiratory diseases. In a greater look at things, some toxic chemicals released in the air such as benzene or vinyl chloride can cause cancer, birth defects, long term injury to the lungs, as well as brain and nerve damage. And in some cases, breathing these highly toxic chemicals can even cause the fatal attraction of death. The health, environmental, and economic impacts of air pollution are significant. Each day, air pollution causes thousands of illnesses leading to lost days at work and school. Air pollution also reduces agricultural crop and commercial forest yields by billions of dollars each year.
Air pollution isn’t just a threat to our health, it also damages our environment. Toxic air pollutants and the chemicals that form acid rain and ground-level o-zone can damage trees, crops, other plants, wildlife, lakes, and other bodies of water. Furthermore, those pollutants can also harm fish and other aquatic life. In addition to damaging the natural environment, air pollution also damages buildings, monuments, and statues. It not only reduces how far you can see in national parks and cities, it even interferes with aviation.
Although national air quality has improved over the last 20 years, many challenges remain in protecting public health and the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protects human health and the environment through the regulatory process and voluntary programs such as Energy Star and Commuter choice. (The Clean Air Act is a federal law covering the entire country). Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets limits on how much of a pollutant is allowed in the air anywhere in the United States. This helps to ensure basic health and environmental protection from air pollution for all American’s. Also, the Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to limit emissions of air pollutants coming from sources like steel mills, utilities, and chemical plants. Individual states or tribes may have stronger air pollution laws, but they may not have weaker pollution limits than those set by the EPA. EPA’s main goal is to have clean air to breath for this generation and those to follow. Over time, the Clean Air Act will continue to reduce air pollution, but it will take time for some of the Act’s provisions to have their full time impact.
There are many ways we as the people of the United States can help to reduce earth’s adversary of air pollution. At home we can conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when you leave the room. Buy Energy Star products, including energy efficient lighting and appliances. Keep woodstoves and fireplaces well maintained at all times. Recycling paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans are also productive ways we can reduce air pollution. By doing this we will conserve energy and reduce production emissions. When purchasing a car, truck, or van choose efficient, low polluting models of vehicles. Choose products that have less packaging and are reusable. Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently. When it comes to driving your vehicles keep tires properly aligned and inflated. In the summertime, fill gas tanks during cooler evening hours to cut down evaporation. Avoid spilling gas. When possible, use public transportation, walk, or ride a bike. Get regular engine tune ups and car maintenance checks (especially for the spark plugs). Use energy-conserving grade motor oil. Report smoking vehicles to your local air agency. Last but not least, join a carpool or vanpool to get to work. All of these suggestions can and will help to reduce air pollution. By doing so, we have to come together and set out to put an abrupt decrease to limiting the amount of air pollution caused by (for a significant part) we the people of United States of America.