Understanding Pollution: The True Impact of Pesticides

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Pesticides are a chemical that is designed to kill insects, and it is doing its job; sadly it is wiping out entire populations of animals and insects, and its effects on human health are quite severe as well.[i]   Pesticides are quite common, and you most likely have some in your home unless you buy only organically grown food. All food, unless it´s organically grown, is sprayed with pesticides, meaning that most fruit or vegetables you have are covered with a layer of pesticides which does not go away after a quick rinse. Apples, lettuce, potatoes and strawberries are some of the foods with the highest pesticide content.  Imagine spraying your food with insect spray before eating, that’s kind of what it´s like.  Also, if you’re a pet owner and your dog or cat has a flea collar, or you use bug spray you are using a pesticide.[ii] Every year, 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States alone, and 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide; and it is estimated that worldwide 25 million agricultural workers are poisoned a year.[iii]  Pesticides are damaging not just human health, but are wiping out entire species.

Pesticides 1

Pesticides, for all of their supposed benefits to humanity, are made of extremely dangerous chemicals that have debilitating effects on humans.  In the United States alone 67000 people a year are hospitalized, and 27 die a year from pesticide poisoning.[iv]  There are three stages of pesticide poisoning, and they include Mild, Moderate, and Severe.[v]  Symptoms of mild pesticide poison are irritation of the nose, throat, eyes or skin, a headache, dizziness, a loss of appetite, thirst, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, a feeling of weakness or fatigue, a sense of restlessness and nervousness, unexplained changes in mood, and insomnia.[vi]  Those, as mentioned previously, are the MILD effects.  It’s quite a list, and things only get worse I’m afraid.  Moderate pesticide poisoning includes such effects as vomiting, excessive salivation, coughing, a feeling of constriction in the throat and chest, cramps in your abdomen, a blurring of your vision, rapidly increased pulse, excessive sweating, trembling throughout your body, a loss of muscle coordination, becoming confused, and a sense of extreme weakness throughout your body.[vii]  Still, we are not done. The severe effects of pesticides are an inability to breathe, a buildup of excessive mucous in your air passageways, pinpoint pupils, the appearance of chemicals burns on your skin, an increased rate of breathing, a loss of reflexes, the twitching of your muscles, unconsciousness, and ultimately, death.[viii]  The above effects are just the noticeable effects of pesticide poisoning.  Other, long term effects include an increased rate of cancer, the possibility of birth defects, the chance of damage to your genetic code, liver failure, and injury to the reproductive systems including sterility, and nerve damage.[ix]  We use pesticides in our yards, parks, and on our food supply…I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a good idea.

Pesticides 3

Pesticides effects on animal wildlife are even worse than those on humans, at least in terms of the long term effects on animal populations, and some 7 out of 10 biologists believe that we are in the middle of a great extinction of animals, partly due to pesticides.[x]  One of the most common pesticides in known as Atrazine, and more than 75 million pounds of it are used every year on farms in the United States.[xi]  Atrazine it is having a devastating effect on frog populations.  Did you ever see Jurassic Park?  In the movie they use frog DNA to complete the genetic chain of the dinosaurs.  All of the dinosaurs in the park were supposed to be female, but because of the frog DNA the dinosaurs were able to change their sex into males.  Well, atrazine is forcing a similar change on frogs; except atrazine is really making many of the frogs turn into females, and this is obviously having an effect on their population size.[xii]  Atrazine is banned in Switzerland, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a review of the pesticide.[xiii]  You may be thinking, so what they’re frogs.  Well, frogs, like every other animal, have an effect on their ecosystems.  With the decline of the frog population the level of algae in rivers and streams is rising, and this is impacting the other organisms who call those rivers and streams home.[xiv]

Pesticides 2

Another animal species that is being devastated by pesticides is honey bees.  Since 2006 bee populations have fallen roughly 30% a year, and while scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what is causing this death rate, many are convinced that pesticides are, at least partly, to blame.[xv]  In fact, certain countries such as France, Germany, and Italy have banned what are called neonicotinoids, a pesticide which is less harmful to animals, but more harmful to insects than regular pesticides.[xvi]  Bees in those countries are beginning to recover to some extent.  Now, I’m not personally a fan of bees, but they are the great pollinators.  Roughly 1/3 of all food grown worldwide relies upon bees to pollinate.[xvii]  Just a sample of some of the foods and other products that bees are essential for include peaches, apples, strawberries, onions, cherries, coffee, cotton, vanilla, and cocoa.[xviii]  Needless to say, bees are a very important part of the ecosystem, our food supply, and since food is sold, the world’s economy.  30% of the population a year dying means that something is seriously wrong, and if we don’t want to lose our apples, chocolate, coffee, and many other foods then we need to do something.

Pesticides are used primarily to protect our crops from insects and other pests as they grow.  It’s a commendable goal as our food supply is very important, and insects have been known to devastate crops in the past.  However, sometimes the solution to a problem causes more and bigger problems that what it was trying to solve.  That is the case with pesticides, but its use will not stop without more of a push.  As long as people are not complaining what reason do agricultural firms have to stop the use of pesticides?  Not much.  People need to be informed about what is being done to, and for, their food supply.  We don’t live in a perfect world, and problems will always exist.  Are insects a threat to crops?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean that insects don’t serve a purpose as is the case with bees.  Without bees there are many crops that we wouldn’t have.  The solution to the problem presented by pesticides will not be an easy one to find, but if people inform themselves, and if people show that they are concerned then change is possible.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Learn About Chemicals Around Your House.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/pest.htm&gt;.

[ii] “Learn About Chemicals Around Your House.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/pest.htm&gt;.

[iii] Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/&gt;.

[iv] “Public Health Risks Associated with Pesticides and Natural Toxins in Foods.” Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://ipmworld.umn.edu/chapters/pimentel.htm&gt;.

[v] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[vi] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[vii] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[viii] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[ix] “FAQs – Signs & Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning.” FAQs – Signs & Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.headlice.org/faq/treatments/signs-symptoms.htm&gt;.

[x] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xi] “Atrazine Updates.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/reregistration/atrazine/atrazine_update.htm&gt;.

[xii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xiii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xiv] “UGA Today.” UGA Study Reveals Ecosystem-level Consequences of Frog Extinctions. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/uga-study-reveals-ecosystem-level-consequences-of-frog-extinctions/&gt;.

[xv] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xvi] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xvii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xviii] “List of Foods We Will Lose If We Don’t Save the Bees.” Natural Society. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://naturalsociety.com/list-of-foods-we-will-lose-if-we-dont-save-the-bees/&gt;.

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Understanding Pollution: What We Should Know about Methane

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Methane is a colorless, and odorless gas that is commonly used, but is dangerous to both man and the environment.[i]  It is used commonly as a source of fuel, or to power lights.[ii]  Additionally, methane is used in the manufacture of organic chemicals.[iii]  So, needless to say, methane is a well-known, and well used substance in our world today.  But, with the sweet there must be the bitter.  Methane can have severe effects on human health, and its impact on the environment cannot be ignored.  Also, the sources of methane might surprise you; they did me.

Methane 1

Since it is a naturally occurring gas methane comes from a number of sources both manmade and natural.  The main man made sources of methane include fossil fuel production and livestock farming.[iv]  Fossil fuel production creates 110 million tons of methane a year, and accounts for 1/3 of all manmade methane emissions.[v]  In fact, natural gas, which many people use to heat their homes, is mostly made up of methane.[vi]  The other big manmade source is livestock farming.  Animals like cows, sheep, and pigs fart, and fart a lot.  When they fart they release methane.[vii]  Now, you may be laughing, but understand that the methane from livestock also accounts for about 1/3 of manmade methane emissions.[viii]  That’s a lot of gas.  Moving on, let’s look at some of the natural sources.  Natural sources of methane include wetlands, termites, and the volcanoes of our world.[ix]  Every day, a termite produces 1 microgram of methane, which isn’t much, but if you add up all the methane produced by every termite on the planet you are looking at 20 million tons of methane annually.[x]  That’s a fairly large amount of methane, and a huge number of termites!  We then move onto wetlands where chemicals reactions occur naturally, and account for roughly 1/3 of all methane release worldwide.[xi]

As mentioned previously, methane is a colorless and odorless gas, or a liquid if put under pressure.[xii]  Because of this, it is very difficult to know if you are being exposed to methane, until you are already suffering from its effects.  Methane replaces oxygen in the air, and the body inhales it just like oxygen.[xiii]  This can cause an increased breathing rate, an increased heart rate, loss of coordination, and can have an effect on what emotions we experience.[xiv]  These are just the early effects of methane exposure, and if you experience them you need to leave wherever you are and find fresh air as quickly as possible.  If your exposure continues for too long you will begin to experience nausea, vomiting, the possibility of collapsing, convulsions, falling into a coma, and finally death.[xv]  Needless to say methane is no joke.  Another issue with methane is that it is highly, highly flammable.  Leaking methane gas can cover a fair distance, and if exposed to any heat source or open flame will ignite all the way back to where it is leaking.[xvi]  That’s methane in its more common gas form, but its liquid form has its own hazards.  Liquid methane is also highly flammable, and if your skin is exposed to liquid methane it will cause frostbite, and even has the potential to completely freeze your eyeballs if somehow your eyes come into contact with it.[xvii]

Methane 2

Like carbon dioxide with which it shares so many traits, methane is a greenhouse gas.[xviii]  What does that mean?  Well, it means that methane that is released into the air travels into the atmosphere, and once there it traps the heat coming from the sun.[xix]  Methane does not remain in the atmosphere for as long as other greenhouse gases, but it is much more effective at trapping the sun’s heat than other gases.  Compared to carbon dioxide, which is the gas that most people mention when talking about greenhouse gases, methane is 84% better at trapping heat from the sun in the atmosphere, and it is estimated that methane accounts for 25% of manmade global warming.[xx]  That is methane’s effect on a global scale.  Locally, as mentioned earlier, methane is highly flammable.  Methane fires can occur in mines, over landfills, and wetlands if exposed to even a single spark.[xxi]  In fact, in September of 2013, 37 families were forced to evacuate their homes due to a leak from a methane gas line, and fire companies were forced to be on standby for days, such is the danger of a methane fire.[xxii]

So, we’ve discussed some of the sources of methane, its health hazards, and its effects on the environment, but you may be asking yourself what you should take away from all of this.  I mean, methane is used by 61% of all household in the United States for heat.[xxiii]  That’s a lot of people who are not going to want to give up their heat just because they read an article that explains a little about methane.  Still, knowledge is power.  By learning about what you are using you are aware that what you do has benefits and consequences.  Ultimately, it is up to every individual to decide for themselves if the benefits out way the consequences, and vice versa.  That’s what life is.  Making well informed choices with the understanding that what you do will echo down in some way shape or form throughout history.  Should we stop using methane gas all together, and get rid of every cow, sheep, and pig farm in the world?  Probably not, but you could think twice before ordering that steak at dinner.  By being aware that a problem exists a solution can be found.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet: Methane.” New Jersey Health Department. New Jersey Health Department. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1202.pdf&gt;.

[ii] “Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane.” Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/chemfs/fs/Methane.htm&gt;.

[iii] “Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane.” Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/chemfs/fs/Methane.htm&gt;.

[iv] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[v] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[vi] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[vii] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[viii] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[ix] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[x] “GreenHouse Gas Online – Greenhouse Gas News, Research and Resources.” GreenHouse Gas Online – Greenhouse Gas News, Research and Resources. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ghgonline.org/methanetermite.htm&gt;.

[xi] “Methane Emission from Natural Wetlands: Interplay between Emergent Macrophytes and Soil Microbial Processes. A Mini-review.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19689973&gt;.

[xii] “Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet: Methane.” New Jersey Health Department. New Jersey Health Department. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1202.pdf&gt;.

[xiii] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xiv] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xv] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xvi] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xvii] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xviii] “Ocean News | Issue 7 | Climate Change.” Ocean News | Issue 7 | Climate Change. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://oceanlink.info/ONews/ONews7/methane.html&gt;.

[xix] “Methane: The Other Important Greenhouse Gas.” Environmental Defense Fund. Environmental Defense Fund. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.edf.org/climate/methane&gt;.

[xx] “Methane: The Other Important Greenhouse Gas.” Environmental Defense Fund. Environmental Defense Fund. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.edf.org/climate/methane&gt;.

[xxi] “Methane.” Pollutant Fact Sheet. Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://apps.sepa.org.uk/spripa/Pages/SubstanceInformation.aspx?pid=65&gt;.

[xxii] “Hawthorne Methane Leak Forces Evacuation of 37 Families for Third Night.” Hawthorne Methane Leak Forces Evacuation of 37 Families for Third Night. The Daily Breeze. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dailybreeze.com/general-news/20130916/hawthorne-methane-leak-forces-evacuation-of-37-families-for-third-night&gt;.

[xxiii] “What Percentage of Homes in the U.S. Use Natural Gas?” FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=49&t=8&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

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When people talk about pollution, invariably the topic of fossil fuels will come up.  This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone considering the fact that 60% of the world’s energy consumption is fueled by fossil fuels, but what exactly are fossils fuels?  Despite the fact that fossil fuels are one of the leading causes of pollution there are benefits that are associated with their use.  There are also many disadvantages and problems that arise from their use.  It is impossible to have a discussion about pollution, or green energy, climate change, or the demands that society places on the energy sector without discussing fossil fuels.  They are a huge issue, and they are one that everyone should seek to have at least a basic understanding of.

Fossil fuels 1

Fossil fuels are “a fuel (such as coal, oil, or natural gas) that is formed in the earth from dead plants and animals.” [i]  That sounds pretty simple, and you’re probably thinking something along the lines of how are we running out of fossil fuels with plants and animals dying all the time throughout history?  The problem lies in how long it takes fossil fuels to form.  The coal, oil, and natural gas that we use today wasn’t formed a century, or even a millennia ago.  They weren’t even formed from dead dinosaurs as is a common belief.  In fact, they were formed hundreds of millions of years ago, and millions of years before the first dinosaur was even alive![ii]  It is difficult to estimate how much oil, coal, and natural gas are left in the world, because technology is constantly advancing and granting access to heretofore inaccessible sources. Until about a decade ago oil and natural gas in tar sands was impossible to access.  What we do know is the places that are already running out of fossil fuels.  Great Britain is set to run out of its own supply of fossil fuels within the next five years.[iii]  That means that the UK will have no choice but to import ever increasing amounts of fossil fuels as their population expands unless an alternative energy source is utilized.  France and Italy are two more countries that are finding themselves running out of their own supply of fossil fuels.[iv]

There are several advantages to the use of fossil fuels for energy consumption.  To begin with, the technology required to utilize fossil fuels is already in existence, and is in fact advancing quite rapidly.[v]  There is a reason for that however, and that reason is that we have been using fossil fuels for centuries, with coal being discovered as a fuel source sometime in the 1700s.[vi]  We know these fuel sources.  We know how to mine them, transport them, and utilize them, and familiarity breeds comfort.  That’s not necessarily a good thing as a sense of familiarity often hides disaster.  Another advantage to fossil fuels is that they are cheap and reliable.[vii]  Again, we know how to mine and utilize these energy sources, and we have had a great deal of time to perfect the processes associated with them.  Ultimately, the advantages of fossil fuels come down to convenience.  If we continue to use what we have used for centuries we don’t have to change.  We can blame the problems of fossil fuels on those who came before us for sticking us with this situation.  The problem with that is that there is no sense of personal responsibility.  By using the energy and enjoying the conveniences of fossil fuels you are responsible for the consequences.

Fossil fuels 2

The disadvantages of fossil fuels are fairly well known, and often much talked about.  That being the case, I won’t go too in depth here, especially as many of these issues are covered in other articles on the site.  To begin with fossil fuels all contribute to global warming specifically, and pollution in general.[viii]  There is then the fact that fossil fuels have been linked as one of the main causes of the increase of acid rain which causes immense damage to manmade structures, ecosystems, animals, plants, and humans.[ix]  As mentioned before, fossil fuels are a finite resource.  They will one day run out.  When that day comes humanity is going to find itself in a bit of an awkward predicament unless we have made a change to a more sustainable, hopefully renewable source of energy.  Another major problem is that when that day comes we will have an outdated and useless energy infrastructure.[x]  Think about it.  How much of what we use today is run from fossil fuels?  From cars and trains to planes, and satellite launches, electricity generation to manufacturing in general.  Almost everything runs on fossil fuels, and again it is a finite resource.  There’s an old saying about putting all your eggs in one basket, and I’m afraid to say that seems like what we are doing.

Fossil fuels are used to power our world today, and have done so for decades if not centuries.  As technology has advanced we have focused on improving our current tried and true methods for energy creation and use, and called it innovation.  True innovation lies in seeing the challenges that face us and finding new and better ways of doing something.  True innovation is in finding a way to power our ever expanding society in such a way that allows us to continue to dominate the world around us, but also preserve it so that we can continue to be the dominant species of Earth for centuries.  If we do not innovate, and move away from fossil fuels, we run the risk of our society breaking down when the day comes that we run out of them.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Fossil Fuel.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fossil fuel>.

[ii] “DOE – Fossil Energy: How Fossil Fuels Were Formed.” DOE – Fossil Energy: How Fossil Fuels Were Formed. Department of Energy. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://www.fe.doe.gov/education/energylessons/coal/gen_howformed.html&gt;.

[iii] “Fossil Fuels: UK to ‘run out of Oil, Gas and Coal’ in Five Years.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/uk-to-run-out-of-fossil-fuels-in-five-years-9385415.html&gt;.

[iv] “Fossil Fuels: UK to ‘run out of Oil, Gas and Coal’ in Five Years.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/uk-to-run-out-of-fossil-fuels-in-five-years-9385415.html&gt;.

[v] “Fossil Fuels Pros and Cons – Energy Informative.” Energy Informative. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://energyinformative.org/fossil-fuels-pros-and-cons/&gt;.

[vi] “DOE – Fossil Energy: A Brief History of Coal Use in the United States.” DOE – Fossil Energy: A Brief History of Coal Use in the United States. Department of Energy. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://www.fe.doe.gov/education/energylessons/coal/coal_history.html&gt;.

[vii] “Fossil Fuels Pros and Cons – Energy Informative.” Energy Informative. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://energyinformative.org/fossil-fuels-pros-and-cons/&gt;.

[viii] “Fossil Fuels Pros and Cons – Energy Informative.” Energy Informative. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://energyinformative.org/fossil-fuels-pros-and-cons/&gt;.

[ix] “Disadvantages Of Fossil Fuels.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Disadvantages_FossilFuels.php&gt;.

[x] https://www.udemy.com/blog/disadvantages-of-fossil-fuels/

Understanding Pollution: Why is Carbon Monoxide Nicknamed the Silent Killer?

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Carbon monoxide is often mentioned as one of the more dangerous pollutants in our world today.  It is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is nicknamed the Silent Killer.[i]  Alright, I am both intrigued by that name, and also just a little intimidated.  So, as I do often when I find something of interest that I don’t know much about I went straight to my computer and booted it up.  A bit of research was necessary to find out what all the buzz was about, and why so many people are concerned about carbon monoxide.  What I found definitely backed up the nickname that Carbon Monoxide has received.

Carbon Monoxide 1

Carbon monoxide kills an average of 430 people a year annually in the United States, and males are three times more likely to die from carbon monoxide poisoning than females.[ii]  The way carbon monoxide works it that it enters the blood stream in place of oxygen, and thus deprives all of your vital organs including your brain and heart of oxygen.[iii]  Early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, fatigue, nausea, difficulty breathing, and dizziness; more severe symptoms are vomiting, mental confusion, loss of muscle control, and finally loss of consciousness [iv]  If caught early enough CO poisoning is treatable, but even then there is the possibility of long term heart and brain damage as they are both organs that greatly require oxygen, and are easily damaged if deprived.[v] If a great deal of Carbon monoxide is inhaled a high enough dose of can kill you.[vi] Think about that.  Think about how it must feel to lose control of the muscles of your body or to be confused inside your own head.  Not something I want to experience.

Now, those are some of the dangers of carbon monoxide, but who is at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning?  Well. CO is created when carbon based fuel sources are not fully burned.[vii]  Since most fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are carbon based that makes carbon monoxide quite common.  There are certain occupation where you are more at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.  These include firefighters (around all that smoke), taxi drivers (cars are a major source of carbon), toll booth or tunnel attendants, welders, mechanics, anyone who works with diesel, forklift operators, and anyone who is around a furnace, boiler, brewery, or those in manufacturing.[viii]  Whew!  The worst part is that that is not a complete list of those at risk.  Any source of burning fuel such as a fireplace, stove, water heaters, and charcoal grills all produce carbon monoxide which means that pretty much every person in the country is exposed to CO to some extent.[ix]  Which explains why there are roughly 10000 carbon monoxide related injuries a year.[x]  The elderly, young children, and those with heart or lung disease are also much more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.[xi]

Carbon Monoxide 2

After reading this you may be having a minor freak out wondering what you can do to protect yourself.  Well, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas so it cannot be detected without help.[xii]  That doesn’t mean that there is nothing that you can do.  For one, there are carbon monoxide detectors that you can buy.  They work just like smoke detectors, but for carbon monoxide.  Also, if you have fuel burning appliances get them inspected every year.  The American Society of Home Inspectors can help you find one near you, or you can do a simple Google search.  Also, open a window.  Fresh air will help vent any CO in your home.  There are also a few things that you should avoid.  Idling a car in a closed garage, using a gas powered appliance in enclosed spaces, using gas ovens to heat your home, and sleeping in a room with an unvented kerosene heater are all things that should be avoided.[xiii]

There are many things in life to fear, and having completed this few hours of research, I definitely think carbon monoxide is one of them.  That doesn’t mean that you should throw out every gas appliance you have, open all your windows, and sit in the fetal position in the corner.  What it does mean is that you should be aware of the dangers that carbon monoxide poses, and take some simple precautions.  After a quick Google search, you can find carbon monoxide detectors for under twenty dollars.  It’s a cheap one, but it will provide you some level of peace of mind.  Others range up over 300 dollars.  It’s entirely up to you how secure you want to feel.  Also, open a window!  Fresh air never killed anybody, and it’s actually good for you believe it or not.  You can also invest in an air filter for your home.  Other than that, be aware of what produces CO, and use your common sense.  Don’t turn on your gas powered leaf blower in the house for example.  One, you’re releasing CO, and two think of the damage you could do to the good China dishes.  Ultimately, carbon monoxide is just one of a million dangers that exist in our world.  We need to be aware of it, we need to know what to do to prevent it, and what to do if we think we’re being affected by it which is go to the Emergency Room, but we shouldn’t live our lives terrified of it.  The name Silent Killer is terrifying, but it’s preventable.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Carbon Monoxide The Silent Killer.” Health.ny. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2826.pdf&gt;.

[ii] “QuickStats: Average Annual Number of Deaths and Death Rates from Unintentional, Non–Fire-Related Carbon Monoxide Poisoning,*† by Sex and Age Group — United States, 1999–2010.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6303a6.htm&gt;.

[iii] “OSHA Fact Sheet.” OSHA.gov. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf&gt;.

[iv] “Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers-/&gt;.

[v] “OSHA Fact Sheet.” OSHA.gov. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf&gt;.

[vi] “Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers-/&gt;.

[vii] “OSHA Fact Sheet.” OSHA.gov. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf&gt;.

[viii] “OSHA Fact Sheet.” OSHA.gov. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf&gt;.

[ix] “Carbon Monoxide Safety Advice.” – Carbon Monoxide Kills. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.carbonmonoxidekills.com/27/carbon-monoxide-advice&gt;.

[x] “Homeowner Resources.” Safe Home Heating. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.csia.org/homeowner-resources/Avoiding_Carbon_Monoxide_Hazards.aspx&gt;.

[xi] “Carbon Monoxide Safety Advice.” – Carbon Monoxide Kills. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.carbonmonoxidekills.com/27/carbon-monoxide-advice&gt;.

[xii] “OSHA Fact Sheet.” OSHA.gov. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf&gt;.

[xiii] “Protect Your Family and Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.” EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pdfs/co_factsheet_en.pdf&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Killer Cars

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One of the greatest technological marvels is also one of the greatest polluters in the world.  Chances are if you don’t use one yourself every day then you at least see them.  I am talking about automobiles.  It is estimated that automobiles account for one third of all carbon monoxide pollution, and twenty percent of all global warming.[i]  While no one can argue the benefits and convenience that automobiles have brought into are lives, in order to be responsible human beings we must know the negatives.   Pollution from automobiles occurs on three general levels.  Firstly, there are the effects on local populations.  There are then regional effects, and finally there are global effects.  Even a well maintained, and governmentally approved vehicle produces pollution, and the problems only get worse if the vehicle is having difficulties of any kind.

Killer Cars 1

The effects from automobiles begin at a local level.  The most well-known pollutant from automobiles is Carbon Monoxide.  It is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas whose effects include the blocking of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs.[ii]  In the United States 75% of all carbon monoxide emissions is from motor vehicles.[iii]  Automobiles also release gases called nitrogen oxide, and sulfur oxide.  Studies have shown that even thirty minutes of exposure to nitrogen oxide can inflame the air passageways of a healthy adult, and is even more dangerous to those with breathing difficulties such as asthma.[iv]  Nitrogen oxide also weakens the immune system against future lung infections such as pneumonia.[v]  Sulfur oxide is even worse.  A mere five minutes of exposure can lead to a closing of the airways to the lungs in a healthy adult, and the problem is exacerbated with any elevation in breathing, such as from running or playing a game.[vi]  Cars also emit pollutants such as benzene and acetaldehyde which have been linked to 50% of ALL cancer cases.[vii]  These are only a few of the different gases and chemicals that are released every time a car’s engine starts running, and you can see how deadly even these few are.  All told it is estimated that 58,000 deaths a year occur due to the chemicals and gases released by automobiles, and that’s only in the United States.[viii]

Killer Cars 2

As the level of pollutants released by motor vehicles is so high, it should come as no surprise that there effects do not stay local but move on to coalescence into bigger issues regionally.  Some of the chemicals and particulate matter, which is solid particles mixed with liquid droplets,[ix] which can come to rest in our soil and groundwater.  Once there they have the potential to shut down the immune, respiratory, reproductive, and neurological systems of animals that come into contact with them.[x]  Another regional effect of automobiles comes from the infrastructure that supports them.  Anyone who has ever gone off-roading knows that there are certain risks to your car that you don’t have to deal with on a nice paved road.  But what are the effects that roads are having on the environment?  Just a few of the effects include vegetation removal, erosion, acidification, and direct animal death, or road kill.[xi]  Automobiles also release the chemicals, such as sulfur dioxide, that create acid rain.[xii]  The effects of acid rain are many and varied, such as eating away at manmade structures, destroying plant and animal life, damaging water supplies, and damaging humans and animals who may get stuck in the rain.[xiii]  Automobiles effects regionally are pretty bad, but things get worse.

Killer Cars 3

The global effects of automobile pollution cannot be ignored.  The greatest effect that automobiles are having globally is their contribution to accelerated climate change.  It is believed that, even as world governments move to limit climate change, emissions are set to outpace what world governments are doing to contain the damage.[xiv]  The European Union just passed legislation that will require all automobiles to not exceed a certain level of CO2 emission by 2015.[xv]  China and the United States also just made an agreement where the U.S. will help China to curb their CO2 emissions.[xvi]  The effects of climate change cannot be ignored.  They include such things as increased or decreased rainfall, depending on the region, damaging agriculture, forests, and marine and land ecosystems.[xvii]  As mentioned before, 1/3 of all carbon monoxide pollution is reported to come from automobiles.  Since CO2 is such a major contributor to climate change, it is not hard to believe that cars are having such a major impact on a global scale.

No one can argue against the convenience of having a car, and I say this as a man who loves driving his gas-guzzling Durango.  Despite that, the only way we can save the world is by understanding the consequences of our actions.  No one is saying that we need to go back to the days of the horse and buggy as our main means of transportation.  One that would be absolutely ridiculous on so many levels, and two that comes with its own forms of pollution.  Everything that we do leaves a mark on the world.  What we need to do is work to better understand the impact that our actions are creating.  Do I love driving my Durango?  Absolutely.  Do I need to drive it every day?  Not really.  Carpooling is a wonderful thing, and riding a bike is both good for the environment and for you.  You also have public transport in the bus and subway systems.  A little cardio never hurt anyone.  Everyone needs to make the conscious choice to try and make the world a better place.  Not just for future generations, but for our generation, for ourselves.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Cars, Trucks, and Air Pollution.” Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/why-clean-cars/air-pollution-and-health/cars-trucks-air-pollution.html#.VGdr6_mUdg8&gt;.

[ii] “Health.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/airquality/carbonmonoxide/health.html&gt;.

[iii] http://auto.howstuffworks.com/air-pollution-from-cars.htm

[iv] “Health.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/oaqps001/nitrogenoxides/health.html&gt;.

[v] Cars, Trucks, and Air Pollution.” Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/why-clean-cars/air-pollution-and-health/cars-trucks-air-pollution.html#.VGdr6_mUdg8&gt;.

[vi] “Health.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/air/sulfurdioxide/health.html&gt;.

[vii] “Cars, Trucks, and Air Pollution.” Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/why-clean-cars/air-pollution-and-health/cars-trucks-air-pollution.html#.VGdr6_mUdg8&gt;.

[viii] “Streetsblog USA.” MIT Study: Vehicle Emissions Cause 58,000 Premature Deaths Yearly in U.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/10/22/mit-study-vehicle-emissions-cause-58000-premature-deaths-yearly-in-u-s/&gt;.

[ix] “Basic Information.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pm/basic.html&gt;.

[x] “About Air Toxics.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/air/toxicair/newtoxics.html&gt;.

[xi] “Evaluation Of Ecological Impacts From Highway Development.” Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/nepa/ecological-impacts-highway-development-pg.pdf&gt;.

[xii] “What Causes Acid Rain.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/education/site_students/whatcauses.html&gt;.

[xiii] “Why Is Acid Rain Harmful.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/education/site_students/whyharmful.html&gt;.

[xiv] “Car, Truck and Airplane Pollution Set to Drive Climate Change.” Scientific American Global RSS. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/car-truck-and-airplane-pollution-set-to-drive-climate-change/&gt;.

[xv] “Reducing CO2 Emissions from Passenger Cars.” – European Commission. European Commission. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/vehicles/cars/faq_en.htm&gt;.

[xvi] “United States to Help China Crack down on Vehicle Emissions.” | Reuters. 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/12/05/us-united-states-to-help-china-crack-dow-idUKBRE9B40ZW20131205&gt;.

[xvii] “Impacts & Adaptation.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: How Safe from Air Pollution Are Our Homes?

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When talking about air pollution it is important to remember that it isn’t just outside affecting the environment; it’s also in our homes.  Air travels everywhere on the planet, and it should come as no surprise that the pollutants that are in the air outside are making their way into our homes, but indoor air pollution doesn’t even refer to those pollutants.  It is concerned with the pollutants whose sources are already in our homes, and it is a very serious issue with 4.3 million deaths a year attributed to it.[i]  There are multiple health effects, and just as many sources of indoor air pollution that make it an immediate global issue.

Indoor air pollution is defined as “Indoor air pollution refers to chemical, biological and physical contamination of indoor air.”[ii]  Some of the more common pollutants found indoors are radon, carbon monoxide, respirable suspended particles (particles that are small enough to inhale), volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), formaldehyde, lead, and tobacco.[iii]  Most, but not all, of these pollutants are caused by carbon based fuels that are used to heat your homes, cook, and heat your water; even something as simple as having a fire in your fireplace.[iv]  To go over the effects of some of those pollutants:  Radon causes 20,000 cancer deaths yearly.[v]  We then move onto respirable suspended particles which have been connected to eye, nose, and throat irritation, respiratory infections and bronchitis as well as emphysema and lung cancer.[vi]  The effect of carbon monoxide is that is reduces the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to all vital organs[vii] Volatile organic chemicals have also been linked to eye, nose, and throat irritation; and also headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system.[viii]  We then move onto the effects of formaldehyde.  It also causes eye, nose, and throat irritation in addition to causing headaches, runny noses, nausea and difficulty breathing, and has been labeled as a carcinogen.[ix]  Lead that is inhaled collects in the bones of the body and can affect the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive system, and the cardiovascular system.[x]  These are just some of the common pollutants and their effects, but the overall effects of indoor air pollution are not limited to just these.

indoor air pollution 2

Indoor air pollution kills millions of people every year.  As mentioned above, the death toll connected to indoor air pollution is estimated at 4.3 million a year.  It is estimated that 50% of all premature deaths of children under five years of age are attributable to indoor air pollution.[xi]  That is a terrifying statistic.  Children have no control over the world in which they live, and yet inevitably they are always the ones who seem to pay the steepest price for the many and varied problems that our world faces.  Of the 4.3 million deaths roughly 3.8 are from noncommunicable diseases such as strokes, heart diseases, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; all of which are more likely with exposure to indoor air pollution.[xii]  One of the biggest concerns is that most of the early symptoms of indoor air pollution are minor.  We all get irritated eyes, noses, and throats at least once a year.  However, the long term effects have a habit of being extremely serious, and likely fatal.  No one wants to get lung cancer, have a stroke or heart attack, or get any of the other major issues that were described in the above paragraph.  That doesn’t change the fact that people are dealing with this every day, and that if something is not done people will continue to die.

Now, you may be asking “What can I do?”  Well, there are several things.  For one, you can make sure that your house is cleaned on a regular basis.  Chemicals enter your home every day, and if you allow them to accumulate they will begin to have an effect on you.  Vacuum, mop, and sweep your floors, and don’t forget the walls.  If you spill something on a carpet, make sure you get it all up immediately.  Having a door mat is also a good idea, as when people wipe their feet most of the chemicals will, hopefully, collect on the mat.  When you’re cooking, or having a fire if you’re lucky enough to have a fire place, open a window to let in some fresh air, and all the smoke from the fire out.  One truly major thing that you can do is make your home a smoke free zone.  If you, or friends who come over, smoke do it outside.  Having to grab a cigarette outside never killed anyone, well not immediately anyway.  Another important thing to do is to have your home tested for radon, and some of the other chemicals mentioned above.  You can buy fairly inexpensive radon testing kits at most hardware stores, or you can hire a professional tester to come examine your home.[xiii]  A do-it-yourself test kit can be as low as $8, but can range up to $100.  It may cost you a bit of money, but peace of mind has no price tag.  If you’re really concerned about indoor air pollution then get an air filter to help.  Speaking from experience, you’ll be both amazed and disgusted at how nasty the filter is when you go to change it for the first time, after only a month.

indoor air pollution 1

Indoor air pollution is a serious issue that is facing the world.  Sadly, we live in a world that is full of pollutants, chemicals, and even simple building materials that have adverse effects on human health.  You can do three things about this.  Number one is, nothing.  You can live your life, and live with the consequences.  Number two is freak out, go crazy cleaning, lock yourself in your house, and not let anyone in.  That might make sure that you have control of the pollutants that enter your house, but is it really living?  Number three, is that you can do the simple things that will help make yourself safer such as some regular cleaning, or buying an air filter.  You don’t have to live your life terrified of all the different chemicals that are in your home, but you should try to contain what is in your home to some extent.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


 

[i] “Household Air Pollution and Health.” WHO. World Health Organization. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/&gt;.

[ii] “OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms – Indoor Air Pollution Definition.” OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms – Indoor Air Pollution Definition. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=1336&gt;.

[iii] “Common Indoor Air Pollutants: Sources And Health Impacts.” Http://www2.ca.uky.edu/. University of Kentucky. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www2.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/HF-LRA.161.PDF&gt;.

[iv] “Indoor Air Pollution Sources.” EHow. Demand Media, 3 Apr. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ehow.com/info_8158149_indoor-air-pollution-sources.html&gt;.

[v] “Common Indoor Air Pollutants: Sources And Health Impacts.” Http://www2.ca.uky.edu/. University of Kentucky. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www2.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/HF-LRA.161.PDF&gt;.

[vi] “Common Indoor Air Pollutants: Sources And Health Impacts.” Http://www2.ca.uky.edu/. University of Kentucky. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www2.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/HF-LRA.161.PDF&gt;.

[vii] “Health.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/airquality/carbonmonoxide/health.html&gt;.

[viii] “An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html&gt;.

[ix] “Formaldehyde – American Lung Association.” American Lung Association. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lung.org/healthy-air/home/resources/formaldehyde.html&gt;.

[x] “Lead in Air.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/oaqps001/lead/health.html&gt;.

[xi] “Household Air Pollution and Health.” WHO. World Health Organization. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/&gt;.

[xii] “Household Air Pollution and Health.” WHO. World Health Organization. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/&gt;.

[xiii] “Radon Publications: A Citizen’s Guide to Radon – The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html#howtotest&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: After Learning about Particulate Matter You´ll Never Think Of Breathing the Same Again

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I recently moved to China to teach English as a second language, and on my first day here I walked out of my apartment, and saw people wearing surgical masks.  I was quite confused as to why, and decided to ask someone.  I was told that many people in China wear surgical masks in order to protect themselves from air pollution, and particularly from particulate matter.  Now, I knew that pollution in China was bad; all I had to do was look out my window to see the smog that hung perpetually over the city, but I had no idea what particulate matter was, so I decided to investigate.

Particulate Matter 1

Particulate matter is the word used to describe the extremely tiny solid particles and liquid droplets that are in the air.[i]  These particles and droplets are so tiny that many thousands of them could fit on the end of the period following this sentence.[ii]  You may be thinking “why am I worried about something so small?”  Well, because they are that small they are able to pass through our noses and throats and into our lungs where they will impact both your heart and lungs as time passes.[iii]  The particles are not made up of just one type of chemical, but many hundreds of different chemicals.[iv]  The reason for that diversity is the sources of particulate matter are quite diverse themselves. There are two categories of particulate matter.  Coarse particles are those that are from manmade sources, and fine particles are naturally occurring in nature or created when particles mix in the air.[v]  They include power plant emissions, industrial manufacturing emissions, and fuel combustion from automobiles, simple fires, and wood burning stoves.[vi]  Those are the just some of the sources of coarse particles.  Fine particles, as mentioned before, occur either naturally, such as from forest fires, or are created when the particles mix in the air.

Now, I mentioned earlier that these particulate matters are small enough to enter our lungs, but what effect do they have once there?  To begin with they can simply irritate your lungs and increase the permeability, or amount of air let into and out of, your lungs.[vii]  They also cause irregular heartbeats which can lead to non-fatal heart attacks, and fatal heart attacks, and in people with heart or lung disease they can kill you.[viii]  Other effects include aggravated asthma, decreased ability of your lung’s to function, coughing, irritation of your airways, and difficulty breathing.[ix]  It is believed that if tighter guidelines were in place to regulate how much particulate matter is released into the air that 15000 lives a year would be saved, and that thousands of hospital visits by the elderly and those with already suffering from lung and heart disease could be avoided.[x]  Think about that.  15000 deaths annually, and tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital costs saved every year.  I know lives and money aren’t even close to the same categories, but both have immense value.  That money could go to boosting the economy in a myriad of different ways, and those people could go on to cure cancer!  Finally, like so much else in this polluted world in which we live, particulate matter can cause a drop in your body’s ability to fight off infections, bacteria, and viruses.[xi]  I begin to understand why I see so many people here in Xi’an, China wearing surgical masks.

Particulate Matter 2

Particulate matter also has a major effect on the environment.  I remember when I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Tennessee, and my dad took my hiking in the Appalachians.  From the top of those mountains I felt like I could see forever.  As I grew older, I naturally realized that I was seeing for miles, and not forever, but that is the magic of childhood.  As it turns out one of the greatest impacts of particulate matter on the environment is that it reduces visibility.  In the eastern half of the United States on a clear day you used to be able to see up to 90 miles away, but now due to particulate matter that visibility has been reduced to between 14 and 24 miles.[xii]  That’s a 70% reduction in visibility so just imagine how much crud is in the air.  Particulate matter also increases the acidity level of lakes and rivers, and changes the nutrient balances in coastal waters and rivers.[xiii]  A truly scary thought is that particulate matter is also damaging enough to cause visible damage to stone and other manmade structures.[xiv]  Something strong enough to damage stone is going into our lungs?

Well, I set out with the goal of trying to find out why everyone I saw was wearing surgical masks, and I should say mission accomplished.  But, me being me, my mind is kind of racing right now.  I wonder why there aren’t more people talking about this, and why something so damaging to both human health, and the environment is so little known.  I didn’t grow up in the city seeing smog every day of my life.  I grew up seeing the woods and hills around my house.  I didn’t know what air pollution was until I learned about it in school, and I didn’t truly appreciate the dangers of pollution until I got to China.  Now I do, and I ask myself why we allow our beautiful world to be destroyed.  I want to be able to take any future children I have back to the top of the Appalachians and have them get that same feeling of seeing forever, but I don’t know if I’ll get the chance.  The very air that we breathe, that is essential for human life is becoming toxic to us.  That thought terrifies me.  Yes, you can buy surgical masks for when you go outside. You can even buy indoor air filters for your homes like my parents have, and you should.  Your health is important, but why does the need for these things exist?  What happened to this world that has so nurtured us for millennia?  Mankind happened, and we’re the only ones who can fix it.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


 

[i] “Air Quality Programs.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/region07/air/quality/pmhealth.htm&gt;.

[ii] “Air Quality Programs.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/region07/air/quality/pmhealth.htm&gt;.

[iii] “Particulate Matter.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pm/&gt;.

[iv] “Basic Information.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pm/basic.html&gt;.

[v] “Particulate Matter.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/airscience/air-particulatematter.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Air Quality Programs.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/region07/air/quality/pmhealth.htm&gt;.

[vii] “Health Effects.” Spare the Air. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sparetheair.org/Stay-Informed/Air-Quality-and-Your-Health/PM-Health-Effects.aspx&gt;.

[viii] “Health.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pm/health.html&gt;.

[ix] “Health.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pm/health.html&gt;.

[x] “Air Quality Programs.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/region07/air/quality/pmhealth.htm&gt;.

[xi] “Health Effects.” Spare the Air. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sparetheair.org/Stay-Informed/Air-Quality-and-Your-Health/PM-Health-Effects.aspx&gt;.

[xii] “Air Quality Programs.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/region07/air/quality/pmhealth.htm&gt;.

[xiii] “Particulate Matter.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/airscience/air-particulatematter.htm&gt;.

[xiv] “Particulate Matter.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/airscience/air-particulatematter.htm&gt;.