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;.

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Understanding Pollution: Why We Should Not Ignore Radiation

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For some macabre reason, man has always had a fascination with his own death, and thus it should come as no surprise that something that has the power to destroy all life on this planet so fascinates us.  On April 26, 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had a fatal meltdown which caused a massive explosion, and fires that lasted for days sending a cloud of radiation over Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and onto other parts of Europe.[i]  Only two people died that first night, but over the next few weeks, 28 people would lose their lives due to radiation poisoning.[ii]  The Soviet Union, one of the greatest powers in the world at the time, did not begin to respond for a full 24 hours because they could not understand the magnitude of what had happened, and once they did they ordered the full evacuation of the town of Pripyat, which had supported the plant.[iii]  Once the evacuation order was given, in less than three hours a bustling town of 50000 people became a ghost town.[iv]  While the death toll from Chernobyl has been exaggerated over the years, it is estimated that less than 50 people died from causes directly linked to Chernobyl’s explosion, but since then the rate of thyroid cancer in the region among children has spiked to over 7000.[v]  Other cancers have also been more common in the area since 1986, but scientists cannot directly link them to radiation exposure.  It has been 28 years since the Chernobyl disaster, and entry into a 30km area around the plant still requires permission from the Ukrainian government, and a full body scan to check for radiation before leaving.[vi] If the words Radioactive Contamination fill you with dread, congratulations, you are an intelligent human being.  Radioactive contamination is when radioactive materials enter the environment, and other areas where they shouldn’t be.[vii]  Pollution from radioactive materials can have massive detrimental effects on human health and the environment; the most extreme of which is arguably death, but the diseases that can be contracted due to radiation poisoning may be worse.  Pollution from radioactive materials comes from a variety of sources, and many of them are manmade.

radioactive fallout 2

Radiation sickness is one of the most severe health effects of exposure to radiation.  Radiation poisoning occurs from excessive exposure to ionizing radiation.[viii]  Early signs of radiation poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and spontaneous bleeding from the nose, mouth, and rectum.[ix] Other symptoms include an extreme reddening of the skin exposed to radiation, hair loss, and extreme fatigue.[x]  The greatest danger of radiation lies in its effects on our immune systems and our very DNA.  Radiation kills the white blood cells in our blood, which are our main defense against infections, viruses, and other diseases.[xi]  As mentioned earlier, exposure to radiation also leads to an increased risk of different types of cancer.  We know this because between 1945 and 1962 countries were testing nuclear weapons in the open air, and this lead to an increase in cancer in areas where tests were conducted, and in fact the United States government admitted their fault and provided financial recompense to people who were affected by those tests.[xii]  Ultimately, the more radiation that you are exposed to the more severe the problems that you will experience.  High levels of radiation lead to radiation poisoning, and death.  Lower doses increase your risk of acquiring cancer. Radiation has also been linked to the possibility of genetic mutation in both humans exposed to radiation and their offspring.[xiii]

radioactive fallout 1

The effects of radioactive contamination on the environment are also severe.  For example, in the days immediately after the Chernobyl incident all of the pine trees in the surrounding area died.[xiv]  Needless to say, scientists have been examining the effects of radiation on wildlife at Chernobyl for years, and since the disaster at Fukushima, you know where another nuclear power plant had a meltdown, they have also been examining wildlife in Japan.  What they have found is that unless the radiation dosage is high enough to instantly kill different animals it can take years to see effects that are taking place.[xv]  They have also discovered that birds in the region have smaller brains than normal, and are developing eye cataracts, and that insects in the area are behaving abnormally.[xvi]  Then there’s the fact that if soil is contaminated with radiation, anything that grows in that soil is contaminated as well.  President Franklin Roosevelt once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  While the meaning behind that statement is something that everyone should take to heart, I would counter and say that not knowing what effects radiation is having on marine and land wildlife upon which we rely for food is something worth at least worrying about.  Should we consider doing something as dangerous as relying on nuclear power with the danger of unknown effects of nuclear contamination?  I am wise enough to know I’m not wise enough to answer that question.

radioactive fallout 3

There are many sources of radiation in our daily lives.  Some are simple things that we probably use every day, and don’t even think about the fact that they produce radiation.

“Ionizing radiation becomes pollution if it fills a particular environment with high-levels of electromagnetically charged particles or ions. The effects of ionized particles in the human body depend on how far or near the human is to the Electro Magnetic Field source. A person who accidentally touches the electric energy power of an open electrical wire receives a surge of electric current in his body called electric shock, because he touched the nearest source.  In a state of pollution, we receive these electromagnetic shocks in low frequency doses as they are released in the environment”[xvii]  Sources of radiation can range from cell phones and home appliances to nuclear weapons testing and experimental research.[xviii]  While it is true that the radiation coming off of a cell phone is much, much smaller than that coming from a nuclear power plant still the radiation is there, and we sleep, eat, walk, drive, and do everything else in our daily lives with our cell phones glued to us.  Thus exposing ourselves to radiation 24/7.  We are in contact with radiation every day of our lives.

Man has a fascination with radiation.  Countless books, movies, and video games have been created over what might happen if a radioactive event occurred that truly altered the world.  On one hand we should be proud that we were the species smart enough to be able to split the atom and harness the power of radiation for our own ends.  On the other, we need to consider the costs, both present and future, of that power.  While people may love playing games like Fallout, or Metro 2033, do we really want to one day live in a radioactive wasteland?


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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] “Chernobyl Then and Now: 28 Haunting Images from Nuclear Disaster.” – RT News. Russia Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/news/155072-chernobyl-images-now-then/&gt;.

[ii] “Chernobyl Accident 1986.” Chernobyl. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/&gt;.

[iii] “Chernobyl Then and Now: 28 Haunting Images from Nuclear Disaster.” – RT News. Russia Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/news/155072-chernobyl-images-now-then/&gt;.

[iv] “Chernobyl Then and Now: 28 Haunting Images from Nuclear Disaster.” – RT News. Russia Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/news/155072-chernobyl-images-now-then/&gt;.

[v] “How Many People Have Been Killed by Chernobyl?” Slate Magazine. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2013/04/chernobyl_death_toll_how_many_cancer_cases_are_caused_by_low_level_radiation.html&gt;.

[vi] “Ben Lovejoy.” Ben Lovejoy. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.benlovejoy.com/journeys/chernobyl/exclusion/&gt;.

[vii] “What Is Radioactive Pollution?” What Is Radioactive Pollution? Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thebigger.com/biology/pollution/what-is-radioactive-pollution/&gt;.

[viii] “Radiation Sickness: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000026.htm&gt;.

[ix] “Radiation Sickness: 8 Terrifying Symptoms.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/radiation-sickness-8-terrifying-symptoms/&gt;.

[x] “Radiation Sickness: 8 Terrifying Symptoms.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/radiation-sickness-8-terrifying-symptoms/&gt;.

[xi] “Radiation Sickness.” Symptoms. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/radiation-sickness/basics/symptoms/con-20022901&gt;.

[xii] “Radiation Exposure and Cancer.” Radiation Exposure and Cancer. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/radiationexposureandcancer/index&gt;.

[xiii] “The Genetic Effects of Radiation.” United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/1958, 13th session (Suppl. No.17)/1958final-4_unscear.pdf>.

[xiv] “Some Birds Adapt to Chernobyl’s Radiation.” Science News. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/some-birds-adapt-chernobyl’s-radiation&gt;.

[xv] “Will Fukushima Mutate Sea Life? : DNews.” DNews. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/will-fukushima-mutate-sea-life-130828.htm&gt;.

[xvi] “Some Birds Adapt to Chernobyl’s Radiation.” Science News. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/some-birds-adapt-chernobyl’s-radiation&gt;.

[xvii] “Radiation Pollution: What Are the Sources and Remedies?” Bright Hub. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/91518.aspx&gt;.

[xviii] “Radiation Pollution: What Are the Sources and Remedies?” Bright Hub. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/91518.aspx&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Leaking Facts about Leaking Oil Pipelines

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Recently, there has been a great deal of attention paid in the media to oil pipelines, most specifically the Keystone XL Pipeline which is a pipeline that, if built, will travel from Canada’s tar sand fields all the way across the United States to the Gulf of Texas.[i]  Oil pipelines crisscross the United States, and truthfully, most other countries.  Oil is the preferred fuel, and energy source of the world in our time.  Most of the pipelines are not visible.  They’re underground so that people don’t see them, and they’re out of the way.  Why?  Because oil pipelines have a few problems.  The biggest is:  They can burst.

 Oil Pipelines 1

Pipelines are a fast way of transporting massive amounts of oil and natural gas from one place to another, and they are constructed underground so that they are not seen by us every day.   There is another thing that is being hidden from us, and that is the number of pipelines that are leaking or rupturing.  In 2012 and 2013 in North Dakota there were close to 300 oil pipelines incidents that occurred, and were not reported to the public by the state government.[ii]  The effects of oil spills are difficult enough to deal with when people know, and are able to help clean up.  The fact that the state government is covering up the spills just exacerbates the problem.  Oil pipelines cause the soil that they lie in to erode, and also contaminate the soil making it difficult, if not impossible, for plant life to grow let alone flourish there.[iii]  Then there is the risk that any spill or leak can have on ground water, which quenches the thirst of both human and animal alike.[iv]  In 2010 a pipeline ruptured and spilled over 800,000 gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River.[v]  That was four years ago, and in some parts of the river it is still possible to pull up clumps of oil from the bottom of the river.[vi]  Think about that for one moment.  An oil pipeline ruptured four years ago, and there is still oil in the river.  Would you want to drink that water?  I wouldn’t.  Already, the cleanup has cost almost $1 billion, and it is still on going.[vii]  Think of what could have been done to help the economy with an additional 1 billion dollar investment, and then consider that instead that money is being spent trying to clean up one giant mess.

When another pipeline burst near Salt Lake City and dumped over 30000 gallons into a river one morning in 2010, the fumes had such an effect on the residents of the town who breathed the fumes in their sleep that they did not wake up until almost noon.[viii]  Residents of every town that has been exposed to oil from broken pipelines complain of nausea, headaches, and difficulty breathing.[ix]  Something that is truly disconcerting is that there are no federal guidelines as to whether towns should be evacuated for health reasons related to oil spills which leads to some towns evacuated, and some sitting in oil literally![x]  What is truly worrying is that recently an oil pipeline company claimed that there were positive effects of pipelines such as money brought into the local economy due to the cleanup.[xi]  Now, I’m all for helping the economy, but do we really want to rely on disasters to be our boost?

Oil Pipelines 2

Oil pipelines bring in a massive amount of money and capital into the economy.  In 2013 oil pipeline operator companies earned almost $7 billion in revenue.[xii]  No one can deny that that is money that will benefit the United States as we seek to gain energy independence.  However, we must consider the costs that we pay in order to earn such a large economic benefit.  The first thing to consider is what is known as Eminent Domain.  This is the ability that the government has to seize private property in order to build structures for the public good, or to allow private enterprise to build, and the only requirements private enterprise faces in seizing that land is that it must appear to be for the greater good of the public as a whole, and “fair” compensation must be paid to the landowner.[xiii]  As you can imagine, this is a bit of a controversial issue.  No one wants to be told that they must give up their property, especially if that property has been in the family for generations.  Going back to oil pipelines, what truly concerns me is that foreign corporations can exercise eminent domain as well.  The Keystone XL pipeline is meeting fierce resistance from many landowners whose land the proposed pipeline will cross.  Many are left without recourse except to go to court to try and defend their property rights, and sadly, they are losing.[xiv]

Ultimately, oil pipelines will remain a serious topic of debate for years to come unless a serious shift is made into renewable or alternate energy.  That means that we will continue to deal with pipelines bursting, and possibly not being told about it, water and soil being contaminated, and our health being affected just to keep the oil flowing.  There is a saying in Frank Herbert’s book Dune:  “The spice must flow.”  Spice was the lifeblood of the interstellar economy in Dune, and we have allowed oil to take that place in our world.  Allowed being the key word in the previous sentence.  We actually do have a choice in how we acquire our energy.  Other options are wind, solar, and water generated power.  It is just that many people do not wish to take the time to let our governments know that we must to preserve the world in which we live, and find alternatives to oil which has such harmful effects.


If you liked this article and would like to receive more, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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] “What Is the Keystone XL Pipeline?” Texas RSS. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/keystone-xl-pipeline/&gt;.

[ii] “North Dakota Recorded 300 Oil Spills in Two Years without Notifying the Public.”Theguardian.com. The Guardian. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/25/north-dakota-oil-pipeline-spills-secrecy&gt;.

[iii] “Current Publications: Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.” : Pipelines: Environmental Considerations (2012-37-E). Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2012-37-e.htm#a4&gt;.

[iv] “Current Publications: Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.” : Pipelines: Environmental Considerations (2012-37-E). Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2012-37-e.htm#a4&gt;.

[v] “The Environment Report: Enbridge Oil Spill.” The Environment Report: Enbridge Oil Spill. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://environmentreport.org/enbridge_oil_spill.php&gt;.

[vi] “Three Years after Oil Spill, a Slow Recovery Haunts Kalamazoo River.” Detroit Free Press. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://archive.freep.com/article/20130623/NEWS06/306230059/Kalamazoo-River-oil-spill&gt;.

[vii] “Three Years after Oil Spill, a Slow Recovery Haunts Kalamazoo River.” Detroit Free Press. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://archive.freep.com/article/20130623/NEWS06/306230059/Kalamazoo-River-oil-spill&gt;.

[viii] “Visit Our News Center for Expert Coverage of the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas.” What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130618/what-sickens-people-oil-spills-and-how-badly-anybodys-guess&gt;.

[ix] “Visit Our News Center for Expert Coverage of the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas.” What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130618/what-sickens-people-oil-spills-and-how-badly-anybodys-guess&gt;.

[x] “Visit Our News Center for Expert Coverage of the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas.” What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130618/what-sickens-people-oil-spills-and-how-badly-anybodys-guess&gt;.

[xi] Benen, Steve. “Oil Company Claims Oil Spills Can Have ‘positive Effects'” Msnbc.com. NBC News Digital, 6 May 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/oil-company-claims-oil-spills-can-have&gt;.

[xii] “Crude Oil Pipeline Growth, Revenues Surge; Construction Costs Mount.” Login to Access the Oil & Gas Journal Subscriber Premium Features. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-112/issue-9/special-report-pipeline-economics/crude-oil-pipeline-growth-revenues-surge-construction-costs-mount.html&gt;.

[xiii] “Eminent Domain.” Legal Dictionary. Com. The Free Dictionary. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/eminent domain>.

[xiv] “Eminent Domain: Being Abused?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eminent-domain-being-abused/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: The Dangers of Fracking

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Recently, there has been a great deal of talk about the benefits and dangers of a process known as “fracking.”  If, like me, you aren’t entirely sure what means then, no worries.  I decided to find out.  Fracking, or as it is officially known hydraulic fracturing, is a process where water and chemicals are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressures in order to break up deposits of shale so that the shale can be extracted as natural gas or oil.[i]  Sounds innovative, but what are the costs associated with such an undertaking?

fracking 1

To begin with, fracturing requires a ton of water.  All in all, there are 500,000 active gas wells in the United States, and each gas well requires roughly 8 million gallons of water per fracking attempt, and a well can be fracked about 18 times before it is finished.  That equals a total of 72 trillion gallons of water used for the fracking industry.[ii]  72 trillion gallons of water that cannot then be used for drinking water, irrigation, or most other uses.  Why?  Because of the chemicals that are mixed in with the water in order to break up the shale.  Chemicals like hydrochloric and boric acid, which are acids which means they aren’t the safest chemicals on the planet, and definitely not something I want in my water.[iii]  Just for those who don’t know, hydrochloric acid is used in the production of chlorides, fertilizers, and dyes, and is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane, esophagus, and stomachs of humans.[iv]  Altogether, it is estimated that six hundred different chemicals are used in the hydraulic fracturing process.[v]  Those chemicals, sadly, do not stay where they are supposed to.  Concentrations of Methane gas are 17 times higher in ground water near fracking wells, than the rest of the country, and there have been 1000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking sites.[vi]  The worst part is that the chemicals used in fracking are not all recovered.  Recent reports have revealed that up to 80% of these chemicals are left underground after the completion of the fracking process.[vii]

Another concern of fracking is the different health effects that can occur from exposure to all of the chemicals used.  An article written in 2011 found that 75% of the chemicals used in fracking could have effects on human skin, eyes, and our other sensory organs, and that 50% of the chemicals used could affect our immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.[viii]  So, to sum up only 50% of the chemicals used in fracking can affect our immune system, which keeps us healthy, our cardiovascular system, which transports oxygen through our blood, and our nervous system which is our brain!  While the Environmental Protection Agency is still continuing its review of the effects of fracking, that is not stopping those who live near fracking wells from reporting increased health problems with almost 40% of those living within a kilometer of a fracking well reporting upper respiratory problems.[ix]  Because fracking is only about ten years old, there has not been enough time to discover the long term effects of it on human health or the environment, and while the EPA is preparing a report, and has been for three years, fracking still continues.  Some towns have even taken the situation into their own hands with the town of Denton Texas banning fracking in their town on November 04 2014.[x]  While there is no doubt that both the fracking industry, and possibly the state government, will seek to challenge the ban, still the people are worried enough about their health to take action.

As mentioned earlier, fracking has only been around for about ten years, but its effects on the environment are already starting to pile up.  For one, there is the contamination of soil and ground water as the chemicals used in the fracking process are left in the ground, and are not biodegradable.[xi]  In fact, the town of Pavillion, Wyoming have just recently had the EPA confirm that their ground drinking water has been contaminated from the fracking process.[xii]  You then have to worry about what happens if there is a spill.  In July of 2014 a million gallons of wastewater from a fracking plant was spilt in a river in North Dakota killing plant and animal life along the river, and is now traveling working its way to Lake Sakakawea, which is a main source of drinking water in the area.[xiii]  That is the damage being reported from just one, relatively small, spill of just wastewater.  Imagine if the spill had contained the tar sands that shale is found in, and is much more difficult to clean up.  Incidentally, fracking has also been linked to an increase in earthquakes and tremors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.[xiv]

fracking 2

Fracking is an industry that proponents claim will usher in a golden age of energy independence in the United States.  That may be true, if the industry can continue to access the shale at cost efficient levels.  However, can we truly ignore the problems that are more and more being associated with fracking?  I don’t have the answer, and even if I did I’m not a policy maker in the US government with the power to make that determination.  But I do know that we, the people who see the dangers and devastating effects of fracking on our health and wellbeing, as well as to our planet, have the right to make our voices heard.  There is a growing group of people who are speaking out against fracking, proving that the people can cause change if they work together.  As the evidence continues to mount as to the effects of fracking we must make sure that profit does not trump the environment, human health, and our very lives.


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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] “What Is Fracking.” What Is Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.what-is-fracking.com/&gt;.

[ii] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[iii] “What Chemicals Are Used.” FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <https://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used&gt;.

[iv] “Hydrochloric Acid (Hydrogen Chloride).” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/hydrochl.html&gt;.

[v] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[vi] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[vii] “Fracking Chemicals Cited in Congressional Report Stay Underground.” Top Stories RSS. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.propublica.org/article/fracking-chemicals-cited-in-congressional-report-stay-underground&gt;.

[viii] “Geology and Human HealthTopical Resources.” Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html&gt;.

[ix] Koch, Wendy. “People near ‘fracking’ Wells Report Health Woes.” USA Today. Gannett, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/10/people-near-fracking-wells-health-symptoms/15337797/&gt;.

[x] “Battle Lines Drawn After Texas Town Bans Fracking.” NPR. NPR. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.npr.org/2014/11/06/362086784/battle-lines-drawn-after-texas-town-bans-fracking&gt;.

[xi] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[xii] “Geology and Human HealthTopical Resources.” Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html&gt;.

[xiii] “‘Saltwater’ From Fracking Spill Is Not What’s Found in the Ocean.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-16/-saltwater-from-fracking-spill-is-not-what-s-found-in-the-ocean.html&gt;.

[xiv] “How Oil and Gas Disposal Wells Can Cause Earthquakes.” Texas RSS. National Public Radio. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/earthquake/&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: Don´t Compromise on Lead

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Growing up I remember hearing my parents talking about the dangers of lead paint, and making sure that my Christmas gifts didn’t contain any lead.  Now, I was learning about metals in school, and my young mind couldn’t understand why my parents were so concerned about a naturally occurring metal.  As I have been writing articles about pollution, that memory came back to me, and I decided that I should take some time to find out what the big deal is with lead.  What I found kind of shocked me.  I knew that lead had a detrimental effect, but I didn’t realize how much of an issue it was.  In fact, it is such a big issue that Congress in 2013 is still passing legislation dealing with lead from remodeling of homes that were built before 1978.[i]

Lead 1

143,000 people die annually, and over 600,000 children develop intellectual disabilities every year due to lead poisoning.[ii]  Those are some seriously high numbers which just go to show how truly dangerous lead is to the human body.  Lead impacts the body by disrupting oxygen and calcium transportation within the body, and by altering nerve transmission within our brains.[iii]  The lead then builds up in our kidneys, bone marrow, bones, teeth, brains, and livers where it continues to have negative effects on our bodies.[iv]  There are many symptoms to lead exposure, and some of the early signs are quite severe in and of themselves.  They include insomnia, a reduced attention span, loss of appetite, persistent fatigue and irritability, and stomach discomfort and constipation.[v]  As you can imagine, even the early signs of lead poisoning can be quite debilitating.  Imagine not sleeping for days while not eating, and being constipated.  You’d be in a lot of pain I would think.  Then you come to the truly serious effects of lead, which as mentioned above kill almost 150 thousand people a year.  If the effects of lead poisoning are not immediately lethal than other effects in adults include poor muscle coordination, nerve damage targeted specifically to the sensory organs and nerves that control the body’s muscles, increased blood pressure, loss of hearing and vision, reproductive problems including a reduced sperm count, and retarded fetal development.[vi]

As is often the case, the children suffer the most because they tend to absorb lead more easily into their bodies, and because their minds are developing, are more likely to suffer cognitive impairments.[vii].  Children who intake lead into their systems often suffer damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral problems, anemia, damage to the liver and kidneys, loss of hearing, developmental delays, and are more likely to intake a fatal amount of lead.[viii]  The effects that lead have on the body are not something to play around with, and if you suspect that you or your family member are suffering from lead poisoning you should go immediately to the Emergency Room.

Lead 2

There are quite a few sources of lead that we interact with every day.  Luckily, Congress recognized the dangers of lead back in the 1970s and made some moves towards limiting its impact on us all.[ix]  However, lead is very difficult to get rid of.  For example, in 1996 lead was banned from use in gasoline, but there is still lead in soil all around the country that goes back to 96 and before.[x]  Lead can still be found to this day in paint in homes build before 1978, and in the pipes that supply drinking water to homes built before 1986.[xi]  It is estimated that 19 million homes contain lead based paint.[xii]  Lead is also present in the air from industrial sources such as smelters, incinerators, and battery production facilities.[xiii]  Other sources include lead-glazed ceramics, china, leaded crystal and pewter, firearms that use lead bullets, imported candies, and imported food cans, and lead dust mainly from flaking paint; which by the way is not always visible to the naked eye.[xiv]  These are just some of the more common sources of lead, but there are others.  Lead is a naturally occurring metal, so there is quite a bit of it in our world.

The best way to deal with lead is to have your home checked to make sure that your pipes, paints, and other building materials contain no more than the acceptable levels of lead.  You can buy a do-it-yourself testing kit, but if you are planning on doing any remodeling, or you don’t trust do-it-yourself kits and want a professional, you will need to have an EPA certified tester come and test your home.  He will take paint, dust and soil samples to test for the level of lead, and he will be able to tell you if your home is safe or not.[xv]  A tester coming out to your home will cost somewhere around $300-$400, which isn’t bad especially if you have young children and really want peace of mind.[xvi]  Hepa air filters are also a good investment, since they are powerful enough to pick up lead in the air.[xvii]

Lead is a serious issue as more and more people are starting to realize.  The number of people that are affected by lead every year is truly astounding, and the number of homes that could one day cause problems for their inhabitants is also overwhelming.  All you can do is take precautions.  Money may be tight, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind, so have an inspector come out to your home, or buy a testing kit especially if you have children.  Growing up several of my cousins were autistic, so I know how truly heartbreaking it can be to watch children with developmental issues grow up in a world where people don’t understand them.  It’s not something I wish on anyone, and the parents who raise those children deserve a medal.  Growing up is hard enough without having to worry about something like lead forever changing the course of a child’s life.


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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] “S.484 – Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2013113th Congress (2013-2014).”S.484. United States Congress. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/484&gt;.

[ii] “Lead Poisoning and Health.” WHO. World Health Organization. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs379/en/&gt;.

[iii] “How Lead Poisons the Human Body.” NRDC:. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/flead.asp&gt;.

[iv] “How Lead Poisons the Human Body.” NRDC:. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/flead.asp&gt;.

[v] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[vii] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[viii] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[ix] “EPA.” Lead Laws and Regulations. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www2.epa.gov/lead/lead-laws-and-regulations&gt;.

[x] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xi] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xii] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

[xiii] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xiv] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xv] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

[xvi] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

[xvii] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

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;.