air quality pollution smog ozone

Smog may add to diabetes risk
health problems lung tissue automobile traffic

Top 10 Dirtiest US Cities

Minimize your risk of developing diabetes by driving less or moving to a low-smog county -- or by geonomizing your economy. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) USA Today, Sept 29, on diabetes by Mary Brophy Marcus; and (2) Care2, Sep 29, on dirty cities posted by Melissa Breyer.

by Mary Brophy Marcus and by Melissa Breyer

Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston found a strong correlation between adult diabetes and particulate air pollution. The research is published in the journal Diabetes Care.

The correlation persists even after adjustment for other risk factors, including obesity and ethnicity, says study author John Brownstein, assistant professor at Children's Hospital Boston.

The investigators obtained county-by-county data on pollution levels from the Environmental Protection Agency during 2004 and 2005, as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Census information on the prevalence of adult diabetes, Brownstein says.

Especially striking, he says, was the finding that counties that were within EPA limits still showed significant prevalence of diabetes.

Endocrinologist Joel Zonszein of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx NY said, "Here in the Bronx, we have areas that are highly polluted by the Cross Bronx Expressway. We have clinical studies showing diabetes and asthma are very high in these communities."

More stringent regulations and clean air initiatives have helped with the air quality problem the United States faces, but over 175 million people in the US -- roughly 58% -- still suffer from pollution levels that are often dangerous, according to the American Lung Association.

The most common kinds of air pollution fall into two categories: ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot). Breathing either does not do a body good. Air pollution is a serious health threat that affects all exposed to it. It can lead to large variety of lung ailments and can have a severe impact on cardiovascular health -- it speeds up aging and it can be deadly. Some of the biggest sources of air pollution are dirty power plants, old diesel vehicles and heavy equipment, and ocean-going vessels.

Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. Although in the upper atmosphere ozone is essential (it protects us from much of the sunís ultraviolet radiation, thank you ozone) -- ozone air pollution at our level is harmful and causes serious health problems by attacking lung tissue and causing inflammation and other damage.

Ozone is in the atmosphere from raw gases that come out of tailpipes, smokestacks and many other sources. These essential raw ingredients for ozone are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons, also called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are produced primarily when fossil fuels like gasoline, oil or coal are burned or when some chemicals, like solvents, evaporate.

Since ozone is a secondary pollutant (not formed directly by the burning of fossil fuels, but from nitrogen oxides produced by such combustion, and that then react in the presence of sunlight) it is the biggest problem in areas that are sunny and hot. In addition, LA is a low basin surrounded by mountains, with an enormous amount of automobile traffic.

From the America Lung Association State of the Air Report 2010, here are the ten cities with the highest levels of ozone, number 1 being the worst -- with any other rankings they scored for particle pollution.
1o. Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC
9. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
8. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA Ranked 17th for short-term particle pollution.
7. Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX Ranked 16th for year round particle pollution.
6. Hanford-Corcoran, CA Ranked 8th for year round particle pollution and 10th for short-term particle pollution.
5. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, CA-NV Ranked 6th for short-term particle pollution.
4. Fresno-Madera, CA Ranked 6th for year round particle pollution and 2nd for short-term particle pollution.
3. Visalia-Porterville, CA Ranked 3rd for year round particle pollution and 8th for short-term particle pollution.
2. Bakersfield, CA Ranked 2nd for year round particle pollution and 1st for short-term particle pollution.
1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA Ranked 4th for year round particle pollution and 3rd for short-term particle pollution.

Here are just a few steps you can take to improve air quality:
ē Drive less
ē Donít burn wood or trash
ē Use less electricity
ē Make sure your school system requires clean buses.

JJS: While those steps are worth taking, they wonít eradicate killer smog. Big problems need big solutions. There are clean fuels, engines, transit systems, and efficient motors. Why donít we use them? Because prices tell us not to. We distort prices by taxing goods and subsidizing bads. We need to reverse that policy 180 degrees.

Donít subsidize sprawl and oil and car dependency but charge people for using public roads and the common atmosphere. Make sure all the costs that cars impose -- not just road repair but collision response and traffic cops and courts and pollution from smog and oily runoff -- are paid by the car driver via a surcharge on fuels at the pump.

And charge private landowners for exclusive use of land. The strongest tax shift we could employ would be to shift the property tax. Shift it off buildings, onto land. Then owners would not speculate with vacant lots but instead in-fill cities. That would shorten trip distances and let people walk or ride bikes or buses.

People respond to prices. Make prices tell people the costs they impose on their health and the health of others. Nobody has a right to pollute, just for their convenience or profit. You do have a right to a healthy environment. Demand it.

With your right to a healthful Earth, you also have a right to a share of Earth. When those rights shape public revenue policy, then you have geonomics in action. Itís an action good for your lungs and the whole environment.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Simple solutions that can change the world

Which cities are the safest for pedestrians?

The US President Going Green?

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