Pollution is a Killer

My first remembered encounter with pollution was when I was a six-year-old kid, back in the late 1960’s, living in an upstairs apartment on the not so good side of the Bronx, New York.  Our apartment had a bedroom window that looked out into a common backyard, if one could call it that, meaning that the common space was surrounded by 4 large apartment buildings. There was no place to play and no grass just garbage. In the middle of the space was a hill of garbage that peaked in the middle of the common space and emanated out. On that particular day, I saw on top of the garbage, tied to a pole,  a donkey. Yes, that might have seemed strange but it did not faze me because not too soon before, I had walked into my bathroom to take a 1 or 2 one early morning only to find a man Laying in our half filled bathtub eating yogurt. My response to my mother was ” Mom there is a man in our bathtub.” The garbage was not a pretty site and the donkey on top did not add character to it. Even a six-year-old kid could see that.

Polluted rivers and garbage in the parks all reflective of the throwaway culture that was part of the American experience. But it was so pervasive and detrimental to the health and nature that farmers and everyday citizens motivated by the progressive”hippies” of the day like my mother worked to do something about it. Ironically, it was easier then it is now. Today, there are so many more items that utilize plastic bags, and plastic containers than there were used then. Luckily, I was a kid when adult American humans started to realize that throwing trash in the rivers was detrimental to health and a blight on nature. Change started. The United States strengthened legislation on Air pollution in 1970 by the Clean Air Act Amendments. No longer would the US Government be a passive participant but an actual regulator of what companies could spit into the air.  Earth Day, a Californian reaction to a 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara killing tens of thousands of seabirds, sea lions, and dolphins happened the same year.  The overwhelming amount of garbage and pollution was so overbearing that at times, that the Ad Council came out with a commercial that expressed the feelings of those who cared.

In the commercial, a Native Indian Chief  ‘Iron Eyes Cody’ paddles down a polluted river with tears in his eyes as his eyes looks at the pollution on all sides of his canoe. I wish that I could say that it was a real Native American Chief but it was not. It was the next thing a bona fide  Italian American actor who played Native Americans in Hollywood. According to Snopes.com “Although Iron Eyes was not born an Indian, he lived his adult years as one. He pledged his life to Native American causes, married an Indian woman (Bertha Parker), adopted two Indian boys (Robert and Arthur), and seldom left home without his beaded moccasins, buckskin jacket, and a braided wig. his was not a short-lived masquerade nor one that was donned and doffed whenever expedient — he maintained his fiction throughout his life and steadfastly denied rumors that he was not an Indian, even after his half-sister surfaced to tell the story in 1996 and to provide pointers to the whereabouts of his birth certificate and other family documents.” That’s commitment

Maybe the reason that India has been unable to get their act together is that they need their version of Iron Eyes Cody.

Garbage in India is ubiquitous and everywhere.  They do not speak of landfills of garbage but rather mountains of garbage. It is so bad that a ” mountain of garbage” in east Delhi’s Ghazipur District fell and killed humans and they were not the first Indian humans to die due to garbage. Garbage won that fight and continues to win.

Mountain of Garbage in Ghabazir Eastern District of Delhi

A westerner really does not truly understand the sheer problem of the garbage issue until one goes there. I was in India in  1981 just before the ASEAN Games were to be held ( an amazing trip). What struck me was the extreme poverty and the incredible amounts of dirt and garbage that were everywhere. Even in the Muslim sections, cleanliness was only a word in the dictionary.

Indians themselves are at lost as to what they can do.

The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health .Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in this country.

How Does the AQI Work?
Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

An AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to the national air quality standard for the pollutant, which is the level EPA has set to protect public health. AQI values below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy-at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as AQI values get higher.

Understanding the AQI
The purpose of the AQI is to help you understand what local air quality means to your health. To make it easier to understand, the AQI is divided into six categories:

Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:

“Good” AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
“Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.
“Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” AQI is 101 to 150. Although general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.
“Unhealthy” AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
“Very Unhealthy” AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.
“Hazardous” AQI greater than 300. This would trigger a health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.
AQI colors
EPA has assigned a specific color to each AQI category to make it easier for people to understand quickly whether air pollution is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities. For example, the color orange means that conditions are “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” while red means that conditions may be “unhealthy for everyone,” and so on.


Thus, the creation of the EPA. Even with the establishment of the EPA and a recognition by American humans that pollution, in general, is not good for our health, it does not stop people from putting greed over health. take the current EPA chief Scott Pruitt a nightmare from the 1960’s. I can easily see him as the white collared man in the dark suit with that red neck saying ” a little bit of pollution never killed no one.” No doubt, he would have voted against the Clean Air Act of 1970.

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