I was raised in a small town in Southern Utah. The air was clean. At night we could see millions of stars, and the Milky Way stretched across the sky. In the late 1940s I traveled to Salt Lake City with my parents. The Interstate Highway System did not exist, and we had to drive through Provo to get to Salt Lake City. The air pollution from Geneva Steel was very bad, and I was glad I didn't live in that area. In the summer of 1958, I was in military training at Hunter-Liggett Military Reservation, California. While at Hunter-Liggett, I visited Los Angeles, and I couldn't believe how bad the air pollution was. During the 1960s and early 1970s, I lived in Phoenix, and I could see the exhaust from vehicles hanging like a brown cloud over the Interstate highway. It seemed to me that air pollution was everywhere, and I longed for the crystal clear air from my childhood. Now, I live in the Salt Lake valley, an area surrounded by mountains, and we have temperature inversions that cause a lot of air pollution. Fortunately, storm fronts come through and clean out the pollution, and we have beautiful, clear air until the next inversion. Geneva Steel is gone, and Provo has nice air.
People fear that air pollution might be harmful, and scientific research is proving those fears to be true. Links to some of the research into air pollution is given below.
Women in the U.S. exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were up to twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in areas with low pollution, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). It is the first large national study to examine links between autism and air pollution across the U.S.
Both fine-particle air pollution and noise pollution may increase a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to German researchers who have conducted a large population study, in which both factors were considered simultaneously.
People who are consistently exposed to both wood smoke and tobacco smoke are at a greater risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and for experiencing more frequent and severe symptoms of the disease, as well as more severe airflow obstruction, than those who are exposed to only one type of smoke, according to the results of a new population-based study conducted by researchers in Colombia.
In addition to changing HDL from "good" to "bad," the inhalation of emissions activates other components of oxidation, the early cell and tissue damage that causes inflammation, leading to hardening of the arteries, according to the research team, which included scientists from UCLA and other institutions.
People with higher levels of cadmium in their urine -- evidence of chronic exposure to the heavy metal found in industrial emissions and tobacco smoke -- appear to be nearly 3.5 times more likely to die of liver disease than those with lower levels, according to a study by Johns Hopkins scientists.
New research shows that growing up in areas where air pollution is increased raises the risk of insulin resistance (the prescursor to diabetes) in children. The research is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), and is by Elisabeth Thiering and Joachim Heinrich, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Neuherberg, Germany, and colleagues.
A consortium of scientists from across the country has found that breathing ultrafine particles from a large family of materials that increasingly are found in a host of household and commercial products, from sunscreens to the ink in copy machines to super-strong but lightweight sporting equipment, can cause lung inflammation and damage.
The researchers, led by Sara Adar, John Searle Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Joel Kaufman, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and Medicine, University of Washington, found that higher concentrations of fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) were linked to a faster thickening of the inner two layers of the common carotid artery, an important blood vessel that provides blood to the head, neck, and brain. They also found that reductions of fine particulate air pollution over time were linked to slower progression of the blood vessel thickness. The thickness of this blood vessel is an indicator of how much atherosclerosis is present in the arteries throughout the body, even among people with no obvious symptoms of heart disease.
Published in the journal Environmental Pollution, the Pitt study finds that bumblebees are at risk of ingesting toxic amounts of metals like aluminum and nickel found in flowers growing in soil that has been contaminated by exhaust from vehicles, industrial machinery, and farming equipment. The Pitt study finds that bumblebees have the ability to taste -- and later ignore -- certain metals such as nickel, but can do so only after they visit a contaminated flower. Therefore, the insects are exposed to toxins before they even sense the presence of metals.