Ironically, while car accidents kill more than 30,000 of us each year, our cars also kill more than 50,000 of us annually by polluting the air with toxic fumes and noxious emissions.
In fact, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, air pollution kills approximately 200,000 Americans each year. In addition to the 50,000 deaths caused by road transportation, another 50,000 pollution-related deaths are caused by electric power generators.
Industrial, commercial, and even residential sources of pollution are choking the life out of a lot us, particularly in densely populated areas of the country. Were talking about half of the population of the country here! And those of us who live in poverty are at even greater risk for the development of serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that thanks to enforcement of the 1970 Clean Air Act, air pollutant levels had been reduced by 41 percent. Yet today 154 million Americans still live in cities and communities where the air quality puts their health in danger. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth-leading cause of death in America; and each year there are approximately three million new victims of asthma, another insidious respiratory ailment.
About 42 million of us are smokers. Some 16 million Americans suffer from diseases caused by smoking. Both smokers and those forced to inhale their secondhand smoke are at risk for the development of lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and bronchitis. There are at least 480,000 smoking-related deaths each year and more than 40,000 of these are victims of secondhand smoke.
Clearing The Air
What can you do to help? First, you can find out about the air quality in your area and take ownership of efforts to improve it. After all, the air quality is everybodys business.
There are other concrete steps you can take as well:
- Curtail your use of electricity.
- Avoid burning leaves, wood, or trash outdoors.
- Save gas and the air quality in your community by driving less.
And heres a bit of food for thought:
- Add foods to your diet which help to promote lung health, i.e. ginger, garlic, chili peppers, kale, cabbage, onions, apples, and grapefruit.
- Quit smoking! If you need help, get it, and quit!
- Give your lungs a good workout by exercising regularly.