The Viridian Design Movement

Viridian Note 00301: Science Says Fumes Will

Bruce Sterling []

Kill You

Key concepts: fossil fuels, particulate pollution, lung disease, carcinogens, heart attacks

Attention Conservation Notice: Might command some special attention if you've been coughing a lot lately.

Links: "This past winter was the hottest in United States recorded history. According to an analysis by the National Climatic Data Center last month the average temperature between November 2001 and January 2002 was an incredible 4.3 degrees F above normal." "Crypty the Cryptosporidium", a cheesy knockoff of our beloved Viridian mascot. Universe not really green. Actually, universe is color of cheap-ass beige PC console.


"AIR POLLUTION: Small Particles Add Up to Big Disease Risk

by Solana Pyne

"Breathing polluted air may be nearly as bad for you as living with a cigarette smoker. (((And just try divorcing your local smokestack.))) A new study, the most extensive of its type, shows that long-term exposure to tiny particles of air pollution increases the risk of dying from heart or lung disease or lung cancer by about the same amount as long-term exposure to secondhand smoke.

"Although the mechanism by which the particles cause disease is still up for debate, the latest study supports existing U.S. air-quality standards that have been attacked by industry and state governments. ((("Flash: Exxon To Merge With R.J. Reynolds")))

"A number of studies have shown that more deaths from heart and lung diseases occur on days with high concentrations of fine particles. These particles, byproducts of burning wood and fossil fuels, are smaller than 2.5 micrometers across, or less than 1/40th the width of a human hair. Landmark studies in 1993 and 1995 suggested that heart and lung diseases could be caused by chronic exposure to fine particles, but some scientists argued that the findings were unreliable because researchers hadn't sufficiently accounted for the individual risk factors and differences among communities (Science, 4 August 2000, p. 711).

"To gain a better understanding, environmental epidemiologists Arden Pope of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, George Thurston of New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, and Daniel Krewski of the University of Ottawa tracked people over a longer time and controlled more extensively for individual risk factors.

"The team compared data on particulate and gaseous air pollution with data on the cause of death among 500,000 people followed for 16 years by the American Cancer Society. After compensating for smoking, diet, obesity, and other risk factors, (((somewhere there's a fat, chainsmoking, coal-mining guy with every single one of these risk factors, and he is going to bury us all))) as well as possible regional differences, the researchers found that every 10-microgram increase in fine particles per cubic meter of air produces a 6% increase in the risk of death by cardiopulmonary disease, and 8% for lung cancer."

(((I don't wanna come off as a big tub-thumping health alarmist here, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that, statistically speaking, this phenomenon is just bound to kill a lot of you people.

(((Some personal testimony here: my health has improved remarkably since I began sleeping in a room with a HEPA air filter. They are simple and cheap. And if they don't filter the smog, pollen and fine particles from your air, then your own pink, crispy lungs most certainly will.)))


"Reporting in the 6 March issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the team found that the risks are highest in Los Angeles, which averaged 20 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter in 1999 and 2000. Chicago clocked in at 18 and New York City at 16.

"But small cities are not necessarily safer, Thurston points out: Huntington, West Virginia, has higher average fine-particle concentrations than New York because of its proximity to coal-fired power plants. Douglas Dockery, an environmental epidemiologist at Harvard University who helped design one of the original studies linking long- term particulate exposure to heart and lung disease, says the study's key contribution is highlighting the role of particulates in lung cancer.

"It's logical that fine particles would cause heart and lung problems, Thurston says: 'The particles are loaded with carcinogens, and they reside in the lungs for a long period of time.' Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the most lethal particles, however, and sort out how they cause disease.

"They may lodge in the lining of the lungs, inflaming them and contributing to infection. Fine particles can also generate highly reactive oxygen-containing chemicals that can trigger inflammation and allergies and might damage the heart. And the smallest of the fine particles can pass from the lungs into the bloodstream, where they can travel to other sites and wreak further havoc. (((Oh come on == there's got to be an upside to this. Maybe they fertilize your lungs with essential coal-mining minerals.)))

"As with cigarette smoke, many different compounds and mechanisms are probably involved, says Morton Lippmann, an environmental health scientist at NYU School of Medicine and director of one of five centers set up by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the health effects of fine particles. 'We don't know why some people get serious heart problems and others get lung disease,' he says. 'But that's not an excuse not to regulate fine particles.' (((Viridian people, let me level with you here: even if the feds do further regulate particles, the Bush EPA is just not gonna enforce those limits. Go buy a HEPA box. and do it yourself. Now that you know about this, let somebody else die.)))

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