Environmental Pollution – John Karnish (July/August 98)
The other day I went to the gym and was utterly amazed. Everyone in the parking lot was circling around looking for the best spot. There was no real reason to do this. It was a nice day. The temperature was mild and it was sunny. These people had been trained into looking for the best parking spot, even though it did not make any sense. They were going to the gym to run on the treadmill. I think they could have handled the walk from the back of the parking lot to the gym.
Unfortunately, most people either don’t know or don’t care about what they are doing by running their autos longer than are needed. According to the Department on Environmental Protection of Western Australia, fossil fuel combustion is the main source of air pollution. Motor vehicles make up the majority of polluters within this category. We may wonder if air pollution from cars is really that bad. After all, our society basically needs the automobile to stay on top.
Well, despite the need our society has for the automobile, its effects are still bad. The Environmental Center supplies information on the first conference held to discuss the impact air pollution has on the body. The conference was held in 1994, in Washington DC, by the National Association of Physicians for the Environment. According to the center, toxic chemicals enter the body through the nose, mouth, skin and digestive tract. Below is a listing of some of the effects of toxins from automobiles on our bodies.
Benzene – Exposure to Benzene, which is found in gasoline, has been shown to lead to leukemia and lymphoma. Benzene has a negative effect on the production of bone marrow and suppresses the creation and maturation of red blood cells.
Carbon Monoxide – Produced by automobiles, is 200 times more likely to stick to hemoglobin in red blood cells than oxygen. This effect can starve the body of much needed oxygen.
General Toxic Chemicals – Over time hinder the release of edothelial-derived relaxing factor (EDRF). EDRF relaxes the smooth muscles and, without this relaxation, makes humans susceptible to systematic hypertension.
OK, so automobiles create a lot bad pollution. What can I do? I need my car.
Well, you should keep in mind that these effects are from long term exposure to air pollution. We are in a society where many of us need to use our cars. However, there are many steps we can use to cut down on their use. For one, do not be that person circling around the parking lot for half an hour. North Americans are probably the largest group of people who suffer from obesity. We can afford to walk to the store from the end of the parking lot. I know that I can.
Another way we can cut down on auto pollution is by car pooling. The benefits of car pooling are not just environmental. Many highway have special, faster lanes which are devoted just to car poolers. Also, car poolers end up saving money by spending less on gas and general care of their cars. There are usually services in most areas which will set you up with people who are looking to share rides. If you are a boss or company owner, one thing you can do is offer small benefits to car poolers or people who use alternative transportation.
Besides car pooling, alternative transportation can be used in areas where it is accessible. It is much more relaxing sitting on a train or bus reading your paper than being stuck in a rush hour dead-lock. Don’t forget about bicycles and walking. The news is out that the best way to avoid fatal illnesses is to exercise and walking has been found to be one of the best exercises. Not only does walking have physical effects on the body, it also has positive effects on your mood.
Although roads are not always safely made for bicyclists, it should not be left out as a form of transportation. It is cheap and also is a great form of exercise. Many countries in Europe use the bicycle as one of the main forms of transportation. Why should we be different? Maybe it’s time to start writing to our congressmen and senators about making roads and pathways that are more accessible to bicyclists?
Finally, if you must use your automobile, there are precautions that you can take. The Department of Environmental Protection of Western Australia states that by keeping your car well tuned, it will emit 9 to 25% less pollution. Also, you can avoid less pollution by not spilling and overfilling your gasoline tank.
The Department of Environmental Protection of Western Australia: