The Perils of Pollution

by blackspanielgallery

Pollution can be dangerous, and even the polluters may be unaware. Additive pollution from multiple sources can be particularly problematic when trying to abate.

The perils of pollution are real, but identifying the exact problems is itself difficult. I currently teach in an area often called “Cancer Alley.” The name comes from the number of chemical plants and refineries in the area. More than that, it is a name that comes from the number of cancer cases that are found in that area. Since I commute into the area, then leave, it seemed harmless. I now must access that idea in a new understanding.

The issue is that all appears well. The air is not noticeably different most of the time. Oh, there are plumes of smoke rising upwards, but the plants are supposed to be monitored for acceptable emissions.

One problem in addition to the possibility of atmospheric pollution is the impact on the water supply. Since I bring my water in bottles from home, I never considered this.

Statistically, the area does have a higher than average cancer rate. But I breathe air that is filtered by air conditioning and avoid the water, except for hand washing.

Noticeable Pollution

Concerns

One cluster of plants in particular appears to alter the weather with plumes so dense that they enhance clouds.  Smoke allows water to condensate, and hence is a cloud enhancer.  This can cause increased perception downwind.  While I do drive a few miles downwind, it seems much of the problem passes overhead.  But we must ask what is in the drops of rain that fall from the enhanced clouds, and is it safe?  While we are given the assurance they are, I doubt it.  Certainly, any impact on the weather by a plant or refinery is unfair to those living under its manufactured weather, even if the chemicals are otherwise safe.

 

A second concern is the fog bank I frequently enter closer to my destination.  Much of my trip to campus is through flat, swampy terrain, but too frequently a deep fog bank looms with the appearance of a high hill from a distance.  The location is often in the same place, apparently downwind from particulates upon which condensation has taken place.  I initially thought this might be smoke from burning sugar cane fields that are deliberately set ablaze after harvest.  But I have never spotted a source of smoke, and different fields are burned on different days. The fog is always in the same place, indicating a source that repeats its contamination.

Pollution Books

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Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution

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Water Supply and Pollution Control (7th Edition)

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Pollution and the Death of Man

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Basic Environmental Technology: Water Supply, Waste Management and Pollution Control (6th Edition)

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My Personal Problem

Between six and seven years ago I had a kidney stone.  When the doctor checked it at the hospital something appeared on the other kidney.  It was urinary cancer.  I was fortunate in that it was caught early, for there is no cure.  It was surgically removed.

 

Six years later I was being checked, as I must, to determine if anything else comes up.  A lymph node was slightly enlarged.  A more thorough check revealed a second spot in or near a lung.  I had four cycles of a new medicine that is effective only in some people, and not proven to eliminate the problem.  The tumors shrunk, but surgery is the best option.  I just finished the first surgery, and now I await the second. 

 

I am fortunate thus far in that the medicine had a major, positive impact.  And, there were only two spots to address.  It may reappear in the future, but the medicine does work on me.

Others

Several other faculty members in a very small faculty also have developed cancer.  The statistics are there, and I believe the problem is real.

The Dilemma

Chemical plants and refineries produce things that make life easier, and things that have positive impacts on society.  But if one has an output that has not been proven dangerous it is unlikely that byproduct will be regulated.  The regulation should be to prove it safe, or do not emit it.  Instead, unless there is proof something is a danger it may be allowed.  This is the same argument used by the cigarette industry for years while they refused to address second hand smoke.  Another danger is cheating.  How do we know what is being released by a plant when the monitors are not present?  Air moves fast, so when a government agent is at the gate to monitor the output of a plant things can change rapidly.  It only takes one manager to place profit above safety thus averting the efforts of government officials.  So, how do we find the one plant among many, and close it down, without eliminating any positive on society by the safe plants?  Here, we must move, but move with caution.

 

The area is improvised, and the chemical plants are the main source of employment.  Still, adversely impacting people’s health is not adequate grounds for having a better economy.  Let the safe plants operate, but we should not be subjected to pollution that has not been proven safe.

 

Then, there is a deeper concern.  If ten plants are emitting similar chemicals within accepted limits, can their combined emissions still be considered safe?  Ten concurrent major erupting volcanos can toxify the atmosphere of the entire planet.  We must think of things as parts of a whole.

Final Thoughts

There is a major concern, and according to statistics it appears one or more of the plants is causing a problem.  Whether this is known to anyone at those plants, or it is a culmination of many “safely” operating plants taken individually is another matter.  And, as with many other environmental issues, we must move with thought, not as a quick, extreme reaction.  We must be fair to all, including industry.  But always err on the side of caution.

 

Should any plant be operating unsafely, or not having adequate reason to believe its operation is safe, then a moral issue is present.  Profit is not a gauge of morality.

 

This is a complex issue, with multiple facets to consider.  Consideration of air pollution without concern for water quality is inadequate.

 

This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

The introduction image is our own,

Updated: 01/27/2019, blackspanielgallery
 
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blackspanielgallery on 02/18/2019

One place I believe we fall short is how pollution interacts, so two chemicals that are deemed safe can combine into something dangerous. Another is the cumulative effect of several sources of the same pollutants. They can add to a dangerous level.

WriterArtist on 02/15/2019

I cannot emphasize enough the topic of your article about how important it is to become conscious of environmental pollution. The chemical plants and industry's by-products are not disposed scientifically increasing the danger of poisons entering into water, air and earth. The authorities don't bother to inspect and enforce rules. Most often the damage is done and it is irreversible even after the plant is closed. The Nuclear Plants are the best examples of how humans are still not equipped to tackle into radioactive elements and the dangerous outcomes are beyond control of any advanced country on earth.

blackspanielgallery on 01/29/2019

I should be clear, I have had an unusual long time between episodes, and the scope of the present cancer appears restricted. I also have had an exceeding great response to the medicine. So, my case is not typical. The statistics perhaps are better for me.

blackspanielgallery on 01/29/2019

There is not yet anything, surgery has a small percentage of total effectiveness, but there is something about to come out soon according to the doctor.

DerdriuMarriner on 01/29/2019

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the product line that so supports your thought piece. Can the combination of experimental medicine and two surgeries eliminate the problem that the former alone does not suppress?

blackspanielgallery on 01/27/2019

The fog should be more widespread if it were from humidity alone. The fact it is localized, and always in the same place, indicates some particulates present. Adjacent areas are actually more swampy, with more ground water.

frankbeswick on 01/27/2019

At one school at which I taught we had a visit from the environmental health authorities who interviewed every child with asthma and plotted where they lived with the intention of determining whether or not certain factories in what was a heavily industrialised area were breaking emission standards.

As for fog, in the old days in Britain when fog and pollution became mixed we used to have what were known as pea soupers, thick, heavy fogs.One night the pea souper was so bad that my father, who worked on the buses, was trapped overnight at the edge of the bleak Saddleworth Moor and had to sleep overnight on the top deck of the bus, wrapped in his greatcoat.Those were not the good old days.Veronica will not remember this as she was not yet born then.

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