Pollution Linked to 9 Million Deaths Worldwide
Kenneth is an intern with Gasp through the UAB Academic Small Business Alliance program.
An unfortunate reality, pollution is by far one of the largest contributors of early deaths worldwide. How deadly is the pollution in our air? According to the research published by The Lancet, the number of tragedies cause by pollution triples the number of deaths caused by AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Nearly 6.5 million casualties occur from air pollution and 1.8 million from water pollution, and 0.8 from workplace-related pollution. This is no minor issue. The wellbeing of the general population faces profound threats and concerns as pollution continues to destroy our environment.
Children face the highest risk. The research also showed that more than 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year because of the effects of polluted environments (WHO). “Particularly for young children, a polluted environment is deadly,” said WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan. The development of their organs and immune system is crucial at their age, and the vulnerability to the polluted air has devastating consequences. Problems can start as early as inside of a mother’s womb, leaving the death of the baby or child almost inevitable. Improvements in homes, schools, transportation, agriculture, and industry could make a positive impact on children’s’ lives. The questions when and how still remain.
Growing industrial countries in southeast Asia, eastern Mediterranean, and western Pacific regions contribute most to the toxins in the air, and the United States is not far behind. China and India have already suffered a majority of these deaths – 4.3 million people combined. It is important to state that the overwhelming majority of citizens in our country live in areas under extreme air pollution, which may ultimately lead to risks of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and neurological damage.
This environmental challenge should not be taken lightly. “It deserves the full attention of international leaders, civil society, health professionals, and people around the world,” said the commission’s co-leader, Professor Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The health impact is much greater than what we realize. But who is to blame? Gasp’s motto iterates “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the pollution.” Healthy air is a regulation that ALL deserve to have, and it takes ALL to contribute to clean air. Individual voices must be heard.
Join our fight for clean air and healthy communities by becoming a member of Gasp today.
An Update on the Air Monitoring Kit
Vaishali is an intern with Gasp through the UAB Academic Small Business Alliance program.
With the help of our lovely technical advisor, Jon Self, we have built our first prototype of the Air monitor! The monitor will test humidity, temperature, air particulate matter, and sound levels through the phone.
(All of the steps are in a PowerPoint. I’ve included some of the slides at the end of this post.)
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
First we needed to solder the Arduino and powerboost shield then we started connecting each part through wires on the breadboard. Below there is a picture of the prototype. Now you may be wondering how we get to see the information collected by the machine. The air particle sensor displays data to an Android device and runs on a battery so it is very convenient and easy to make!
The problem with our first prototype is the original particle sensor did not pick up PM2.5. So we bought a new particle sensor and we are waiting for the new part to come in. We know that the original sensor was incorrect because we compared the data to Dylos, another air particle sensor and there was a vast difference. Comparing the same time and place, the Dylos PM2.5 value was 1000 and our prototype was 6000.
We are also working on 3D printing a case to hold the air monitor parts and look stylish encasing the equipment. Hopefully this new sensor will work correctly and we can start spreading this project to schools for children to make their own!
On Monday, October 9, 2017, the EPA proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Once it is published in the Federal Register tomorrow there will be a 60 day public comment period. [Update: read Pruitt’s delusional press release here.] As we have before for the proposed and final rule, Gasp will be commenting. It is not only regrettable, but also disgraceful that we are commenting again, this time against repealing one of the most critical plans to address and combat climate change.
Clearly the motto of this new administration is to repeal, repeal, repeal with no thought of replacing. Where Scott Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times prior to being in charge of the EPA, I cannot say I’m shocked at this announcement. But this is conscience-shocking.
Where September of this year was the most active month on record for Atlantic hurricanes and the 10 hottest years recorded have all occurred since 1998, climate change isn’t a distant threat, it’s here. The time to act has long passed and we certainly do not have time to roll back existing regulations.
EPA estimates the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year once it is fully implemented.
The message today? Meh, your health, your children’s health, they don’t matter. This administration would rather coyly and ignorantly pretend they’re unsure whether carbon is a pollutant. Such an absurd position is indefensible, especially when it’s well-known who has been buttering Scott Pruitt’s bread for a very long time.
This is a slap in the face to current and future generations. If you agree, please sign our petition for climate action!
Tidying up my family’s summer vegetable and flower gardens brought some calmness to a hectic week. With every season and year that passes, playing in the dirt as therapy gains greater significance for me. I recall when my boys (now teenagers) were young, giving them a shovel and dirt or just being outside would provide hours of entertainment. Maybe the simplicity of the activity throws our souls back to a slower time. I don’t know.
Residents in northern Birmingham neighborhoods are not able to benefit from this therapeutic activity. Their summers are not filled with the simplicity of moving soil around on their property. They cannot allow their children or grandchildren to dig in the yards of their homes. In fact, if their children or grandchildren inadvertently do get down in the dirt (as kids often do) they have been instructed to wash their hands and take off their shoes before coming inside. Hundreds of residential properties are contaminated with toxic chemicals. Arsenic. Lead. PAHs. Soot continues to accumulate on porches and chemical odors are commonplace.
This summer, the EPA began their investigation into Gasp’s Title VI complaint — one of many actions Gasp has taken to address the pollution. We heard in-depth interviews and testimonies from folks living in the impacted neighborhoods. Residents shared the stark realities of how legacy and ongoing pollution have altered their lives and their health.
An elderly woman who every summer for years took pride in her large, well-nurtured vegetable garden that yielded produce for her family and her neighbors shared her memories. At times, the details escaped her, but the joy her backyard garden brought her was palpable. She wonders, now that she knows about the toxic soil, if eating those vegetables year after year could have affected her families’ health. She doesn’t garden anymore.
A retired veteran who gave 30 years of service to our country spends more time outside washing the soot that accumulates on his lawn furniture than he does sitting in that furniture enjoying the outdoors. As a self-described “clean freak,” he is fairly satisfied how the water pressure of the hose cleans the soot off of his new windows, but he grows tired of this mundane chore that is as frequent as taking out the trash.
Also this summer, news broke of Oliver Robinson taking bribes from Drummond Coal and Balch & Bingham to undermine the continued cleanup of toxic contamination in Birmingham and our efforts to expand the investigation into Tarrant.
While it is not terribly shocking that big polluters and their expensive law firms engaged in nefarious activity to maintain the status quo, the silence that followed was. Where are the other elected officials denouncing Drummond Coal’s and Balch & Bingham’s immoral behavior? Where are the opinion letters or full page ads from our corporate leaders and institutions demanding for an apology or, better yet, restitution and cleanup from Drummond Coal and Balch & Bingham? Will the reach of these companies’ tentacles prevent justice from taking priority over the health of entire neighborhoods of people? The health of our children?
The summer of 2017 could have been the beginning of a paradigm shift for the most powerful corporations and institutions in our state. The federal investigation is providing the “cover” for members of the leadership class to side with the residents in northern Birmingham neighborhoods and denounce the actions of Drummond Coal and Balch & Bingham.
Although fall has officially begun, it is not too late. We need to hear from the influential voices denouncing the immoral actions of these corporations and calling for the clean up and reduction of pollution in northern Birmingham neighborhoods. Perhaps by taking action today we can ensure that the generations of tomorrow will have the benefits of a clean and healthy environment.
Start by telling the Birmingham Business Alliance to remove Drummond CEO Mike Tracy and Balch & Bingham Partner Stan Blanton from their board of directors and from barring representatives from leadership for at least two years.
At Gasp my project is to build an air monitor meaning this device needs to measure temperature, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon monoxide, ambient particulate, and humidity levels.
Purpose: Currently, there is a small of amount of data on the particulate matter. There only 7 in Jefferson County that measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5). PM2.5 is an air pollutant and when its levels are high the tiny particles reduce the visibility of the air making the air appear hazy. The higher the PM levels, the worse it is for the lungs so it is important for everyone to know the air quality for their own health and create a safe environment for the next generation.
Future goals: With a successful device, the best way to give back to society is to share our hard work by teaching others how to make their own air monitor. My vision is to create a video with step by step instructions and placing the code on a public platform. A materials kit can be ordered from Gasp and the office would ship the kit to a customer with the link to the instructions and the code. We would like to go to high schools and have a session in class for each student to build his or her own device that they can take home and place it outside.
Current status: We are waiting for the Arduino to ship into the office. The Arduino connects the electronic device to the computer and we use it as a coding software. The Arduino lets us code what we want the machine to do. Our wonderful technical adviser John is working on completing the code. Here’s a picture of all the current parts!
Interning at Gasp has definitely brought a lot of things to my attention regarding health and safety in the city of Birmingham. Birmingham per se contains an immeasurable number of pollutant factors, all of which produces damaging toxins into our air. These factors include industrialized buildings, trains, cars, etc.
The population—you, me, family, friends, babies, grandparents—are ALL affected by the pollution in the air, and a change is vital for the safety of our lives. Because what originates from the minor emission of CO2 and ground level ozone may lead to an asthma attack or lung disease, seen especially in children.
During my internship at Gasp, I have been working on a project to help implement EPA’s Flag Program into local elementary, middle, and high schools of Birmingham and Jefferson County. The objective of this program is to use brightly colored flags to help students become aware of daily air quality conditions. When students know the daily air quality, they can adjust their daily routine to reduce exposure to air pollution.
With the help of Michael, Haley, and Kirsten, I am currently in the position of reaching out to science educators that may be interested with incorporating EPA’s program into their schools. Hopefully by the end of my school semester a majority of schools in the Birmingham and Jefferson County get involved with this essential and foundational program.
If you’ve been following the North Birmingham corruption investigation involving Drummond Company, Balch & Bingham, and former Rep. Oliver Robinson, you know that our work is a huge part of the story. (Robinson plead guilty on Sept 7.) Yesterday, al.com’s John Archibald reported that newly appointed U.S. Attorney Jay Town is asking for patience in the ongoing corruption investigation — which suggests more indictments may very well be on their way.
We’re trying to do our part to ensure everyone responsible for wrongdoing is held accountable. That’s why we sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to recuse himself from the investigation. His decades-long, lucrative relationships with Drummond and Balch & Bingham could compromise the case, in our opinion, and its better to be safe than sorry.
We are also trying to find possible connections between two $25,000 contributions made to former Alabama Attorney General (now-Senator) Luther Strange by Drummond and actions taken by his office opposing the EPA’s cleanup efforts. On Aug. 23, Gasp attorney David Ludder made an open records act request on our behalf to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. We requested “electronic mail records, letters, or other records of communications” between Luther Strange or any employee or agent of the Office of the Attorney General:
- Any employee or agent of Balch & Bingham LLP concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
- Any employee or agent of Drummond Company, Inc. concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
- Any employee or agent of ABC Coke concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
- Any employee or agent of Drummond Company, Inc. concerning contributions to any political campaign of Luther Strange dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
The AG’s office on Aug. 31 denied our request on the basis that our attorney is based in Florida. That’s not how the Open Records Act works, and we promptly let them know that Gasp is indeed based in Birmingham, Ala., and therefore has every right to review the requested communications. As of today (Sept. 18), we have yet to hear back from Marshall’s office.
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
One has to ask, “Is Attorney General Steve Marshall playing politics with our request because he doesn’t want to hurt his predecessor, Luther Strange, in the runoff election on Sept. 26?”
If that’s the case, we’re even more disgusted than we already were. As a 501(c)(3), Gasp is a nonpartisan, apolitical organization. But we have a right to review public records and we shouldn’t be stonewalled for political purposes. Our members deserve answers, and we won’t stop until we get them.
Our mission requires us to educate the public about the harmful effects of air pollution and about cleaner sources of energy. You might say we’re big “fans” of clean energy like wind and solar — and science in general! We’re always looking for creative ways to teach kids about air pollution, health, and renewable energy.
One of our fall interns, Vaishali, found this video (above) that shows how to make a simple and efficient personal fan using solar energy! So she assembled a list of materials and equipment and wrote out the step-by-step instructions. This is a great classroom project for science teachers and science clubs. We created an Amazon Shopping List for anyone interested in trying it out. The materials cost about $32.The equipment will run about $25, but you should be able to borrow a hot glue gun and/or soldering kit if you don’t already have one of your own.
Teachers: Feel free to reach out to Michael Hansen (205-701-4270, email@example.com) if you’d like us to come to your classroom for a project like this one!
- 3V Solar Panel
- 12V Small DC Motor
- Small Propeller
- Styrofoam blocks
- A plywood board
- Hot Glue Gun
- Soldering Machine
- Connect the wires on the motor to the solar panel using soldering
- Cut two long rectangles of Styrofoam and glue them down to the cardboard with 3 inches separation
- Glue the motor to one Styrofoam
- Glue the solar panel to the other Styrofoam facing towards the sun
- Attach the propeller to the motor
- Congrats! You’re done!
SHOP FOR SUPPLIES
The fall semester is in full swing at Alabama’s colleges and universities and we’ve got some awesome new interns to introduce! Last week we introduced you to fall intern Vaishali Nijampatnam, a junior at UAB majoring in biomedical engineering. Today, we’d like you to meet Kenneth Paik, who is also interning with Gasp through UAB’s Academic Small Business Alliance internship program. Kenneth is a pre-med student majoring in biomedical sciences at UAB.
What is your major at UAB and why did you choose it?
I always favored the idea of pursing science into a career that provides practical application, whether it be healthcare or research. The Biomedical Sciences program gave me an understanding of what that may look like. Class topics range anywhere from the basic fundamentals of genetics of the human body to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes it takes to provide health services. Having this sort of background definitely helps strengthen my goal with healthcare.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I am hoping to be able to travel much more after I graduate. Visiting and experiencing new cultures and languages has always been an interest of mine. I also hope to be in graduate school by then.
What is your dream job?
I first tell people what’s my parent’s goal for me—to become a doctor or dentist. But to simply state it, I want to serve the disadvantaged. Anything related with the fact that people are suffering, hurting, or struggling reminds me that there is more than just myself to take care of. Briefly speaking, my dream job isn’t anything specific, but to simply provide care for others.
What do you hope to learn while volunteering with Gasp?
I believe Gasp will encourage me to strive for higher ends. In a non-profit organization there is always a targeted goal. It’s all about the general population, making people safer, healthier, and happier. Hopefully, working as an intern here will help me gain a better sense of that.
Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you?
Moving out of the house and living on my own made me realize the importance of taking care of myself. That also includes the type of environment that I live in. Gasp advocates for a safer and healthier community in the Birmingham area by improving the air quality that helps benefit the lifestyles of people from every background.
What is your favorite food?
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy playing soccer, walking, running, and exercising. I also like to play guitar and sing.
Who or what are your influences?
My influences mainly come from my parents. They continuously encourage me to work hard and I accredit them for all of my accomplishments. They also teach me to appreciate the little things in life while tackling big goals on a day to day basis.
What are some other fun facts about yourself?
Though I’ve played sports my entire life, I’ve never broken, sprained, or bruised any bone in my body. Also, I come from three different ethnic backgrounds: Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gasp Calls on Jeff Sessions to Recuse Himself from North Birmingham Corruption Investigation
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Sept. 6, 2017) — Gasp, a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the reduction of air pollution through education and advocacy, has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into public corruption related to the 35th Avenue Superfund Site in northern Birmingham.
The letter to Sessions reads, in part:
“Due to your well-documented connections to these two powerful companies, Balch & Bingham and Drummond Company, we believe such a recusal is necessary and appropriate under the circumstances in this case. For example, as a U.S. Senator, Balch & Bingham and Drummond were your second and third largest sources of campaign contributions. (Totaling over $300,000 according to public campaign finance records.)
“I would also like to point out that [Luther Strange] received $50,000 from Drummond Company in late 2014 and early 2015 during the height of events surrounding the NPL and Pinson Valley Site. Rather than investigating possible public corruption and bad behavior by Drummond and Balch & Bingham, Strange looked the other way and opposed Gasp’s proposals to bring much-needed relief to the northern Birmingham communities at every turn.
“Alabama has been ravaged by public corruption in recent years. Meanwhile, real people are being harmed by the toxic pollution spewing from industry in the northern Birmingham region. To avoid any perception of impropriety, I must insist that you recuse yourself. Thank you for your consideration.”
In June, former state Rep. Oliver Robinson was charged with bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. According to Robert Posey, acting U.S. Attorney at the time, Robinson took bribes totaling $360,000 in contracts through his foundation from Drummond Company’s law firm, Balch & Bingham.
Drummond and Balch & Bingham allegedly orchestrated the scheme in an attempt to stop an EPA proposal to add the 35th Avenue Site to the National Priorities List and to prevent the EPA from expanding its investigation into include nearby neighborhoods. After taking the money, Robinson worked to discourage residents from supporting the NPL proposal and from participating in soil sampling in a new site inspection.
Robinson accepted a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and entered a not guilty plea in July. He is expected to change his plea to guilty as soon as Thursday, September 7.
The letter was co-signed by: Cindy Lowry (Executive Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance), Jonathon Meeks (Chair, Sierra Club Alabama Chapter), Yohance Owens (Executive Director, Village Creek Human & Environmental Justice Society), Charlie Powell (President, People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination), Charles Scribner (Executive Director, Black Warrior Riverkeeper), Stephen Stetson (Senior Campaign Representative, Alabama Beyond Coal Campaign of the Sierra Club), Patricia Todd (State Representative, District 54), and Chester Wallace (President, North Birmingham Community Coalition).
For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact Executive Director Michael Hansen at 205-701-4270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gasp, Inc. is a nonprofit health advocacy organization dedicated to reducing air pollution and protecting everyone’s right to breathe clean, healthy air through education and advocacy. Learn more at gaspgroup.org.