More Strong Evidence Linking Air Pollution to Dementia

More Strong Evidence Linking Air Pollution to Dementia

Often, when I read scary articles about air pollution and the frightening effects it has on your and my health, I experience a lot of anxiety…and then proceed to do nothing. I was curious about why this happens and why I (a person who is involved in environmental causes) go to a place of inner resistance. Aka, a place of “ignore, ignore, ignore.”

As I reflected on my reaction, I found that it’s because I often feel so powerless in the situation. The system we live in is currently set up in a way that produces air pollution, and I’m just the product of that system. Can I really help that? And the system isn’t improving quickly either. In fact, it’s doing the opposite with Trump’s administration rolling back environmental protection. I can feel so helpless. Will reading another scary article change this or will it just deepen my feelings of powerlessness?

As I read the recent article about how leading scientists are getting more comfortable with stating that air pollution causes dementia, instead of just suggesting that it might, I had the paralyzing reaction. But at least this time I understood why I was having it and I could do something about it. I got myself unstuck by thinking about the reasons why I fight for clean air. And this empowered me to continue to strive to live a life, to vote, to volunteer, to support the movement for clean air.

The first reason why I support clean air is to ensure and improve the quality of human life.

If you haven’t already seen the documentary Alive Inside, you should watch it. Now. It will change you. Dementia is a horrifying disease that strips you of your personhood. Seeing the patients regain their identities through music, even if just for a few minutes, will touch you. And it will remind you how quickly and easily this disease makes you lose everything that makes you, you. Knowing that air pollution is linked to this makes me want to stand up and keep fighting for clean air. Supporting environmental protection laws works. For example, it was reported that “enforcing the EPA’s stricter air quality standard likely resulted in 140,000 fewer people living with dementia by 2014.” [1]

The second reason why I support clean air is to protect our ecosystem and all the inhabitants.

Just like humans, our ecosystem takes a hit from air pollution. Since our health is affected by poor air, then the health of our water, plants, pets, animals, reptiles, fish, insects – you name it! – is also affected. How can it not be. It wouldn’t make any logical sense. But if seeing the effects of dementia in humans somehow doesn’t move you, or you don’t feel connected to the health of the ecosystem that supports our lives, there is another reason to support clean air.

The third reason why I support clean air is to stop losing money.

You might be wondering what I mean by this. It’s simple. When humans age in a healthy way, we don’t spend as much money. Remember how it was likely that there were 140,000 fewer people living with dementia by 2014 because of enforcing the EPA’s stricter air quality standard? Well, that is equivalent to $163 billion dollars saved [1]. If we don’t have clean air, we are losing billions of dollars. So besides the fact that air pollution costs us our personhood and the health of our ecosystem, poor air also costs us a whole lot of money.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by a scary article on air pollution, think about the reasons why you support clean air. And let that empower you to keep fighting for this beautiful cause.

Till next time.

Wishing you joy, safety and ease,
Anna

References: [1] https://www.wired.com/story/air-pollution-dementia/

The Consequences of My Consumerism

The Consequences of My Consumerism

One of the hard parts for me about our consumerism driven world is that it is often so easy for me, a privileged middle class white female, to not feel the consequence of my own actions.

We’ve known for a long time that minorities, specifically Black and Hispanic Americans, tend to live in neighborboods with more air pollution. But it turns out, that they aren’t the ones who are creating most of that air pollution, it’s more likely that people like me are the ones who are creating it!

A study that lasted over six-years has found that there is a racial gap between those who causes air pollution and who breathes it:

“While we tend to think of factories or power plants as the source of pollution, those polluters wouldn’t exist without consumer demand for their products.

The researchers found that air pollution is disproportionately caused by white Americans’ consumption of goods and services, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic Americans.” [1]

So even if I am not personally feeling the consequences of me buying and throwing away a single use coffee cup, it is negatively impacting the physical health of another human. Knowing that my consumerism does have consequences, even if I personally can’t feel them immediately (though eventually, I personally believe air pollution will catch up with all of us), changes things for me.

Here are some changes that I’ve made to improve the way that I consume goods and services and you can too:

I carry with me and use a reusable water bottle. Sip by Swell, the pink one in the photo, is my favorite! It’s easy to drink out of, doesn’t leak and isn’t too big. And you can often find it on sale at Target for $12.49! Another thing is I ask for ceramic mugs when I’m at coffee shops.

I bring my own grocery bags instead of using the plastic ones. A reusable bag is a great thing to buy when you are travelling as a souvenir for yourself. You’ll use it all the time and remember the great trips you’ve taken!

I try to repair before throwing something away and buying a new replacement. This vacuum works great but the end of the cord broke off so going to take it in for repair rather than throwing it away (and will probably save some $$ too).

A great resource that I have found is a YouTube channel called Exploring Alternatives. Check out their video on 12 Cheap & Easy Tips for Reducing Your Waste.

Per usual, let’s take a few deep breaths together.

In through the nose for four counts, 1…2…3…4…

Hold your breath for four counts, 1…2…3…4…

Exhale through the mouth for six counts, 1…2…3…4…5…6…

Repeat one more time.

Till next time.

Wishing you joy, safety and ease,

Anna

References:

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/11/702348935/study-finds-racial-gap-between-who-causes-air-pollution-and-who-breathes-it


Anna Vantsevich is a volunteer for Gasp and an advocate for healthy air and environmental protection. To learn more about how you can volunteer with us, visit gaspgroup.org/volunteer.

 

How Air Pollution Gets Into Our Bodies

How Air Pollution Gets Into Our Bodies

I have to be honest. Until I started reading about air pollution, I didn’t think much about it. I mean, I knew that it was bad in a vague, general kind of way, but my thinking never went past that. Air quality was way too easy to ignore, and it was even easier to downplay its importance to my own health and the health of every person on this planet.

The reality of air pollution didn’t hit my consciousness until I visualized poor air coming into my lungs. I saw myself breathing in air that is full of harmful chemicals, that air traveling in and through my nose, down my throat and into my soft, squishy, absorbent lungs.

My lungs taking in whatever is in that air and my bloodstream spreading it across my body, into all of my organs, including my brain (read about the effects of air pollution on our brains HERE ; spoiler alert, it ain’t good).

Air is all around us. Whether we are sitting on the couch, driving in the car, traveling on a plane, walking in the park, it doesn’t matter. We are never not around air.

If you are currently breathing, then you are consuming whatever is floating around you, seen or unseen, odorless or scented.

That inescapable fact kind of freaked me out at first. But it gave me the much needed kick in the pants to stop ignoring the importance of air quality. After this finally clicked for me, I also learned that air pollutants don’t just come into our bodies through our nose and lungs.

Besides breathing in contaminated air, air pollutants gets into our bodies in the following ways [1]:

 

And as the world globalizes, and more of our food and products come from places with fewer air quality regulations and greater air pollution, the more I realize that air pollution is not a “their” problem, but an “our” problem. Let’s come together – for each other and ourselves.

Take a moment to cultivate positive emotions for yourself and others using this short Loving Kindness meditation.

Till next time.

Wishing you joy, safety and ease,

Anna

References

[1] https://www.epa.gov/haps/hazardous-air-pollutants-sources-and-exposure

Clean Air, Healthy Brains

Clean Air, Healthy Brains

It’s been known for quite some time that polluted air leads to heart and lung problems, and now we are becoming aware that air pollution also has a negative effect on our brains [1]. There is growing evidence that toxic chemicals in our air are linked to disorders such as autism, ADHD, intellectual disability and learning disorders.

Project TENDR (TargetingEnvironmental Neuro-Development Risks), which is run by a unique group of leading scientists, health professions and children’s health advocates, is helping us better understand what we should do about it.

Below is the breakdown of their recommendations.

#1: The US Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) sets the national air quality standards, known as NAAQS standards. They also calculate the cost of air pollution to our healthcare system. They should give greater consideration to evidence of how toxic air impacts the health of our brain and the resulting serious health issues when they set the NAAQS standards and when they calculate the cost of poor air to our healthcare.

The importance here being that if the EPA does not do this, the cost of air pollution to health care might be lower than it actually is. This could lead people to believe that air pollution is not as pricey as it truly is. It would be like buying something with a price tag of $10 dollars, only later to find out that your credit card was charged for $1,000. What a rip off. Also, the NAAQS standards might not be as good if the effect of air pollution on brain health is not seriously considered.

#2:The EPA should strengthen and enforce federal fuel efficiency standards. Meaning, on average, new vehicles should be able to drive 36 miles per gallon instead of 25 miles per gallon.

The less fuel that a vehicle uses, the less combustion-related pollutants are released into the air. And the less fuel your vehicle uses, the more money you save when you go to fill up. Win-Win!

#3: States and local governments should promote and advance clean energy policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuels, including coal, that is used for energy generation and transportation.

Many states, including New York, Washington DC, Oregon, Hawaii, and California, are moving towards renewable energy for electricity generation. This is a complicated topic, however, since there are a lot of workers whose livelihood comes from the coal industry. Retraining such a large number of people for other jobs has many challenges but we shouldn’t give up on fighting for clean air AND figuring out how to help those who want and need to transition out of the coal industry at the same time.

#4: State and regional agencies should develop best practices that help reduce combustion-related pollutants from large sources (such as highways, other major roadways, ports and rail yards) near residential neighborhoods.

This one is pretty straightforward. When you visit a doctor, wouldn’t you want them to be using the absolute best practices in medicine rather random methods that are convenient and lucrative for them? Same goes here, wouldn’t you want your state to use the best practices available to limit the harmful impact of combustion-related pollutants on your health?

#5: Regional air pollution control agencies across the United States should restrict permitting new sources of combustion-related air pollutants (like highways, ports and rail yards) to be placed in close proximity to residential areas.

Basically, let’s not create new problems. There are amazing urban planners out there who can suggest city and neighborhood layouts that limits how many pollution sources are located near where people live.

#6: Expand air monitoring near locations where children spend time

Air monitoring helps us paint a much more accurate picture of what is going on with the air quality. This would help the local community understand the environment that they live in and know during which days they should stay indoors to protect themselves from poor air quality. Don’t miss our blog on how the Hoover High School environmental science research competition team built their own air monitoring device HERE!

#7-8: Expand research to (1) find strategies to mitigate exposures near large sources of combustion-related air pollution and (2) understand the effects of ultrafine particles on human health

Without research, it’s not possible to know the best approaches of how to help people who are currently living near large sources of combustion-related air pollution or to understand the effects of air quality on our health in general.

* * * * *

Whew! That was a lot of information. Important, but a lot. Let’s a few deep breaths together. In through the nose, counting to four…1..2..3..4.. And out through the mouth, counting to six… 1..2..3..4..5..6.. Repeat a few more times.

‘Til next time. Wishing you joy, safety and ease.

Anna


References:
[1] https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304902