The 20 most polluted cities in America
Welcome to NatuREport! I'll be blogging weekly with the latest on the environment and "green" living. When it comes to living green, I'm far from perfect - but I've always had an interest in the subject. My grandmother was passionate about the environment way before it was the "in" thing to do - way back in the 50's - so I think it's in my genes.
So what's in the news this week?
This week, the internet is all abuzz because Forbes released their list of the 20 most polluted cities in America. (You can see the list here.) Some of their findings are pretty nasty - and could have a substantial impact on health.
Up here in Michigan, I'm situated nice and far from most of the biggest offenders (though it does pain me to see my beloved Pittsburgh so high on the list). So why do I care so much? Let's take a look at their number 1: Bakersfield, CA.
According to Forbes, Bakersfield has 60 days a year where the air is unfit to breathe (16% of the year, and 10 times the "acceptable" level), and 100 days a year where the ozone levels are unhealthy (27%). So basically, you walk outside and it's a crap shoot. You've got a 1 in 4 chance that taking a deep breath will do you almost more harm than good.
What kind of harm? The American Lung Association has data that shows more people die of respiratory issues on "bad air" days. And even in less extreme cases, the pollution contributes to asthma and - yup, it's the C-word - cancer. Medical costs to treat these ailments hit pocketbooks hard.
It took me a little while to let all that sink in, because I was still focused on the fact that it's okay to have unbreatheable air even 6 days out of the year. But I digress.
So here's where the controversy comes in.
Power plant operators are concerned about the now; buying the equipment necessary to lower their emissions and clean up the air would cost a lot out of pocket. They're pushing to hold off on stricter regulations until we better understand the economic impact of such a decision. But the green lobby is more worried about the future; what kind of air do we want to leave to our children? As for the money - they've calculated that every dollar spent to control pollution will save $30 in health care.
It's a tug-of-war - the present versus the future. Do we forge ahead and risk even more economic troubles? Or do we hold off, and damage our lungs even more in the process? There's no easy answer. While I think it is important that we know what we're getting into, I don't think we can, in good conscience, delay much longer.
Where do you stand? Sound off in the comments!