Health Column: Long Island Facing Pollution

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By Alecia Sexton

Layout Manager

Alecia Sexton

The World Population Review states that there are approximately 7.75 million people living on Long Island’s 1401 square miles, including Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk. Nassau and Suffolk alone have a population of almost 3 million. This can be compared to the 976,000 people living in the 500 square miles of Westchester County. There are about seven times the amount of people living on a landmass that’s only three times greater than the number of people on it.

Naturally, where there are more people, there’s more pollution. While a majority of people are aware that pollution plagues the island, most are unaware of what actually causes it. Because earth is filled with an abundance of limited natural resources, it’s important that we live our lives conscious of what individual carbon footprint we leave behind and that we skew our daily and political choices towards preservation.

There are five main environmental contributors to the demise of the ozone layer. They include particulate matter 2.5, particulate matter 10, ozone, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide. The number next to the particulate pollution refers to the size of the particle in micrometers. As a reference, an average strand of hair is 70 micrometers large, making these small particles breathable and able to actually enter the bloodstream. Sources include vehicle emissions, construction sites, coal burning and tobacco smoke.

Westbound view of smog over the LIE

While particulate 10 is larger and less invasive to the body, it’s just as common in the environment and is a major byproduct of power plants, road paving and wildfires. Studies done by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London have concluded that individuals who live near roadways, construction zones and manufacturing plants have a much higher rate of lung disease and asthma than those deep in the suburbs. The reason being is that these particles, as well as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, travel for miles, making location a significant factor in determining risk of respiratory issues.

Sulfur dioxide is a gas mainly responsible for producing the grey/brown fog often seen in the morning and on hot summer days. Sources of this gas include gas stations, wood burning, dry cleaners and most significantly, diesel-fueled machinery. Nitrogen oxide, is a byproduct of burning coal and of car exhaust. Finally, ozone.

Ozone is a chemical byproduct of the reaction between UV rays and nitrogen oxide. The ozone layer is a protective atmospheric layer that buffers earth from UV rays and other cosmological influences. However, when ozone begins to form on the ground, it becomes toxic and makes the air thick, heavy and filled with man-made and natural particles that are harmful to health.

You may have heard of the term smog when learning about pollution. Smog is a term from the early twentieth century as a result of increased industrialization. It blends the words “fog” and “smoke” and is a thick, hazy layer that settles low in the atmosphere. Smog impacted populated places such as NYC and LA and caused increased rates of respiratory illnesses at the burst of industrialization. There have been many improvements in regulations, but recent policies have steered away from environmentalism and towards practices that increase pollution emission.

It’s ultimately in our hands to be the change that pushes the world towards preservation. Making educated political choices and choosing politicians who value the environment can help propagate change. Also, choosing to drive low emission vehicles, carpooling, and informing companies of inefficiently operating diesel fuel trucks are all things that we as Long Islanders have the power to do and should take responsibility for. Take the initiate when you see opportunities to improve the environment and treat the earth as if it’s your very own home, because it is.

Editor’s Note: The Pioneer is not responsible for giving medical advice. Please refer to a medical professional for serious concerns regarding personal health.

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