Air is ubiquitous. That is to say, it is everywhere. So, too, are the pollutants that contaminate the air. We have all heard about the controversy over global warming. We have heard about the degredation of the ozone layer. We know that contaminants ranging from benzene emissions at gas stations, vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions to tobacco smoke and cow flatulence, which accounts for some twenty percent of airborne methane contamination, foul the outdoor air. Indoor air also typically contains levels of benzene and other volatile chemicals emitted from products such as detergents, paints, glues and waxes.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, almost 400 West Virginians die each year form heart attacks and lung cancer caused by power plant pollution. Particulate emissions from power plants cause over 40,000 lost work days, 3000 hospitalizations and almost 8000 asthma attacks each year. That is just in West Virginia. Most of the major metropolitan areas in the US track air quality on a daily basis. When was the last time the air quality indicator was on less than ‘orange alert’? The tops of our cities disappear in a yellow haze of ozone pollution and people with asthma or other respiratory conditions are regularly advised to stay indoors.
We look to government and industry for solutions aided by scientists and experts in environmental matters. While not always at the desired pace, these groups do work to find ways to reduce air pollution or at least reduce the impact of it. But before we make significant decisions about our air quality and how best to improve it, the knowledge we use to make these decisions needs to be real. In matters of science and chemistry, the majority does not rule. Good science rules.
Despite today’s highly developed regulatory systems and controls, poor air quality remains one of the most pressing public health issues we face. The impact of air pollution and poor air quality on the public health is staggering. Multiply the statistics in West Virginia by fifty and you get the idea.
Until such as time as the level of contamination in our air improves dramatically, people will continue to suffer the personal and financial costs of breathing polluted air. For more information on air quality regulation or assistance with understanding the risks and health issues related to contaminated air, contact your state or local bar association for referrals to attorneys qualified and experienced in air pollution litigation.