The Industrial Factor

July 22, 2009
Jill taylor

Strategic Alliance Partnership | <b>American Lung Association</b>

If you look at the American Lung Association’s online map of cities with bad air quality due to year-round particulates, it’s easy to see that many of them are industrial areas.

I remember the long trek to Florida during the early 1970s when my parents would meet friends for summer vacation. We owned a gray Volkswagen Beetle that didn’t have air conditioning, but we all rolled up our windows once we hit Birmingham, Alabama because the air was more than offensive to the nose—it was positively noxious, so much so that city residents had days in which they were warned not to come outdoors.

Most people think of Pittsburgh when they think of the steel industry, but Birmingham is located in close proximity to where the primary ingredients of steel are abundant. Industry has cleaned up its act to some extent since the 60s and 70s, but the city remains one of the worst offenders for particulate pollution in the nation, and the sources of pollution today continue to be primarily from the steel and iron industry.

I thought about all of this when I ran across a press release regarding research that suggests that the industrial contributions to the state of our air are more detrimental to the health of children than the exhaust from transportation vehicles.

If you look at the American Lung Association’s online map of cities with bad air quality due to year-round particulates, it’s easy to see that many of them are industrial areas. Now, granted, the pollution in La Plata, Argentina (where the research took place) is petrochemical, and thus involves different particulates than we’d see generated by much of the industry in the United States. It’s still food for thought. Respiratory symptoms were found in up to a third of children living in the industrial areas, and that is far from inconsequential.