Some industrial facilities release more toxins and greenhouse gas emissions into the air than others. Scientists call them “super polluters,” and these facilities contribute to environmental pollution and adverse health effects. Those who live near super polluters may experience higher rates of cancer, chronic illness, and death.
Super Polluters Release High Concentrations of Toxins Every Year
According to an investigation from the Center of Public Integrity, industrial pollution is not geographically dispersed among thousands of facilities. Instead, most contaminants come from about 100 facilities (out of 20,000 responsible for reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency). One hundred facilities also produce a third of total greenhouse emissions. Within this small number of facilities, 22 facilities appear in both the list for top contaminants and for greenhouse emissions.
To put the data into perspective, consider the types of chemicals emitted. Hydrogen cyanide (HCN), for instance, contains asphyxiating properties and has been used as a chemical warfare agent. In small doses, it can cause headaches, confusion, and other discomforts. Benzene and dioxin are carcinogens that may cause a host of other problems over time. Sulfur dioxide causes breathing difficulties and contributes to long-term lung problems.
Industrial complexes release a number of different chemicals with similar health-damaging properties. Every person’s physiology is slightly different, and adverse health effects range from chronic asthma to heart conditions. While current regulatory requirements curtail the amount of contaminants released, current oversight is not enough.
In addition to the data on contaminants, the investigation also revealed some hard truths about industrial pollution:
- Near certain industrial sites, air quality may rival pollution levels in places such as Hong Kong.
- People who live in areas with poor air quality experience shorter life spans.
- Pollution speeds up the development of arterial blockages, contributing to heart attacks and strokes.
- Pollution from industrial complexes can affect the air up to 100 miles away.
- Company strategy, public policy, and community involvement all play a role in making lasting changes.
Are You at Risk?
The top 22 industrial polluters are in Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida (Crystal River), West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and North Dakota. If you live within three miles of any of super polluter or a top 100 facility for either contaminants or greenhouse emissions, you may face a high risk of health problems.
As you travel away from the industrial complex, the risks incrementally decrease. You may attribute certain conditions to toxic-air exposure if you live as many as 100 miles from a super polluter. You may also face a greater likelihood of illness if you have preexisting health conditions or if you are pregnant.
Tips to Minimize Negative Effects in High Risk Areas
If you live in a high risk area, use the following tips to minimize the effects of pollution in your life:
- Monitor air quality reports. Pay close attention to local air quality reports,and stay indoors on high risk days.
- Use air purifiers. Install air purification systems in your home. Consider wearing a portable one around your neck when you leave the house.
- Wear a mask on days with extremely poor air quality. A low-cost mask from the local hardware store keeps many small particulates from entering the lungs and may reduce the risk of long-term consequences.
- Speak to local attorneys. If you are concerned about the air quality in your area or experienced an illness attributable to air pollution, consider partnering with a Miami attorney. Legal action can force companies and state agencies to make meaningful changes.
The battle for better air quality will likely continue for years in America (and around the world). Until companies, the government, and the general public adopt viable alternative energy sources, individual vigilance and legal action can minimize the threat of pollution in daily life. If you are concerned about the environment, your health, and your children’s health, speak out. Work with community members to improve awareness and enact change at a local level.