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How Can We Clean Up Our Air?

air pollution

We all know that polluting the environment has drastic impacts on everyone and every thing including human health. A lot of these changes cause damage that takes generations to address or understand. Our air is one of the most important features of our planet. The stuff that fills so much of our world can get polluted as well. How can we clean up the air to prevent any harm? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

The months leading up to the 2008 Olympics provided an excellent opportunity for researchers to see what happens when an area that is notoriously known for polluted air works on cleaning up its oxygen-act. The government in China made a concerted effort to clean up the city of Beijing, which is known to have poor air standards due to the immediate needs of an incredibly dense population. These efforts included putting new regulations in waste management, restrictions on vehicles, shutting down some factories, changing many existing construction plans, and they even seeded clouds to induce more rain fall. All done with the intentions to bring up the quality of the air while the world watched the summer games. The question, however was would the brief window of clean-up time be long enough to change human health?

Researchers started to look at birth weights before the clean-up effort began. The data from this group was set aside when the environmental clean-up efforts began. Once the project began they started to gather the next group of birth weights, now of cleaner air babies. This involved studying over 83,000 babies born in that time span. As the results began to accumulate they observed a very interesting trend. On average, the babies born during the cleaner months were about 23 grams larger than the babies born while air pollution standards were significantly worse. This research linked the air quality standards directly with conditions of humans being born in that environment. This does come off as bad news at first considering that there are many places in the world that are known for poor air quality standards, but this is not a totally bleak study. There is a good news here as well. Even though the link shows a detrimental impact on human health it also shows that the impact of the poor air quality on births, if we make an effort, can be reversible. China prioritized the cleanup effort and allowed the funding and staff necessary to make a direct impact. While most of the places that suffer from poor air quality may not have the Olympics heading their way, they still have the ability to physical change the air condition for their citizens. Funding for this sort of project is a massive undertaking though. Cost aside there are still planning and regulatory options that could begin the first steps towards a clean-up effort around the world.

The air we breathe is nothing to ignore. We spend nearly our entire life moving through air which has the ability to impact our health. Our impacts on the world will create the quality that we hand down to future generations. They will need clean air just the same as we do. To keep them safe, birth weights and beyond, the right dialogues and decisions need to be made to ensure clean air for the future. Now, more than ever, the world is ready to put in the work needed to address these massive issues which face us as a planet. I guess you can say there's something in the air.