Polluting our nation's health

Liz Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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People have debated for years whether or not man-made manufacturing of pollutants has contributed to global climate change. However, three new studies have come out this week showing that high air pollution is at least having a negative impact on our nation’s health, if not our environment.

These three studies suggest that pollution can be linked to harmful effects on our hearts and brains. One of the studies, conducted across the nation over the span of a decade, found that breathing in polluted air can accelerate declines in memory and attention span, especially in women. Another Boston-based study found that as the concentration of traffic pollutants increase, so did the risk of stroke, even on days considered to have a “moderate” air quality. The third study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, has helped solidify a link between short-term exposure to air pollution and cardiovascular disease. Common pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, were found to increase the immediate risk of heart attack.

So, what can we do with this information? As Catholics, we teach that care for God’s creation and the environment is a requirement of our faith. “We are called to protect people and the planet,” says the USCCB, “living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.” Care for the environment is a moral obligation with a practical consequence of improving our health, and this means we should do we can on a personal level to reduce pollution, even if it’s a small step like carpooling or biking to work.

Considering driving your car less, maybe for Lent? Wish you had more options for public transportation? Think that driving less isn’t a realistic option for many Americans? Be sure to take our survey on our culture’s car addiction and let us know what you think!