Question of the Day: Are the People of Northeast Ohio Misinformed About the Harm Caused By Pollution Here?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 10/25/2009 - 03:55.


It is lovely thing to sit in a Rocky Mountain Institute, with heads in the clouds, or a Green City Blue Lake Institute, with eyes on an Irovy Tower, and plan a sustainable world for all, profitably flip-charting, conferencing and social networking the days away planning the realignment of mankind around "efficient and restorative use of resources with a strong emphasis on market-based solutions", for the world's industrial leaders.... and, brilliant spin, to create "green jobs" for regular other people, like at and around Mittal's Cleveland Works (above).

It is quite another thing to live within miles of Mittal's toxic Flats of Cleveland and realize lofty visions of a "sustainable" world accept maintaining highly polluted places like Cleveland, for the good of all, harming the health of everyone in the region in the process.

Map of Mittal Cleveland Works with wind diagram

Arcelor Mittal is marked with their logo. In the upper left corner of this map is a diagram illustrating the annual average wind direction, between 7 AM and 7 PM, at Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland. Where you see the most red is where the wind most often originates - the opposite downwind direction indicates where pollution is blown and deposited, most impacting residents. While the wind at the plant may now match Burke, it is indicative.

It would certainly be useful and intelligent to have wind speed and direction data available on-line, real-time, from any major pollution sources, like Mittal, for the protection of surroiunding residents. Reliable wind and other weather data, combined with real time indications of pollution scheduling and output, would allow surrounding residents to predict high exposure situations and reduce risks from exposure, but our leaders do not make such healthy data available to residents.

Under the current worst-case, misinforming conditions, you have a sense of your pollution exposure from Mittal, other than smoke, odor and debris.

No wonder our leaders are so enthusiastic about our healthcare industry, in Cleveland... they are making us damn sick!

Wouldn't it be nice if our leaders showed like enthusiasm for helping residents avoid health risks from pollution.

The presence of the Mittal Cleveland Works steel plant here guarantees Northeast Ohio an ongoing highly polluted status, and that guarantees that surrounding residents have great health risks. "Market-based solutions" for the world mean long-term pollution for the residents of Northeast Ohio... nobody is planning anything drastic like "environmentalism" here, afterall. That is the central flaw of the macro-level "sustaiability movement", at micro-level places where environmental conditions are quite hopeless for residents... like in Cleveland.

As the RMI states, "Instead of focusing on the negative consequences of our actions, RMI brings a philosophy of applied hope to overcoming our challenges".

That philosophy has resulting in the "Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Movement" not focusing on the negative consequences of our actions.... this "revolution" is made for television.

In polluted places like Northeast Ohio, we need very much to focus on the negative consequences of our actions!

And, as a result of the callous nature of the sustainability movement, we as a city show disregard about the negative consequences of our actions on other citizens in other regions - the City of Cleveland has contracted to purchase 50 years of coal power from a different region of Ohio we are perfectly happy to poison significantly, to supposedly make our dirty little world a bit more sustainable.

The Powers That Be live in Colorado, if they are smart and well informed.

Before seriously "reimaginging" a Sustainable Cleveland 2019, we must recognize and acknowledge the impact of accepting that 100,000s of people live within miles of the Mittal Cleveland Works steel mill, in the Cleveland Flats.

We must recognize and acknowledge the impact of Mittal and many other source point and mobile pollution burdens in our region.

We must understand the harm that polutuon causes residents, and reimagine the region as forever being significantly burdened by pollution.

And we must protect residents from pollution whenever possible, and be prepared to carry the economic and social burdens of pollution when not possible.

When not possible, the impact of pollution to those living near a steel plant may include a 100% greater risk of genetic mutations to their DNA, passed on by fathers to their children, forever, that may cause cancer and birth defects, as reported in "Air pollution induces heritable DNA mutations", published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in 2002.

From the abstract on the study, by McMaster University in Canada:

Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide live or work in close proximity to steel mills. Integrated steel production generates chemical pollution containing compounds that can induce genetic damage (1, 2). Previous investigations of herring gulls in the Great Lakes demonstrated elevated DNA mutation rates near steel mills (3, 4) but could not determine the importance of airborne or aquatic routes of contaminant exposure, or eliminate possible confounding factors such as nutritional status and disease burden. To address these issues experimentally, we exposed laboratory mice in situ to ambient air in a polluted industrial area near steel mills. Heritable mutation frequency at tandem-repeat DNA loci in mice exposed 1 km downwind from two integrated steel mills was 1.5- to 2.0-fold elevated compared with those at a reference site 30 km away. This statistically significant elevation was due primarily to an increase in mutations inherited through the paternal germline. Our results indicate that human and wildlife populations in proximity to integrated steel mills may be at risk of developing germline mutations more frequently because of the inhalation of airborne chemical mutagens.

Considering the long history of steel making in Cleveland, it is safe to say this region has produced some seriously defective DNA, now carried in millions of Cleveland+Steel decendents... and still mutating!

Steel making is not the only cause of these genetic mutations - other pollution sources are significant factors - and the greater concentrations of more sources of pollution the greater the harm to more people, in greater numbers of ways.

In "Traffic-related air pollution and the brain", an October 21, 2009, posting on the uniquely insightful "Myth of Alzheimer's" website, scientist and author Danny George observed: "Studies on both humans and animals are beginning to demonstrate links between air pollution and neurodegenerative processes.  Comparisons of brain tissues show more pronounced markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, and Alzheimer’s-type pathology in residents of polluted-air cities compared to residents of relatively clean air cities", and "researchers studied nearly 400 women in Germany who had lived at the same address for at least 20 years, and found that those near busy roads were more likely to perform worse on cognition tests".

"The relationship between proximity to pollution and poorer cognition signals that the link between environmental health and brain health must be taken seriously", George warns.

Results for the public from our lack of prevention are catastrophic, and just becoming apparent to the general population.

I previously referenced George and his associate, Dr. Peter Whitehouse, in an October 5, 2009, REALNEO posting: "A Healthy Brain Is Essential For Successful, Healthy Aging: Air Pollution Contributes To The Risk Of Alzheimer’s-Type Disease":

It is highly likely that for many people, development of the two most common neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, can be delayed or prevented altogether. In most cases these diseases result from the interaction of a number of different factors. They must be understood within a framework that includes biologic, social, economic, and cultural dimensions. These dimensions are represented, in turn, at all levels from the sub-cellular to society as a whole. The presence of certain genes may increase the risks of these diseases, but the actual pathologic processes leading to these conditions can also be highly influenced by environmental factors.

Quoted below is more of Danny George's October 21, 2009, assement of the latest research on the impacts of pollution on the healthy mind, including the impact of pollution from living near heavy road traffic.

Children in Mexico City have performed less well on psychometric measures, and MRI scans have revealed higher incidence of abnormal lesions in the prefrontal areas of their brains.  Similar lesions have been found in a study of dogs from highly polluted areas, strengthening this worrisome association.

Further, particulate matter has been found in brain tissue and in blood vessels, suggesting that fine particles of pollution may translocate from the lungs and pass through the blood-brain barrier and lodge in the brain where they cause inflammatory processes (elevated cytokines, increase in expression of the COX-2 enzyme, etc) and the deposition of neural proteins such as Abeta42.

Research has also demonstrated that pollution can activate the stress response in our bodies, which I would anecdotally say has been my experience living in a major US city.

I recently caught wind of a compelling study that will be published in next month’s Environmental Research journal, which further strengthens the association between pollution and cognition.   The researchers studied nearly 400 women in Germany who had lived at the same address for at least 20 years, and found that those near busy roads were more likely to perform worse on cognition tests.  Clearly, a multitude of factors could have influenced the womens’ cognitive performance, but the relationship between proximity to pollution and poorer cognition signals that the link between environmental health and brain health must be taken seriously.

That being the case, I can’t help but wonder whether we should ban all motor vehicles in Congress during healthcare and cap-and-trade negotiations so that common sense will have the best chance of prevailing…?

Over the past few years, Northeast Ohio's "economic development" leadership has awoken to the potential for this region to develop a new economy through "green jobs", including through local foods production. There is planning to convert vacant, contaminated urban areas into green-fields of crops, farmed by now-distressed urban food entrepreneurs.

At the same time, there are plans to build new freeways, ports, distribution centers and industries here, that will result in greater pollution of local air, water and residents.


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