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Few things are more important than the air we breathe. From a factual and biological standpoint, there is nothing more important. Before I begin this inquiry, I must disclose that I am not an environmentalist. This is not something I am proud of by any stretch of the imagination. I admire those people who climb old growth trees and reside in the branches for days on end. They do this to save these wonders of nature from developers and road crews. I acknowledge that some of my decisions may appear to be similar to those of an environmentalist but actually, my decisions have often been based on financial concerns. For example, my husband and I have shared one car for the last nine years. I used to let people infer that it was because we did not want to pollute and use up valuable resources. More than anything, I was simply impressed with myself that I could arrange a schedule that worked for two working people. We were working and going to school while relying on one car. Of course, occasionally we relied on public transportation. It wasn’t easy; I used to have to arrive at school at 6:30 am on Fridays for a class that started at 4:00 pm. I made the best of it by using that time to study. A couple of weeks ago we bought a second car. Looking back, I do not know how we managed with just one car for so long. It is easy to forget, and even easier to get used to immediate convenience.
There are costs and pay offs in life, always
I have been thinking a lot lately about human nature, our environment, what we accept and what we choose to believe. I say ‘choose’ because, if we listen to many scientists, they tell us we are changing our environment, and not for the better. Global warming and greenhouse gasses are a debatable topic. Does this dire situation exist or does it not? Are the icecaps melting, or are they not? It depends on who you talk to. I find this aspect very interesting. According to the Bush administration, we need more study on the issue. I suggest we read and respond to the studies already conducted.
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My goal in this paper is to bring the concern down to a personal, individual level. I feel like I have little say about the regulations, or lack there of, placed on industrial facilities. I don’t have much input about Saudi Arabia, OPEC and its connection to terrorism. On a personal level, the fact that women are restricted from voting or driving in Saudi Arabia is a form of terrorism to me.
I have many concerns and I have been contemplating these for some time. How do I live in this world, on this planet, at this time? What is progress and is it killing us? These questions could go in a myriad of directions, political, environmental, religious, ethical, and moral. When addressing the environment there are so many avenues that lead to more avenues. It is impossible to address one without including several others. For example, if I bought a sport utility vehicle, I would be eligible for a business tax break. By driving a gas-guzzler that emits a high level of exhaust, I would be rewarded. If I wanted to buy a hybrid, I would have to pay 5,000 dollars more than I would for a conventional engine of the same model car. I know this because I just went car shopping. Therefore, taxes, politics, emissions and more are tied into just this one example.
However, we can break it down to a personal, individual level, namely personal comfort and individual convenience. We are inundated with ‘progress.’ We are being strangled by convenience. We want it now. We have become convinced that we need it now. It needs to be cleaner, faster, quieter, softer, more fragrant, flame retardant, and of course disposable. The question has become, at what cost?
Scientists are researching what the costs may be, and they appear to be high, very high, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable. Children are in a particularly precarious situation simply because they have proportionally higher potential exposure and they put things in their mouths constantly. They are on the floor with the floor wax; they are in the grass with the fertilizer. As a result, pesticides, lead, and many harmful chemicals have been found in many children’s systems. The problem is that we don’t know how these chemicals impact children. When research began on how chemicals affect humans, children were not thought to be a separate consideration. Recent research has been done that studies the environments affect on children specifically. Bill Moyers devoted a program to Kids and Chemicals.
From PBS Now with Bill Moyers transcript:
DR. STEINGRABER: Children have home and garden pesticides in their urine and they're peeing out wood preservatives. Women have termite poisons and toilet deodorizers and flame-retardants in their breast milk.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of chemicals connected with various diseases. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Dallas conducted research on women’s breast milk. He found that of the 47 samples from American women, all of them were contaminated with PBDEs. In comparison, these women had between 10 –100 times the amounts found in European women. PBDEs are flame-retardants used in electrical appliances, televisions, computers, furniture and building materials. The payoff is saving people from fires; the cost is the potential for disease, suffering and disorders.
More recently, perchlorate, which is a component of rocket or jet fuel, has also been found to be prevalent in breast milk. In reading about this issue, I found the EPA has a stated level of this substance that is not considered a problem. I find it mind boggling that any level of perchlorate is ok in the human body. It makes me wonder who is coming up with the desired levels of industrial chemicals. Lead poisoning can lead to mental retardation; can a little bit of lead poisoning can lead to a little retardation?
In researching this topic, I came across a web site www.scorecard.org. It is fascinating and hits home. Go to this site, type in your zip code and it will tell you specifics about what toxins, chemicals and carcinogens surround you. That is the problem. They surround you. How do you escape your environment?
I found another web site intended for teaching medical practitioners how to identify and deal with patients coming into the emergency room with possible chemical contamination. It gives specific cases and recommends how they be handled. It is a government site and references the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and The Office of Children's Health Protection. It outlines the recommended method for prevention. This passage was taken directly from the site.