Walking Throgh Pollution

Imagine living in an area where every breath inhaled could stimulate and arouse a harmful disease. Depending on where you live this illusion may be a reality dwelling outside your door.

 Imagine living in an area where every breath inhaled could
stimulate and arouse a harmful disease. Depending on where you live this illusion
may be a reality dwelling outside your door. The Bronx and areas of Manhattan are home to some of the most highly polluted
areas in New York.
Still yet many other communities in New
York produce harmful pollutants. I met up with child
allergist, Dr Paul Ehrlich to discuss why Williamsburg Brooklyn, like many
metropolitan areas in New York,
is a health hazard.  Dr. Ehrlich and I
stepped off the F train; looking around, Williamsburg
was not at all like I expected. “Pollution is extremely bad in this area,” he
said, “you will see why in a second.” It was a residential area. The streets
were filled with homes and apartments. They were not occupied with tall
combustion burning skyscrapers.


As we walked Dr Ehrlich pointed out the automotive pollution
that was hurting the environment. “Take a look at this car.” Ehrlich was
referring to a running car standing on the side of the road. The hood was
popped, although the owner was no where in sight. Across the street was a dorm
room sized car lot, packed with about ten cars. “People bring their cars here
in order to work on it. They will leave it running while they are working on
them.” He explained that often the cars are left running simultaneously. The
constant flow of gas is a constant contributor of air pollution. This however
was only the beginning.


Blocks later we were standing in clear view of the Williamsburg Bridge. Drivers, unprotected motorist
and bicyclist were jam packed on the massive bridge. The traffic, leaked gas
which adulterated the air quality. “They are just spewing that stuff out of
their cars,” said Ehrlich. As I looked around, Dr Ehrlich pointed out another
interesting phenomenon. A block away we could see a construction company
building an apartment building. “They are building apartments in an area that
has no room,” Ehrlich stated. There a few steps away from the bridge, closed in
by blocks of apartments from either side, yards away from the open car lots, a
construction company was building another apartment building. More residents
would soon be packed into the over crowded, highly polluted area.


Dr Ehrlich and I parted ways and I continued to peruse the
streets of Williamsburg.
Standing in front of a small coffee shop I ran into a young waiter named Joseph
Ryan. I asked Ryan if he has ever felt the effects of living in Williamsburg. “Yeah I just
came back from California.
When I returned here I went for a jog on the bridge and my lungs hurt.” As I
walked closer to Williams
Bridge, I found Frank
Hawkins, a bus Operator for NYC transit. Hawkins said that his daughter
suffered many health complications after living near a highway in the Bronx. “Living right underneath the Brooklyn Express Highway, she suffered
from a lot of coughing and wheezing. At one point she was in the ICU once a
month.” After moving to Rochester
NY, Hawkins says his daughter is
about 75 percent better and doesn’t go to the hospital as often.


I decided to go for a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge
in order to feel the effects of the gas dumping travel mechanism. The bridge
actually produced a relaxing and peaceful experience. The sun gently touched my
cool skin as I walked along. Couples held hands before and after me as skate
borders and bicyclist zoomed passed. The cars and trucks below did let off a
rather unpleasant smell, but it came and went with the wind. The most
disturbing part of being on the bridge was the fear that it would somehow give way,
leaving me to fight for safety with the drivers, walkers and cyclist that also
occupied the area. It was as if the pollution was disguised by the beauty and
excitement of the city.


As I approached the end of the bridge, there was a joyous
sound. I looked over to see a Manhattan
elementary school, PS 142. Its play ground was home to kids playing, laughing
and breathing in the pollution which leaked from the Williamsburg traffic.


Asthma is not the only risk for the children of PS 142. New
studies show that pollution can also have a negative effect on the intelligence
of children. A study conducted by the Colombia Center for Children’s
Environmental Health showed that
children living in parts of the Bronx and Manhattan had the greatest effects of
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); toxic pollutants resulting from the
burning of coal, diesel, or gas. Children who had been exposed to the
pollutants had IQ’s about five percent lower than those who did not. The center
has also linked PAH to cancer.


Air pollution also occurs indoors. It often results from rat
droppings, and dead cockroaches. Dr Ehrlich stated that when the cockroaches
die, they turn into dust and people breathe it in. Indoor pollution can also come
from in door fumes. A Harvard School
of Public Health study showed that children who slept in rooms highly
concentrated with fumes from cleaning and painting, were more prone to suffer
from asthma attacks, rhinitis, eczema, and other allergic diseases.


There are ways to
prevent the mount of health effects associated with pollution. In order to
reduce PAH in the home, refrain from burning or browning food and smoking
inside. Dr Ehrlich suggests also buying a HEPA filter. HEPA stands for High Efficiency
Particle Air filter. There are some problems associated with the cleaning
device, “they won’t clean them,” says Ehrlich. “People say it cost a lot of
money, well they need to do it.” 







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