I was recently contacted by the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center and asked if I would post an article about the dangers of our dependence on fossil fuels. My answer - of course - and it is posted below. We must move away from our dependence on so many toxic materials. It is literally killing our environment and ourselves. An interesting, personal perspective on this issue was featured on the TV show 30 days, where host Morgan Spurlock explores what it is like to be a coal miner. (Working in a Coal Mine was the title of the episode and you can view at the link provided.) I am hopeful, based on the White House Agenda on Energy and the Environment, that we are on the right path, but we must be diligent about supporting this change - our lives depend upon it!
By James O’Shea; Content Manager, Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center
January 22, 2009
Often when considering the environmental hazards presented by destructive human behavior, we fail to see further than the direct effects on our planet. However, if we look further, we can see that our behaviors are affecting not only the earth we live on but also the general human health. There are essentially two tiers to the damage posed by destructive environmental actions. Let’s examine each of them for a better understanding of this hazard.
The first effect is the direct human health costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels and the release of chlorofluorocarbons (associated with atmospheric ozone depletion) in the atmosphere. Asthma rates in areas with high smog indices (associated with fossil fuel pollution) are near double that in smog neutral areas. In South Africa and Australia, where the ozone is among the most depleted on the planet, skin cancer rates are astronomically high, as UV rays breaking our atmosphere are much more intense. These are the very real and direct impact of destructive environmental behavior.
The second tier that I wish to bring attention to is the working conditions in the processing of fossil fuels, which pose some of the greatest occupational hazards of any jobsite. Oil refineries and coal plants are laden with older asbestos fixtures, which has been directly linked to the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Even as asbestos was banned in the late 1970s, older asbestos fixtures (which are much more hazardous) still permeate this industry. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they lodge in the pleural lining of the lungs, which lays the groundwork for mesothelioma and other respiratory complications later down the road. Harmful asbestos exposures are only hazard in these industries however. Countless other industrial hazards such as benzene, which has been classified as a carcinogen, also have been clearly linked to the processing of fossil fuels.
We can see now that the effects of destructive environmental hazards go well beyond the direct impact on the planet. We are beginning to see now that these behaviors may ultimately cost lives if we don’t change our ways. Through change, we will preserve the planet for our children and the lives of its inhabitants today.
For more information: Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center