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By: Charles Kassotis

In a world that is becoming increasingly industrialized, and in a world where more people can afford to drive cars, air pollution is becoming a larger problem. While there are those who would debate whether or not our air pollution is causing global warming, versus the earth’s natural warming process since the last Ice Age, that is not the issue. Definitive proof may or may not be found anytime soon. What is certain, however, is that there are confirmed problems caused by air pollution. These problems include respiratory problems and they also include problems regarding what we eat.

As the world moves more into the modern age, more pollutants are spewed into the air. Rising middle classes in large, formerly poor countries like China and India want the same privileges that we have of driving cars. Additionally, countries that entered the latter half of the 20th Century largely free of industry are now establishing it in order to jump into the 21st Century and bring their economies up to date. Many of these countries are understandably resentful of regulations that others try to foist on them because the already industrialized countries had their opportunity for unregulated and explosive industrial growth. And the increasing demands for cars, coupled with lowered restrictions on pollution output, in the U.S. continues to drive the air pollution machine. No matter where it comes from, however, air pollution causes health problems almost everywhere.

Respiratory problems are a very natural and scientifically established result of air pollution. While mild pollution is not awful for a healthy person in the prime of his or her life, polluting particles in the air can cause problems in children and in the elderly or the infirm. Additionally pollutants in the air can aggravate asthma symptoms and increase allergy symptoms. This can be annoying and dangerous to the health of some people.

But these respiratory problems are not all. Heavy air pollution can be damaging even to the most healthy of people. Mexico City, the largest city in the world, has major air pollution problems. It is said that just breathing the air each day is like smoking more than a pack of cigarettes. If the pollution is heavy enough, serious health problems, including cancer, can result from the toxins constantly breathed in through the air.

Another air pollution problem has to do with mercury. Mercury is a by product of many factories, and is present in the particles spewed from the tops of smokestacks. As the mercury gets into the earths atmospheric system, it mingles with rain, which then falls into water and is absorbed by fish. As larger fish (like tuna) prey on the smaller, they receive even higher amounts. Even though fish is generally healthy, there are some varieties that should be avoided. And it is recommended that no one eat more than two servings of fish per week. Pregnant women and children should eat no more than one serving of some fish and should avoid eating any of certain types of fish, as the mercury can cause defects and has been linked to developmental problems.

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