With all the other deadly horrors in the world, I forget about air pollution. It seems so old fashioned, such a throwback to my childhood in the ‘70s when New Zoo Revue taught us kids about the topic in between happy songs.
But it's still there. Oh, you probably already knew that, but I had to be reminded. After all, in North Adams the only sign I have of bad air is either the typical dead skunk or when we open our windows in warm weather and the cigarette haze from outside starts to pour in.
Turns out, air pollution is not only still here, but it's a big murdering jerk, ending the lives of just over two million people a year.
This article in Discover (http://bit.ly/14Msi5J) opens with a fact that put the existence of air pollution into context like it never has been for me -- it's described as "fine particles in the air," which makes me think of asbestos. You ever see images of asbestos in your lungs? It looks like little worms. It's horrible. Is that what air pollution looks like? "Fine particles" implies it does.
As an aside, nearly another half a million die as a result of ozone pollution.
East Asia accounts for more than half of those deaths, thanks to "particulates" called PM2.5 that can "aggravate heart and lung diseases and trigger cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks." This is to say, it is not a slow death.
Thankfully, we Americans think healthy, right? Well, it's that that may be killing us as well. For instance, the craze for antioxidants.
Too Many Antioxidants? Resveratrol Blocks Many Cardiovascular Benefits of Exercise
A recent study (http://bit.ly/12O6nFX) has shown that the so-called miracle compound to stop aging, resveratrol, actually takes away the cardiovascular benefits of exercise for older men. Translation: It can bring your blood pressure and cholesterol level to a bad place regardless of what you do to make it better.
This is only relevant if you are taking resveratrol supplements. But this should be no surprise to anyone who has read Paul Offit's piece in The Atlantic (http://bit.ly/14MszWe) that turns on its head the mistaken impression that vitamins do us much good at all.
It's the typical human logic -- if something is good for you, then more of it is better for you. The problem is that anyone who pays attention to their biological functions has no doubt noticed over the years that your body will only make use of so many vitamins before it starts disposing of them in your urine. You are literally peeing money into the toilet every time you take loads of vitamin supplements, because your body can't contain them.
Offit's analysis is more dire than wasted dollars. He documents that vitamin supplements "increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives," medical knowledge that has been studied and proven again and again and again. In other words, vitamins do the exact opposite of what you pay for. Offit's piece is mesmerizing reading.
Salon reiterates some of Offit's points and backs them up with documentation of further studies and an analysis of the vitamin industry itself, a $20 billion gold mine. And you're worried about Big Pharma? British science crusaders like Ben Goldacre have been fighting against Big Vita for years and we are just catching up. (http://www.salon.com/2013/06/25/are_vitamins_a_billion _dollar_scam_partner/)
And take what I said about peeing it out with a grain salt -- apparently that doesn't always work. The article points out plenty of opportunity for vitamin toxicity that can kill you, and adds, "High doses of folic acid have been associated with higher risk of precancerous colon polyps Too much beta carotene has been linked to lung cancer." And so on.
What to do?
The atmosphere you can only control so much, and only through voting, activism and smart purchasing can you slowly whittle away at the harm it does. But there are some things you can control, and by refusing to pollute your body with vitamin supplements, you're doing just that.