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A Toxic Relationship: Fossil Fuels and Humans



It’s no secret that fossil fuels contribute greatly to air pollution. From lung degradation to dehydration, fossil fuels are a surefire way to ruin your health. In addition, air pollution reduces life expectancy by about three years, and releases harmful pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and mercury. Not only do they pollute the air and water, but they contributed to more than 8 million deaths in 2021, per an article from Harvard.

One of the biggest consequences of fossil fuel pollution is the release of particulate matter, or “PM”. Among other diseases and health problems, PM has been proven to cause heart disease, lung cancer, and birth defects. Heart disease has been one of the leading causes of death in the United States for decades, with numbers only continuing to increase with the continued output of fossil fuels. When we breathe in PM, the particles can travel “deep into our respiratory tract,” according to the New York Health Department, which worsens pre-existing conditions. These fine particles are about thirty times smaller than that of a human hair; in fact, “several thousand” particles could fit into an area the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Unfortunately, all of this means that you are more likely to experience the adverse effects of air pollution if you live close to a large city. Luckily, there are several ways to protect yourself. A 2020 article from California State University, Fresno lists 8 ways to stay as healthy as possible while poor air quality runs rampant: closing windows in your home and using fans to circulate the air inside, using an N95 mask, avoiding household chores that kick up dust, staying indoors, changing your air filters, using an air purifier, and staying informed about air quality levels. California State recommends checking the Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) to stay up-to-date on your area’s air quality. High levels of air pollution has become a new “normal” to a lot of us, and staying healthy should, too. Learning healthy habits as climate change intensifies is crucial to leading a healthier lifestyle, and makes it easier to tackle our changing planet.


Citations

"Fossil Fuels & Health" Harvard https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/c-change/subtopics/fossil-fuels-health/#:~:text=But%20burning%20them%20creates%20climate,spectrum%20disorder%20and%20Alzheimer's%20disease

2. “Health Effects of Burning Fossil Fuel”New York University Law https://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact/projects-reports/projects/climate-and-health/health-effects-of-burning-fossil-fuels

3. “The Effects of Fossil Fuels on Human Health” Environment https://environment.co/the-effects-of-fossil-fuels-on-human-health/

4. “Cardiovascular Disease” National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK83160/

5. “8 tips to protect yourself from unhealthy air quality” Fresno State News https://www.fresnostatenews.com/2020/09/18/8-tips-to-protect-yourself-from-unhealthy-air-quality/

6. Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) RAAN https://www.valleyair.org/myraan/

7. Fine Particles (PM) 2.5 Questions and Answers NY Department of Health https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/pmq_a.htm#:~:text=How%20can%20PM2.5%20affect,nose%20and%20shortness%20of%20breath.


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