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          The Air That We Breathe

          Name something, other than blinking your eyes, you do 17,000 times a day. That’s right, breathing. Those seventeen thousand breaths amount to some 305 cubic feet of air that’s pulled and pushed out of your lungs daily; equivalent to twelve hundred basketballs. And, depending on your locale (e.g., proximity to a refinery), that could take your breath away – pun intended.

          Air pollution could be compared to several, extended crime families operating in close proximity. Components of what you breathe are related to global warming and, by extension, climate change, rendering serious harm, even death.

          While we identify “air” as oxygen”, 78% is nitrogen. Only 21% is oxygen; the remaining 1%: CO2, neon, and hydrogen (1). Nonetheless, 100% is laced with toxins that kill. In a lifetime, we breathe in some 34,636,000 basketballs worth of air.  Aside from the gases listed above, what else is in our air?

          Tufts University professor Doug Brugge, a Tisch Senior Fellow, has some answers in his new book, “The Toxic Air We Breathe”. He cites “The most hazardous particulate matter (PM) is the byproduct of burning wood, coal, gasoline, and other fossil fuels. Those particles are small, making the dust motes seen in sun rays seem like boulders; present even when looking at clear blue skies. 

          Notwithstanding, Brugge estimates 30% of serious illnesses, even death, result from PM: dirt, dust, exhaust, secondhand smoke, soot, even microscopic water droplets.  Over time, they lead to asthma, emphysema and other pulmonary issues, as well as heart disease—even death.

          Read Professor Brugge’s insightful book “The Toxic Air We Breathe.” with an amazing graphic showing how tiny PM is: 1/24 the diameter of a human hair.  All those toxins contained in the 1,200 basketballs worth of air you breathe daily.

          (1)              NASA.gov

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