Smog: must we use our city air as a sewer?
Until recently, most of us have paid strangely little attention to the quality of the air We breathe even though the purity of the food iwe eat and of the water we drink has been considered important enough to warrant proper safeguards for many years. Yet the fact is that the average adult person needs about thirty cubic feet or about three pounds of air a day for breathing while less than three pounds of food and four and a half pounds of water are consumed. on an average during the same day.
It has taken a series of fatal smog disasters in recent years to jolt many of us out of this singular unconcern and to make us ponder the fact that With the tremendous growth of industrial centres and the increase in' motor traffic, millions of tons of gases, fumes, vapours, dusts and other impurities are being poured into the air we breathe daily.
It has been estimated that over eight million tons of atmospheric pollution are produced each year in Great Britain just from the burning of coal and its derived fuels. A recent study in Paris has shown that motor traffic accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of the total air pollution of the city and the heating of houses for about 50 per cent.
A British authority on air pollution, Mr. A.R. Meetham, describes the problem in the following words: "Since the beginning of the industrial revolution a minor irritation has become a great social evil. In towns and industrial districts rain water loses its purity; ash and other solids fall continuously to the ground; the air contains . a suspension of fine particles which penetrate indoors, to be deposited on walls, ceilings, curtains and furniture; our clothing, our skins, and our lungs are contaminated; metals corrode, buildings decay, and textiles wear out; vegetation is stunted and blackened; sunlight is lost; germs multiply; our natural resistance to disease is lowered. In a hundred and one Ways the miasma of atmospheric pollution is lowering our vitality and our enjoyment of life."
This increasing pollution of the atmosphere must be prevented if our health is to be safeguarded from its disastrous effects.
A long fight is ahead if clean, smokeless air is to be achieved everywhere, but already much has been done to alleviate the pollution in a number of the world's cities. Now with a world campaign against atmospheric pollution proposed by- the World Health Organization the drive is building up into a major campaign.
Just as we no longer throw rubbish into the street, we shall eventually cease to discharge smoke and other filth into the air. It is high time we stopped using the air we breathe as a sewer.