Why Is It So Important to Minimize Car Pollution?

The term “smog” was originally used in London in 1905 to describe the sooty mess in the air from coal-burning plants. And the smog in London was so murky, so cloudy, and so dark in 1952 that it only be described an extremely severe problem. In fact, thousands of people died an untimely death as a result of the smog that year. London has since taken measures to prevent such a disaster again, but smog remains a problem in many parts of the world. Who can forget the pall of smog that covered the Beijing Olympics and threatened the health of the athletes?

The serious problems once associated with coal emissions have been replaced with smog problems from vehicle emissions. In order to prevent conditions as dangerous as those that occurred in London in 1952, activists have successfully pushed to enact tighter regulations. The effects of smog are catastrophic not only on human health, but also to the environment and crop production.

California’s tight standards are a direct result of the air pollution that was wreaking havoc in the 1940s. While smog is still visible in Los Angeles, it would be much worse had the emissions requirements been any less stringent. While the short-term health effects are not a major cause for concern, the bigger problem is the chronic health effects that result. Breathing problems are an especially grave concern in the elderly and children. Crops such as flowers and spinach are extremely sensitive to smog and visible damage often results.

Some hydrocarbon emissions have particles in them that are known to promote cancer. In fact, in the most polluted cities, it is estimated that the average life is shortened by up to two years. In a study conducted on children in Southern California, it was determined that children brought up in the communities of Southern California had reduced lung function. The study looked at car exhaust pollutants as the main cause. By the age of 18, the lung function of these children was only at 80 percent of the level that it should have been at. Essentially, the air pollution from cars had the same effect on these kids that being raised in a home with smokers would have.

Other effects of vehicle pollution include impairment of the immune system, an increase in birth defects, and an increase in asthma in children. The respiratory effects are the most obvious and well-known, but the amount of oxygen to the brain and heart may also be reduced. Without effective smog control now and in the future, the health of all citizens will be compromised.

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