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Air pollution

What are you breathing in the air of a typical city? Rust, paint, dead skin and more

Friday, October 12, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: air pollution, cities, rust

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(NaturalNews) Are you a big city dweller who can't imagine a rural, less hectic life? Well, while there may be opportunities for you in a city that you can't find in the country, one thing is for certain: The air you breathe in a typical city is far worse than the air quality elsewhere.

In fact, much of the air you breathe in town ranges from dangerous to just downright gross. Like the content of a hot dog, maybe you don't really want to know what's in it. But for your own good, you need to know. So read on.

According to air-quality expert and author Bill Logan, who examined the air New Yorkers breathe, found "a bizarre brew" of bacteria, pollen, clothing fiber, fungus, tire rubber, cooking fat, carbon emissions - and dead skin cells - according to the New York Daily News.

Even a 'hipster sample'

Logan, the paper said, grabbed a "spore sucker" of his own design and joined a reporter for a tour of the city, sampling air as he went. The results were nothing short of surprising.

Of course, some of the results were expected: The pollution in midtown and the South Bronx; pollen and fungus present in neighborhoods where there are lots of trees. But in each breath individual New Yorkers take - estimated at about 33,000 per resident per day - they may also be inhaling spores, microscopic bits of glass, starch, fat and bacteria.

Some residents, when told what they could be breathing, were stunned. But Logan - author of the book, "Air: The Restless Shaper of the World" - said many of the elements he found, such as fat, are pretty normal.

Air samples from midtown, not surprisingly, contained a high number of skin cells from many races, a reflection of the area's vast diversity. Chinatown, meanwhile, had noticeable spikes in starch and fat particles, "probably from the cooking of rice and noodles," Logan estimated.

Indeed, what is found in a particular neighborhood's air sample is like an invisible identifier of its lifestyle, business and even culture, Logan told the paper. That would explain the samples in Williamsburg - elevated levels of blue jeans, nail polish, tire rubber and pollen, which he dubbed "the hipster sample."

Judith Zelikoff, a professor in the department of Environmental Medicine at New York University, told the Daily News she wasn't surprised by the range of aerosols found in the air.

"A lot of things that are in the air are a kind of a signature of what's in that environment," she said.

Lots of everything - but especially exhaust

Regarding the potential danger of any particular aerosol, including that from black latex from tires and carbon, wasn't clear absent a pollen count. "Without concentration," Zelikoff said, "we can't say if it's going to be hazardous. But we can say, 'Yet, it is there.' Or even why it's there and how it got there."

"It's everywhere," added Logan. "We have to wake up to how remarkable this stuff is. The common, everyday stuff."

According to a graphic on the Daily News site, here is what Logan found in certain regions of the city:

-- In the South Bronx, soot and large bits of rubber were contained in the samples, including a few "deflated" pollen grains.

-- In Elmhurst, tire rubber along with plant fungi and bits of glass, perhaps from airplanes, were heavy.

-- In Brooklyn Heights, plant appendages, cotton fibers and fat particles were discovered.

In fact, Logan found the picturesque Brooklyn Heights area contained the most fat particles, probably because of its many restaurants.

And, as expected, Logan's air samples also included "lots of carbon" from bus and automobile exhaust. Go figure.




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