No more dust bowls

One reason I became a scientist and specifically an analytical chemist is because of the role analytical chemistry has played in the environmental movement. Before methods for detecting pollution became advanced, people thought that the earth swept away pollution with some sort of Mother Nature’s magic wand. Of course, the pollution was still there, undetected by the crude tests. When I was a student, things had changed. The new methods and often sophisticated equipment created a new era of testing. The Earth would be clean again. We’d find all the pollution and get rid of it. I had such hope! Then came politics. Some politicians deny pollution as if their pocketbook depended on it. Names will not be mentioned.

One of my most despised pollutants is particulates. An Iowa politician is known for claiming that particulate pollution isn’t harmful. At first I thought he was just not informed. I sent him articles about the particulates and their dangers. He ignored them. This is why pollution hasn’t been tamed. Guys like him who don’t care about your health. So I’m here to tell you, these things are bad. They clog your lungs, they hurt your heart. They create haze.

There are two sizes, PM 10 from dust and grinding was the size associated with the dust bowl. These coarse particles can contribute to heart disease, pneumonia, and bronchitis. These particles are associated with the dust bowl, which is why I’m posting about them today. A friend has a book out about the hardships of this time. You can find it here. It’s good!

Those big particulates can kill but even worse are the small ones, PM 2.5. These come from combustion and other chemical reactions—cars, cigarettes, cooking indoors, fires, and power plants are among their creators. These cause all the problems of big particulates but they dive deeper into the lungs and are more dangerous. You can follow particulate pollution here (US) and here (world).

We all know that the Dust Bowl killed people. Let’s not repeat it. Be sure to write your elected official. There are ways to scrub and keep particulates out of the atmosphere. Shouldn’t this be law?

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