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When Bad Things Come in Small Packages

Filed Under: Environment at 11:53 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
NaplesAlong the southern coast of Italy sits a city awash in history and tradition. Naples, founded by the Greeks, has long been known for its bevy of cathedrals, hints of past Greek and Roman rulers, and throng of museums, but today, the region’s culture is being overshadowed by a more dominant feature, something that is masking its beauty with a putrid stench and vile view: garbage.

Naples is quickly becoming the landfill of Italy, amassing more garbage in one evening than most cities see in a month.  The population’s normal accumulation is compounded by illegal dumping and burning, as well as insufficient disposal systems and political failings. As a result, the city’s residents are noting a flux of cancers and an increased mortality rate. The men and women of Naples are dying early and painful deaths, thanks to the pollution that is rotting their home.

At this point, you are probably feeling much better about the state of your home and surrounding area. Your city is nowhere near as filthy as Naples, and so you are at nowhere near the same risk as those poor Italians. However, you are still surrounded by pollution, and it doesn’t take nearly as much to affect your health as you may think.

A recent study found that the smallest particles, those one thousandth the size of a human hair, are the most dangerous to the human body.  They cause plaque to build up in your arteries, putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke, and subsequently harden your arteries, rendering the benefits of good cholesterol moot. Essentially, what this study is saying is that it is the garbage that you can’t see – the pollution filling your air, spilling out of the cars whizzing past your building and flooding your lungs right now – that will kill you. You don’t have to be surrounded by landfills to be at risk.

Take whatever steps you can to minimize the pollution you create. Walk when a car is unnecessary, take public transportation and be mindful of what you are and are not using. Become an advocate for stricter air pollution regulations and encourage those around you to do the same. Then, since your efforts will only reduce not eliminate the problem, protect your heart. Eat well, exercise often and see your doctor regularly. Get a clean bill of health despite the dirt surrounding you.

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