2010 Feb. 9: IA: Air Quality in Iowa: Particulates: A Hazy Shade of Grassley

2010 Feb. 9: IA: Air Quality in Iowa:  Particulates: A Hazy Shade of Grassley


Our friend Phyllis Weeks who runs the website for the Marion County Democrats sent this to us.  We are reposting it in its entirety here, but she is doing such a great job organizing progressives down in Knoxville, we highly recommend checking out their site.  Click here

February 9, 2010 –

HAZY SHADE OF GRASSLEY – by Dr. Catherine Haustein (Dr. Haustein received her degree in chemistry from the University of Iowa.)

Issued by The National Weather Service, Des Moines, IA, 1:23 p.m. CST, Fri., February 5, 2010:  AIR QUALITY ADVISORY FOR ALL OF CENTRAL IOWA THROUGH NOON ON SATURDAY.  THE IOWA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES HAS EXPANDED AN AIR QUALITY ADVISORY INTO ALL OF CENTRAL IOWA.  FINE PARTICULATE LEVELS NEAR EPA HEALTH STANDARDS ARE EXPECTED TO PERSIST ACROSS THE ENTIRE AREA UNTIL NOON ON SATURDAY.  THE DEPARTMENT OF NATUAL RESOURCES RECOMMENDS THAT INDIVIDUALS WITH RESPIRATORY OR HEART DISEASE…THE ELDERLY AND CHILDREN LIMIT PROLONGED EXERTION UNTIL AIR QUALITY CONDITIONS IMPROVE.

There is nothing more annoying than someone who is willfully ignorant, and last week I went to bed mightily annoyed.  It began with a random Robocall from Chuck Grassley inviting me to participate in a telephone town hall meeting.  In his words, a democracy is a two-way street.  I was delighted to be invited.  In the end I was never allowed to ask a question, and it was a forum for Obama bashing and tidbits of information taken out of context.  The two-way street was in fact a one-way highway of partisanship.

Maybe it was my phone connection, but Grassley seemed to be slurring his words.  It sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles.  He went off the deep end and got quite dramatic when he talked about dust and particulates.  Grassley launched into outrage because the EPA is concerned about particulates; and in his words, "Whoever heard about them anyway?"  Now granted, only 5% of Congress has a degree in science or engineering, but you don’t have to be a scientist to have heard tales of the Dust Bowl.  And anybody who knows anybody with respiratory problems knows that dust and particulates will harm you.

Many studies have connected sickness and hospitalization for respiratory problems with air pollution.  Particulates are a pervasive form of air pollution here in Iowa.  The most hazardous of particles are the very fine ones known as PM2.5.  These tiny particles can clog your lungs and accumulate.  You can never cough them out.  Once your lungs are coated with them, you either need a lung transplant, or you will die. They come from combustion.  Cars, power plants, fires, and cigarettes all contribute to these damaging particles.  Chemical reactions such as those associated with farming and industry are other contributors.  Course particles known as PM10 will cause respiratory illness.  They come from such things as grinding and crushing rocks along with dust from unpaved roads.  Course particles can aggravate existing conditions, cause shortness of breath that could result in a hospital visit, create susceptibility to respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchitis, and cause excess strain on heart muscles. 

The EPA has the nerve (in Grassley’s opinion) to suggest that farm workers need some protection.  Grassley even said that shaming the EPA was one of his goals.  Why?

Particulates harm more than humans.  Particulates can make bodies of water more acidic, kill aquatic life, reduce visibility, and damage crops.  When there is haze in the air, there are particulates.  Haze is most often found in the winter when the air is dry.  If there is no wind, the particulates accumulate and the hazy shade of winter results.

Although particulates and what to do about them is a complex problem, we can look to other parts of the world for what happens when governments deny that any problem exists.  Haze is a severe problem in Indonesia and Asia, especially in periods before the rainy season.  In parts of Sumatra, motorists have had to run their headlights during the day to cut through the haze.  In that country, the haze is often associated with run away slash and burn agriculture.

The most puzzling thing about this issue and Grassley’s reaction to it is that particulates have been somewhat regulated since 1997.  Grassley was in office then, and so he should really know something about particulates.  Yet in his phone town hall forum he acted as if the idea of regulating particulates was a new and bizarre concept and way beyond his intellectual capabilities.  He is doing those who voted for him a disservice and is being disrespectful too.  Science issues are nuanced and require careful study and thoughtfulness from our elected officials.  Iowans are intelligent and thoughtful people, not dumb hicks who don’t know nothin’ and don’t care to learn.  He should not represent us in such a know-nothing manner.

We might ask ourselves, why is an educated man acting in such an irresponsible way?  Might it be due to ties with the Cato Institute, which receives funding from some dirty places–the tobacco and oil industries?  If Grassley can’t engage in an honest and mature discussion of complex issues that affect our health, he needs to be given a time out.  He is beginning to show his true colors, and his style is not one of response to his people, but of strong-arming public discussion.  Let’s hope that as the election grows near, Iowans get a good look at his top-down style and reject it. 

Hang on to your hopes, my friends.

    * Further reading: 
    * ScienceDaily.com
    * Dirt on windows contributes to pollution
    * How cigarette smoke kills
    * Particulate pollution
    * Particulates
    * Haze over China 
    * Sumatra 
    * More about Cato      
    * Cato 

**BFIA ACTION ALERT**


(1) If you would like to help retire Chuck Grassley, check out the three Democratic challengers, Roxanne Conlin, Bob Krause,and Tom Fiegen.  See the top left sidebar for links to their webpages.

(2) If you live in Marion county, you can help push the progressive agenda and help elect local Democrats by attending the next Central Committee Meeting to be held on Wed., Feb., 24, Swamp Fox Restaurant, Knoxville, 6:30 p.m. (Dinner gathering – 5:30).  Or find the Marion County Dems on Facebook.

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