Earth is a closed system, which means that the same water we see today is the same water that has been on our planet all along.
In other words, the same water that fell as rain droplets on the face of your great-grandfather or filled in the footprints of a Tyrannosaurus Rex is still with us today.
But while the water is the same, it’s not quite the same. For billions of years, elements on the planet Earth have been changed by nearly everything they have come into contact with – and for the last few decades – this includes the pollution and waste put off by man.
Today marks one of the last two days of this year’s Air Quality Awareness Week, established by the EPA to help us recognize the impact that poor air quality has on our health, and to remind ecommerce retailers like us to promote our selection of air filters. But poor air quality doesn’t just impact the air that we breathe, and Air Quality Awareness Week is certainly not an occasion to simply drive revenue. Rather, this week serves to remind us that the presence of airborne pollution and contaminants can very readily impact the quality and safety of that one element we can almost guarantee that you care about nearly as much as we do – water.
It’s ironic to think that many view a rainstorm as such a wholly cleansing experience. While it’s true that these water droplets have yet to be dirtied by the ground, there are a host of contaminants that these droplets will come into contact with as they fall from the sky. If that droplet of rain must pass through smog, smoke or dust, it will fall to the ground or onto a body of water filled with the impurities that make up atmospheric contamination in a process known as either atmospheric deposition or air deposition.
One of the most commonly understood scenarios of how air pollution impacts water quality is the phenomenon known as acid rain. Last year, we wrote up a post sharing why caring about clean drinking water means caring about stopping acid rain.
To paraphrase a section of that post that most readily applies to this topic:
The terrifying moniker ‘acid rain’ sounds like an immediate threat. It practically demands that we stand up against it – and this stand has actually led to some better environmental regulations that have decreased the levels of acid rain over the last 50 years. But in reality, acid rain is a fairly straight-forward chemical event: harsh gases such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from natural events and the burning of fossil fuels mix with precipitation and find their way back to Earth.
The impact of acid rain is a gradual but dramatic change in the environment. A recent article from NPR shares how we have permanently altered the chemistry of the Mississippi River, as acid rain has slowly eaten away at chunks of limestone, slowly ‘dissolving the surface of the Earth.’
What’s perhaps most frightening about the story above is that the impact of acid rain on the chemistry of the Mississippi River is being seen most heavily 50 years after better regulations have helped to significantly decrease this issue. Even more so, the latest State of the Air Report from the American Lung Association – cited today in Bryan Walsh’s editorial on Time/CNN – indicate that nearly 148 million Americans live in areas where smog and soot particles have led to unhealthy levels of pollution. That means that for almost half of all Americans, as Walsh puts it, simply breathing can be dangerous.
Readers of this blog are acutely aware of our support for those causes and organizations that are dedicated to providing clean drinking water for the world. charity: water, one such organization we are happy to support and partner with puts it best with their tag, ‘Water Changes Everything.’
But caring about clean water means caring about so much more. It means caring about the long-term health of all elements that will live forever within our closed eco-system, greeting the faces of our great-grandchildren and filling the footprints of the new types of dinosaurs we’ll help to create. And while it’s true that water can change everything, it would be just as fair to say that it all starts with air. We can all do our part to help improve the quality of the air we breathe, and in so doing, improve the quality of every other element that our air touches.
To learn more about how you can reduce your own personal impact on air pollution, we would recommend reading the following resource offered by the EPA, here. If you are able, we would also recommend pledging your support to one or more of the organizations linked to below:
I would also encourage you to share links to any additional organizations focused on air quality, via a comment below.
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