WE BREATHE: MONITORS SNIFF OUT POLLUTION
ON THE GREAT LAKES
Sandra Serra Bradshaw
It used to
be when driving "Up North" from
the big cities, one could expect bright
blue skies and refreshingly clean air. But
today, it is nearly impossible to escape
air pollution anywhere on the earth. Traces
of toxins are even found in Antarctica.
Even though the Grand Traverse region has
relatively few point-source pollution sites
such as factories and coal burning plants,
air transfer knows no boundaries. Pollution
travels so to say, "with the will of
Our air quality
in Northern Michigan is being monitored,
however, at the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition
Network's (IADN) station in the Sleeping
Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
provision of the monitoring stations is
mainly for analyzing these non-point sources,"
said Tom VanZoren, adding that non-point
source pollutants are those from sources
not easily identified. VanZoren and his
wife, Alice, have taken samples since the
program's inception in 1991.
patterns influence how much non-source point
pollution is being picked up by the monitoring
station," VanZoren said. The IADN site
at Sleeping Bear Dunes is a Master Station
for all of Lake Michigan. It is administered
by a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes
National Program Office to the Indiana University.
five IADN Master Stations and 10 Satellite
Stations in the Great Lakes. The U.S. operates
five of these stations, and Canada operates
10. Samples of air, particles, and precipitation
are analyzed for chemicals like PCBs that
can enter the lakes from the air and then
build up in the fish and other wildlife.
not monitor for ozone.
chemicals that IADN tracks are not at high
enough levels in the air to present a risk
through breathing," explained Melissa
Hulting, of the Environmental Protection
Agency's Great Lakes National Program Office
in Chicago. "We monitor these substances
in the air since it's an input of toxins
into the lakes."
results from Sleeping Bear Dunes show that,
in general, levels are going down for substances
that have been banned or restricted, like
PCBs and DDT," Hulting said. That is
some good news. However, our daily gas consumption,
coal power plants and other point-source
and non-point source pollution continue
to have a growing detrimental effect on
the air we breathe.
IADN data relates more to the question:
What are we doing to make the fish safe
to eat?" said Hulting. "These
pollutants are a problem because they build
up in fish and other living things. In other
words, we monitor the air since it's a significant
pathway by which these pollutants enter
the Great Lakes."
recordings in Benzie County have at times
tallied the highest readings in the state
(the Sleeping Bear station no longer monitors
for ozone). That can be misleading though,
because Benzie County is simply where the
Grand Traverse area levels were recorded.
The fact is much of Northern Michigan would
have similar readings on particularly bad
summer days, not just Benzie County. The
winds blowing up the Lake Michigan coastline
carry smog to Northern Michigan; the same
smog that tourists try to escape on vacation.
On high ozone level days, breathing can
become difficult, especially for those with
asthma and other diseases, the pregnant
and the elderly. Ozone pollution is also
harmful to plants.
in aiding ways to combat air pollution involves
the 180-foot Lake Guardian, a vessel owned
by the EPA. In its final task of 2003, the
Lake Guardian left the Navy Pier in Chicago
so scientists aboard could take more samples
of lake waters in their hunt for a new class
of chemical pollutants. Known as "emerging
contaminants," these pollutants appear
to be steadily and stealthily spreading
through the environment. Eventually, they
are found way up the food chain; all the
way to human breast milk and the very foods
we put on our tables. The $100,000 pilot
study is the first of its kind in the Great
Lakes. The scientists are seeking to learn
how many of these pollutants have made their
way into lake waters and, perhaps, how they
TRAVERSE BAND MONITORING STATION
Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
also operates an air monitoring station
in Leelanau County. Ozone is one of the
pollutants monitored. They monitor those
levels each year between April 12 and September
30, since ozone does not pose a problem
in cooler weather -- a chemical reaction
involving sunlight and heat are what creates
smog. The GTB Tribal Council also puts out
several reports about another problem adding
pollution to our skies -- littering and
the burning of trash.
has an interest in pollution monitoring
relating to its traditions. Its tribal council
mission statement reads: "To protect
and enhance the natural resources and environment
within the lands and waters ceded to the
United States in the Treaty of Washington,
1836 for the present and future generations."
Stewardship Program of the Tribal Natural
Resources Department has written an excellent
environmental handbook called, "MNA
MAADIZI WIN -- Good Way of Living."
It is a great read for those concerned with
the air we breathe.
growth occurring in the Grand Traverse Region,
increasing automobile traffic, and the threat
of a coal power plant to be possibly built
in Manistee, monitoring the air we breathe
will continue to be a very necessary thing.
is on the rise
Stats from The Washington Post
EPA studies in 2002 found that
about 160 million tons of pollution
was emitted into U.S. skies.
About 146 million people lived
in counties where air monitored
in 2002 was periodically unhealthy
from at least one of the six
principal air pollutants, the
The General Accounting Office,
Congress's investigative arm,
said EPA rule revisions could
lead to reduced fines and pollution
controls in some of the clean
air lawsuits against utilities
that were begun during the Clinton
A separate study by a Rockefeller
Family Fund project and Council
of State Governments said changes
in the way industrial plants
are allowed to count emissions
would increase outputs of sulfur
dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile
organic compounds, carbon monoxide
EPA and the White House have
issued new rules in the Clean
Air Act's "Newsource review"
program to make it easier for
coal-fired electric utilities,
refineries and other industrial
plants to make improvements
without having to install additional
are we vulnerable to vehicle and industrial
emissions, but we're also daily exposed
to indoor pollutants at work and at home.
These pollutants can promote the generation
of free radicals, short-lived compounds
that can cause oxidative damage to our bodies.
Air purifiers, cleaning furnace ducts,
changing furnace/air conditioner filters
frequently and certain houseplants can help
limit pollutants. These measures filter
out pollutants -- including carbon monoxide,
dust, dander, pollens and molds. Yet, some
pollutants slip through these defenses.
So what can one do?
of vitamin and mineral supplements claim
that additional protection from pollution
is available by taking generous amounts
of antioxidant products.
internally the antioxidants are very beneficial
and protective at the cellular level,"
says Sandy Nesky of the Herb Connection
in Suttons Bay's Evergreen Center. "It
is really important to make sure our cells
are protected because damaged cells can
mutate. If a cell mutates it can turn into
growths that can be very harmful to the
is well known for its powerful antioxidant
qualities, which protect cell membranes
from damage caused by free radicals (think
of what rust does to metal over time and
you get the idea what free radicals can
do to our bodies). Selenium is another important
nutrient to consider - it activates an antioxidant
enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, helping
to rid our bodies of environmentally introduced
(the vitamin A which is water-soluble and
will not store up harmful amounts in your
system), along with other carotenoids, act
both as antioxidants and immune system boosters.
Other carotene family members include alpha-carotene,
zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene. Many multi-vitamins
include these components. Check labels and
buy natural vitamins -- they are like the
difference from eating refined white bread
to natural whole wheat bread).
to get all of these things in just one supplement
is sometimes not possible," Nesky says.
"You have to look at a couple of different
options. Be careful you don't look at one
mega vitamin to get all your needs because
the body can only absorb certain amount
at any given time and the rest will be lost.
Supplementing throughout the day is the
most optimal thing to do."
well known anti-oxidant is Vitamin C. Look
for a brand that includes all the components
called bioflavonoids. Another effective
antioxidant is Coenzyme Q10; it is essential
in cellular energy production, and protects
the body from free radicals. Two other compounds,
Tumeric and Circumin have shown protective
activity to the immune system -- especially
from cigarette smoke. Grape seed extract
is another good antioxidant.
Herb Connection at 231.271.4261, or other
local nutritionists for help in designing
your own safe, supplemental program.
appeared in the Northern Express April 5, 2004]