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Some of Sandra's Articles


Northern Express
 
("Northern Michigan's Largest Newsweekly")


THE AIR 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 the wind."

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.

"The 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.

"Weather 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.

There are 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.
 

WHY MONITOR?

IADN does not monitor for ozone.

"The 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."

"The 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.

"The 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."

Ozone level 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.
 

THE LAKE GUARDIAN

Another program 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 got there.
 

GRAND TRAVERSE BAND MONITORING STATION

The Grand 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.

The Band 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."

The Environmental 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.

With dramatic 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.

 

Pollution is on the rise

Some Stats from The Washington Post Fall 2003:

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 EPA said.

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 administration.

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 and soot.

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 pollution controls.

 

FOOD SUPPLEMENTS & POLLUTION

Not only 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?

Advocates of vitamin and mineral supplements claim that additional protection from pollution is available by taking generous amounts of antioxidant products.

"Basically, 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 body."

Vitamin E 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 toxins.

Beta-carotene (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).

"Looking 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."

The most 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.

Contact the Herb Connection at 231.271.4261, or other local nutritionists for help in designing your own safe, supplemental program.

[Original article appeared in the Northern Express April 5, 2004]


 

 

 

 © 2004 Northern Networks    Sandra Serra Bradshaw, 1360 S. Bay View Trail, Suttons Bay, Michigan 49682