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Chasing Bad Air Around the World

February 17th, 2018 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, The National, The Sun

This dawned on me the other day. Even before we made the drive up (and back) through California’s Central Valley.

I have spent nearly the whole of my life breathing bad air. Polluted air. Sometimes thick enough to taste. Sometimes particulates so tiny they never come back out a person’s lungs.

Didn’t plan it that way, but that is how it has worked out.

Maybe some of you have struggled through the same thing.

Let’s recap:

–Born in Long Beach, California, a half-century ago — which pretty much coincided with the worst years of smog in greater Los Angeles. Little or no pollution control. Aching lungs if we exercised for more than a few minutes. Even in Long Beach, which is on the Pacific Ocean. Air quality was an issue there not just because of cars and trucks, but because of all the crappy air that wafted over the city from the enormous port — where hundreds … thousands … of smog-spewing semi-trailers picked up loads to take inland. I began have asthma problems at around 13, and they have never gone away. Bad air, I’m thinking.

–Moved to San Bernardino at age 22 and lived there for 30 years. San Bernardino is known for having some of the worst smog in the world. Worse than L.A. — because prevailing winds from Los Angeles push the foul air up against the San Bernardino Mountains — where it just sits for months and months. It is a place where it is not a good idea to exercise outdoors — which I tended to do.

–Went to Hong Kong for four months in 2008-09. And HK is just downriver from Guangzhou, a prodigious producer of dirty air. Hong Kong is so alarmed at the air Guangzhou sends them that it has pollution monitors all over the islands. I always noted them, when I jogged. I often was alarmed.

–Less than a year later, we went to Abu Dhabi and stayed for six-plus years. Abu Dhabi lives under the cloud of pollution that pretty much chokes all the big cities of the Persian Gulf. Abu Dhabi’s claim to pollution fame is that, now and then, it is the world’s worst city for particulates — tiny particles that go into lungs and never quite come back out. It also is prone to sand storms, where you can actually taste the grit.

In retrospect, I concede I should have found a place or two where breathing was not a risky business. Santa Barbara. San Diego. Seattle.

This was hammered home by our drive through the Central Valley, where dust hangs like a pall over California’s great agricultural area, and where I fear for those who live and breath there.

We now are in the south of France, where the air is not perfect but a lot cleaner than it was in previous stops. Thanks to modest traffic, limited heavy industry.

Headed in the right direction, anyway. Finally.




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