I applaud last week’s letter to the editor by retired OB-GYN Lynda Smirz, which argued on medical grounds against building a polluting truck stop in a residential neighborhood.
Dr. Smirz drew attention to the well-established causal link between air pollution and birth defects, low birth weight, and prematurity in babies, problems that mark them for future adversity. It is brutally ironic that SITLA, tasked with raising money to educate children, would choose to sell land abutting a subdivision to a business that, by its very nature, tends to undermine children’s life prospects.
As author David Wallace-Wells points out in his recent book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after [global] warming, air pollution “lowers cognitive performance over time so much that researchers call the effect ‘huge’… [A] higher pollution level in the year a baby is born has been shown to reduce earnings and labor force participation at age thirty.”
That is because children with pollution-related disabilities like attention deficit disorder typically struggle with learning in school and with acquiring good social skills and work habits. They are more likely to drop out, to develop behavioral problems, and to be unemployed later in life. By any measure, the cost to them, their families, and society at large is huge. And, sadly, children—among the most vulnerable members of the community—are far from the only potential victims.
On a worldwide basis, air pollution is said to contribute to one in six deaths; it has been implicated in conditions ranging from autism, mental illness, and dementia to asthma, cancer, strokes, and heart attacks.
For these reasons, although my home is several miles from the proposed truck stop, I stand with those who are outraged by SITLA’s irresponsible, ill-considered decision. May public pressure continue until common sense prevails.