Hurricanes Blow In Air Pollution

BY ON August 29, 2011

Hurricane waters near a seaside town

Hurricane Irene loomed over the East Coast and finally made landfall in my neck of the woods late Sunday morning. As my family geared up for Irene’s destruction, we prepared by running through the list of dangers that might accompany a hazardous set of weather conditions such as: high winds, power outages, trees down, flooding, and storm surges.

In a rare momentary reprieve from thinking about air pollution (Moms Clean Air Force writers are a dedicated bunch!), it didn’t occur to me to put air pollution on the danger list. Apparently, pollution dances around hurricane’s fury as storm winds cloud the skies before and after the disaster with a blast of potentially harmful dust and dampness.

What Powerful Storms Leave Behind:

According to Discovery News, a team of researchers monitored the number of particles floating in the air when storms begin to form. They found the dust and grit a storm leaves behind can be troublesome when inhaled. These particles can lodge deep in people’s lungs, causing coughing, wheezing, or triggering asthma attacks. Children are highly susceptible to such particles since their bodies are small and they breathe deeply. Asthma is a chronic disorder that already affects an estimated 7.1 million children under the age of 18.

Extensive water damage after hurricanes and floods increases the likelihood of mold contamination. Mold poses a serious risk for children with allergies and asthma. When the presence of mold increases in a home, it more than doubles the risk of a child developing asthma in the future. Here’s how mold affects children with asthma.

What Can We Do?

It seems the root of many weather-related issues can be traced to climatic changes. A recent New York Times article highlighted the notion that ongoing global climate changes will increase the intensity and frequency of these extreme weather events. Thus, spawning the exasperation of asthma attacks.

“Storms are one of nature’s ways of moving heat around and high temperatures at the ocean surface tend to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. That appears to be a prime factor in explaining the power of Hurricane Irene, since temperatures in the Atlantic are well above their long-term average for this time of year.”

Along with fighting for clean air, we can’t deny the science of what our future will bring if we do not address the underlying issues of global warming. Climate change is our reality.

Man boarding up house in preparation for Hurricane Irene in 2011While Irene passed over my home, the lingering rain and winds whipped around for hours and hours, leaving us at risk for mold in our massively flooded basement as we breathed in whatever the storm left behind. I’m more than ready to say Good Night, Irene, but as is evident over and over again in our fight to save our environment, we need to heed climate scientists if we aim to create a future that will put our children’s health before politics and polluters.


Credits: Charles Krupa/AP for New York Times, Charles Dharapak/AP for Guardian

TOPICS: Asthma, Pollution