The principal reason for controlling pollution is to protect human health and the ecological balance of man’s life-support systems. Innumerable other benefits can result from clean-up measures, i.e., financial savings, more efficient productivity and aesthetic effect. All arguments against pollution controls are reduced to the money factor.
WE CANNOT AFFORD CLEAN AIR; IT COSTS TOO MUCH
. Electric utility spokespersons maintain that the cost of adequate filtration of smokestacks is too high. They claim the public won’t stand for the additional cost of electricity. Yet this same public pays regular increases of its utilities bills, for whatever reasons. The auto makers argue that the car-buying public won’t accept the cost of too many emission control devices on new car prices. Yet, the consumer pays time and time again for yearly model changes and frivolous gadgets like hidden headlights, vinyl tops and recessed windshield wipers.
We all pay for air pollution. We pay in human life and the destruction of all other life on the earth. Even though we know that air pollution shortens the life span of every living thing that requires air to breathe, these facts seem to have little impact as compared to the money cost factor. For example, life insurance companies have statistics comparing the life expectancies of urban and rural dwellers. The individual who lives and works away from urban centers has a longer life expectancy. One primary reason being the urban dweller s poorer quality of air. The total cost to the nation is billions and billions of dollars.
Steps Toward Control
We find many different kinds of processes being studied, experimented with or employed in attempts to clean up air pollution caused by industry, power generating plants, space heating and refuse disposal activities. The four major types of control devices are filter bag systems, cyclone treatment, electrostatic precipitators and scrubber systems. Other processes are being studied and tested for the removal of sulfur oxides from smokestack emissions. Tall smokestacks do not reduce the emission of pollutants, but they
reduce the concentration of pollutants at ground level. During the 1960’s, the average height of smokestacks for power generating plants was about 240 feet. Today, the average height of these stacks is well over 600 feet with many as high as 1,000 feet or more. Still, this sort of measure, at the most, can only be considered as a sort of interim step or partial solution.
Some cities, like Los Angeles, have banned all backyard incinerators and have laws that require apartment house incinerators to include wet scrubbers on their smokestacks for reduction of particulate emission. Many big cities still dispose of garbage by burning it in huge incinerators. Incinerators can be built that will completely burn the garbage and emit little, if any, contaminants into the air. However, most cities lack such units.
Many considerations must be investigated and implemented if quality air is to become a reality again. Among these considerations are the following:
1) more research and development should be undertaken for alternative processes that are non-polluting.
2) development of new pollution control equipment and technological information for industrial emissions should be encouraged and supported.
3) low cost pollution control equipment should be developed for small industries.
4) research and development on new methods of removing sulfur oxides from smokestacks should be undertaken and/or increased.
5) continued study of the use of alternative fuels that will reduce emissions should be encouraged, while modifying existing power plants whenever feasible.
6) new effective and more efficient combustion processes with minimal pollutant emissions should be promoted.
7) research and development of energy sources such as hot water, hot air, solar power or steam for space heating needs.