PEORIA -- Pollution kills, both throughout the world, a major new study reports, and presumably in central Illinois where over 22,400 tons of pollutants are released yearly into the air, water and land.
The new report attributes about 40 percent of deaths worldwide to pollution, which along with a rapid growth in world population, has spurred the increase in human diseases worldwide.
A news release on the new report states: "David Pimentel, Cornell professor of ecology and agricultural sciences, and a team of Cornell graduate students examined data from more than 120 published papers on the effects of population growth, malnutrition and various kinds of environmental degradation on human diseases."
Their report is published in the online version of the journal Human Ecology and is to be published in the December print issue.
"We have serious environmental resource problems of water, land and energy, and these are now coming to bear on food production, malnutrition and the incidence of diseases," Pimentel stated in the release.
"Of the world population of about 6.5 billion, 57 percent is malnourished, compared with 20 percent of a world population of 2.5 billion in 1950, said Pimentel. Malnutrition is not only the direct cause of 6 million children's deaths each year but also makes millions of people much more susceptible to such killers as acute respiratory infections, malaria and a host of other life-threatening diseases, according to the research."
Among the study's other main points, according to the release:
"• Nearly half the world's people are crowded into urban areas, often without adequate sanitation, and are exposed to epidemics of such diseases as measles and flu.
"• With 1.2 billion people lacking clean water, waterborne infections account for 80 percent of all infectious diseases. Increased water pollution creates breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, killing 1.2 million to 2.7 million people a year, and air pollution kills about 3 million people a year. Unsanitary living conditions account for more than 5 million deaths each year, of which more than half are children.
"• Air pollution from smoke and various chemicals kills 3 million people a year. In the United States alone about 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment -- contributing to cancer, birth defects, immune system defects and many other serious health problems.
"• Soil is contaminated by many chemicals and pathogens, which are passed on to humans through direct contact or via food and water. Increased soil erosion worldwide not only results in more soil being blown but spreading of disease microbes and various toxins.
"At the same time, more microbes are becoming increasingly drug-resistant. And global warming, together with changes in biological diversity, influence parasite evolution and the ability of exotic species to invade new areas. As a result, such diseases as tuberculosis and influenza are re-emerging as major threats, while new threats -- including West Nile virus and Lyme disease -- have developed."
In central Illinois, Peoria is the source of over 75 percent of the pollutants. More than 80 percent goes into landfills. But in 2004, 789 tons went into the water, mostly the Illinois River.
Ethanol producer Aventine Renewable Enery in Pekin dumped 734 tons of nitrate compounds and 1,977 pounds of ammonia into the river.
It also emitted 237 tons of pollutants into the air, as anyone driving by that plant can see and smell.
The figures are from the US EPA's Toxic Release Inventory for 2004.
The water figures don't take into account compounds in sewage that are not measured, such as pharmaceutical drugs and bacteria and other nasties from the combined sewer overflow pipes in Peoria that drain into the river when heavy rainfall occurs. The city is now studying what to do about that problem, with solutions expected to cost millions.
Airbourn pollutants in central Illinois include lead, mercury and even traces of PCBs, said to cause cancer.
These substances come from the coal-fired power plants in the region.
Coming tomorrow: a new report on how household chemicals are affecting cats, the new canaries in our households.