We live in cities filled with the fumes and exhaust from industry and transit, and every day weâ€™re exposed to unhealthy influences and toxic chemicals. We may work in â€œsickâ€ buildings, ride poorly ventilated subways or live near environmental remediation sites. At any time, our health can be compromised in any one of a number of ways.
Pollution and Low Birth Weights
Air and land pollution has long been known to be one of the leading causes of birth defects. Pregnant women living in unhealthy, dirty environments can experience breathing problems and come into contact with a number of diseases which may affect the health of the baby. A recent international study on the effects of air pollution on expecting mothers and their children published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that the higher the pollution rate, the greater the rate of low birth weight. Low birth weight (a weight below 5.5 pounds) was consistently associated with an increased risk of postnatal morbidity and chronic health problems later in life. The study was the largest of its kind ever performed; scientists compiled the figures after analyzing data collected from more than three million births in nine nations at 14 sites in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
When examining maternal exposure to outdoor air pollution and the associated health risks with their children, the study’s co-principal investigator, Dr. Tracey J. Woodruff, noted that nations with fewer regulations on particulate air pollution experienced greater rates of low birth weight; in turn, countries with stricter regulations on air quality had fewer children born underweight or in compromised health.
Air and Land Pollution
Air quality, water pollution and toxicity are also common issues in towns near remediation areas. Remediation areas, generally overseen by specialist firms like Sevenson, are contaminated areas slated to undergo the process of clean-up and waste removal. This waste can seep into the groundwater supply, which can affect nearby drinking water and crop health.
In addition to the effects of air and land pollution, office buildings are a surprising source of more toxic chemicals. Some of these toxins come from the chemicals used to clean them and others are found in the complex compounds released from carpets and furniture. These toxins are what’s behind theÂ 30 percent of workers who succumb to illness caused by Sick Building Syndrome. Common hazards causing sick building syndrome include the flame retardants used in the production of furniture andÂ hexavalent chromium used in upholstery materials.
LEED Building Practices
However, companies which implement LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building practices, such as Google, Kohlâ€™s, Coldwater Creek, L.L. Bean and Chipotle, have found ways to avoid the use of toxic materials without spending exorbitant amounts of money on energy-efficient products and solutions. As an internationally recognized system of certification that involves a system of points for differing levels of certification (Silver, Gold, Platinum), LEED-certified buildings reduce waste to landfills, lessen greenhouse gas emissions and are healthier for their occupants.
LEED certification enables building owners and homeowners to receive savings and incentives by lowering operating costs and increasing asset value. LEED-designed homes have the potential to use 20-60 percent less energy than a home built to code. Less energy use also means lower utility bills every month.
Research has shown that green, efficient buildings often sell for more in less time than non-green buildings. LEED-certified buildings also qualify for tax rebates and zoning allowances in hundreds of cities. The U.S. Green Building Council is a fantastic resource for determining whatâ€™s needed when greening your home or office.