By Kevin Hall
Old Tricks, New Dogs
The San Joaquin Valley needs some really good dogcatchers right now because the air polluters and their lapdogs, watchdogs and guard-dogs are running loose and need to be locked up.
Pollution levels this fall reached highly dangerous levels throughout the Valley on repeated mornings, nights and the occasional afternoon, and it’s only going to get worse in January. This time of year we’re breathing in the very small particles that lodge deep in our lungs or enter the bloodstream to trigger heart attacks, strokes and even do damage at a cellular level.
During this prolonged red-air season, not a single Air Alert was (or will be) issued by the Valley Air Board. Children ran and played through recesses. Evening football games were played. Seniors took morning walks. Joggers went on their runs. Little did they know the damage being done to their lungs, their hearts, their futures—and the immune systems of their future descendants. Not once did the regional agency formed to address this public health crisis issue a word of warning.
Because the Valley Air Board is a captive agency controlled by the polluters it’s supposed to regulate. Instead of warning the public of impacts and risks, the board’s staff has entered the final stage of the classic industry “four dog defense.”
First perfected by cigarette makers and later used by every bad actor from chemical manufacturers to the fossil fuel industry, this is a four-stage process (as described by Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council in an Amy Goodman interview).
It goes like this: the first “dog” or line of defense is where the polluter responds to public criticism by saying, “My dog doesn’t bite!” Meaning, in this case, that air pollution doesn’t cause harm, but, of course, the science proves them wrong. So, they release the second hound, which barks, “Okay. My dog bites, but he didn’t bite you.” Again, the science proves them wrong. Air pollution is pervasive and we’re all exposed to dangerous levels. Third dog: “Fine! My dog bites; he bit you, but he didn’t hurt you.” Wrong yet again, of course. Air pollution really, really hurts you, and the more research we see the more harm we learn about.
So the fourth dog is unleashed, and this is the one our Valley Air Board and staff now use exclusively in their role as the PR arm of the industrial polluters. It says, “My dog bites. He bit you. He hurt you. It’s your fault!”
This is why we don’t see Air Alerts being issued on an almost daily basis during the summer months and every other day during the fall and winter. If they did, the public would soon be calling on those air board members to demand clean air and, worse yet in their eyes, force these elected officials to either take real action or step down.
Red Pill versus Blue Pill
Dr. Kari Nadeau, a medical doctor and Stanford researcher, gave a presentation recently that delivered a Matrix-like, red-pill moment of awakening into a harsh reality.
In simple terms and leaving out the reams of technical research data Dr. Nadeau and her team released only after nine years of careful study, the researchers examined the genetic code of our children as it relates to the production of T-cells in their immune systems.
T-cells play a critical role in a body’s ability to respond to attack, determining the type and degree of chemical response within the body. People with low counts have severe allergies, asthma, GI disease and Type I diabetes.
It turns out the human body has an efficient method of taking elements, like air pollutants, in blood and injecting them into cells, specifically into the nuclei. In Fresno (and similarly affected Valley communities, in my opinion), the genetic code of the children studied has been permanently damaged, resulting in lower T-cell counts.
As it turns out, Fresno kids with asthma not only have T-cell counts lower than Fresno ones without asthma, but when compared with young ones from outside the Valley, our healthy kids have lower counts than Palo Alto kids with asthma. A “healthy” immune system in a Valley child is weaker than a damaged immune system from one on the outside.
And the genetic damage is not only permanent, it’s hereditary. The genetic inheritance these kids pass along to the next generation is one of a weakened immune system—from birth. Chances are it’s been happening here for some time now.
So the next time you hear that fourth dog barking, remember who loses and for how long. Think about volunteering as a dogcatcher and joining the effort. We need you. Generations to come need you.
Kevin Hall is director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition based in Fresno and online at www.calcleanair.org and on Facebook. CVAQ is a partnership of more than 70 community, medical, public health, environmental and environmental justice organizations representing thousands of residents in the San Joaquin Valley unified in their commitment to improve the health of Californians. Contact him at email@example.com.