We wrote earlier: "Lick that dirty pacifier!" Now we say "Breathe that dirty air!"
For years, TreeHugger has written that air pollution is harmful. Recently, we have been particularly concerned about particulates. But a newly appointed advisor to EPA head Scott Pruitt, Robert Phalen, is making us breathe easier. Phalen founded the Air Pollution Health Effects Laboratory at UC Irvine, and thinks that perhaps the cure is worse than the disease when you get rid of particulates, writing a few years ago in The Particulate Air Pollution Controversy:
Human activities, like natural phenomena, generate air contaminants. Table 9 lists several examples along with the benefits associated with each of these particle sources. Such activities are necessary for sustaining life, and so their suppression may threaten public health.
So, as his table shows, diesel engines are good for you because they run trucks and farm equipment, while coal fired power plants are good for you because, of course, electricity keeps us alive.
One can see why Pruitt wants Phelan for the EPA; great minds think alike. This man puts jobs before environmental stewardship. Phelan has written that "essentially all human activities will modify the environment in ways that will adversely affect some people." So why bother regulating anything?
The pipe-smoking scientist also has opinions about the wonderful benefits of smoking; when UC Irvine banned the practice he said it would have negative results.
“I’ve met students, faculty and staff who smoke, and I truly feel those who can quit already have, and the people who are left have anxiety issues, anger”...Phalen said he smokes a pipe to aid in memory and concentration. (“Intellectuals like Einstein insisted on having their photos taken smoking a pipe,” he noted).
But the most exciting part of his research is the finding that a little bit of particulate pollution might be good for you, much like the finding that germs can be good for kids, covered in our post Lick that dirty pacifier! Phelan is quoted in the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he describes California air:
The air is just too clean. And he's pretty sure that it's not good for the children, whose lungs need a few irritants to learn how to ward them off. "Modern air," Phalen says, "is a little too clean for optimum health."
Phelan worries that setting higher pollution standards might put truck drivers out of business, and he is "not convinced that the science justifies the fear-mongering over climate change."
This is all exciting news; we already know that it is cool to let our kids roll in dirt and even eat dog poop; now they can suck diesel fumes, all in the name of building strong lungs. I may go out and buy a Volkswagen diesel; they are cheap these days.
And in case you couldn't tell, this is an attempt at humor and parody.