- The "unthinkable" appears to
be happening. According to a Reuters report (DALLAS - "Heavy smog
found in air above south sea paradises," K. Murray, 4/1/98), "Throat-burning
smog that afflicts huge cities like Los Angeles and Mexico City is also
contaminating the air above pristine South Sea islands like Fiji and Tahiti."
- The Reuters report is based upon the
work of F. Sherwood Rowland, a Nobel Prize-winning* expert in atmospheric
chemistry at the University of California, and his colleague, Donald Blake.
They presented their findings at national meetings of the American Chemical
Society in Dallas on Tuesday, and said the ozone levels represented "a
major atmospheric problem for the 21st century".
- Air quality at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters)
and higher, above the South Pacific was discovered to have ozone levels
that would "`trigger a first-stage smog alert' in some of the world's
more congested, polluted cities."
- The Galapagos Islands near Ecuador was
also found to have this high level of smog in the air above the surface.
The scientists attributed the South Sea air pollution to the forest and
brushland fires in Africa, Indonesia, South America and Australia. They
say it "is carried thousands of miles by winds." Omitted from
this report and others is mention of the terrible smoke coming from the
burning peat in Indonesia. A tremendous amount of carbon dioxide is being
put into the atmosphere from the burning peat and coal fires, covering
about one million hectares. The peat fires are a result of national policy
in Indonesia coupled with dry conditions from the 1997-1998 El Nino. (See:
<http://www.concentric.net/~blazingt/info/sarawak.htm or go to the main
page at <http://www.concentric.net/~blazingt from where you can click
on the article and see other related materials.)
- The ozone measured in Professor Rowland's
study is high enough above the earth's surface that people in the South
Sea islands are likely untroubled by it. However, the report says that
the ozone is "a dramatic sign of escalating ozone levels world-wide."
Rowland is quoted as saying: "We are talking about (ozone count)
numbers on a regular basis that are approaching levels that are considered
harmful on an occasional basis."
- The findings obtained were a result of
two research planes flying about 500 miles (800 km) north of Fiji last
year, at an altitude of about 5 miles (8 km). They "flew through
a plume of smog with ozone readings of 131 parts per billion - above the
smog alert level in Los Angeles or Mexico."
- The chemicals found in the air over the
tropical paradises were the "essentially" the same as those affecting
major cities, Rowland said. However, overlooked in the Reuters article
is the fact that at ground level in major cities, there are also thousands
of new, manufactured chemicals in the air that are not found in forest
- Rowland said: "You need hydrocarbons,
nitrogen and sunlight. In the tropics, burning forests give off hydrocarbons
and the high temperatures create nitrogen oxides, and there is plenty of
sunlight." According to him, world-wide ozone levels are rising steadily.
He believes that unless something happens to change this trend, the chemical
effects will "will show up in the biology of the people that have
to live in it."
- The Reuters article said the effects
of high smog levels are impaired lung functions that cause breathing difficulties,
and increased risk of asthma attacks. It also said that smog irritates
the eyes, nose and throats of people exposed to it. According to Rowland,
smog causes rubber bands to lose their elasticity and ponders what effects
it has on lungs.
- The field work was done under the sponsorship
of NASA in the Atlantic in 1992 and in the Pacific in 1996. More tests
are schedule for next year in different areas of the Pacific.
- Rowland shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in
Chemistry with Mario Molina of MIT for their research into the effects
of chlorofluorocarbons on stratospheric ozone, which forms a protective
shield against biologically harmful ultraviolet light from the sun in the
- Blazing Tattles <http://www.concentric.net/~blazingt
Email <email@example.com Surface: P.O.B. 1073, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019