Author: Brady Beland
I’m sure most of you reading this have heard of the story of the Lorax; whether you watched the movie or read the book as a child. The story is quite wild, with silly made up animals and Truffula Trees. Although the story is filled with figures of imagination, it holds much truth to it. The Lorax story centers around the environment and how humans are destroying it little by little. Because of the factories we are building and the waste that we are excreting into nature, our planet is becoming more and more polluted.
This childhood story should not be taken lightly, but as a warning and a sign to open our eyes as a society to what we are putting at stake, which includes our own health. It has become more and more evident how environmental pollutants negatively impact our health. These pollutants can interact with pathogens and in turn change how not only humans, but other creatures react to infectious diseases.
Immune systems are made of many kinds of immune cells that all work together with the goal of generating a response to a pathogen. These environmental pollutants can alter immune cells such as dendritic cells that help to organize the adaptive immune response, and lymphocytes which carry the immune response out. This reduces your ability to properly fight off disease because of your weakened immune system. In addition to weakening your immune system, the interaction of pathogens and chemicals can also reduce vaccine efficacy.
In the late 1980s, thousands of seals died due to an infectious disease. This population of seals inhabited the coast of the Baltic Sea which was heavily polluted. A coincidence? I think not. In 2018, the same disease killed hundreds of seals on the coast of Maine. Researchers believe that persistent organic pollutants like dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and furans were all heavily present in these areas. These pollutants would have interacted with the pathogens of the disease, and in turn weakened the immune systems of the seals, causing so many of them to die.
More and more species are thinning and becoming extinct due to the increased changing environment brought on by chemicals and pollutants. Because of the destructive and careless behavior of humans, our planet is becoming more and more polluted. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, there are 4.2 million deaths every year that are a result of exposure to ambient air pollution. Why should one species, being humans, be allowed to kill off the entire population of Earth. We have set off a ticking time bomb on the planet and we need to take action now in order to slow it. As a society, we really should have paid more attention to what happened when the Once-ler began chopping down all of those Truffula trees. Just as the Lorax famously said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Author: Brady Beland
Brady Beland is a senior in highschool who is interested in pursuing a medical career. She loves going to the beach and spending time with friends. Brady is excited for what the future holds and hopes to one day land her dream career working in pediatrics
“C&EN.” Linking Pollution and Infectious Disease, C&EN, cen.acs.org/environment/persistent-pollutants/Linking-pollution-infectious-disease/97/i11.
June 22, 2021 Jillian Mackenzie Jeff Turrentine. “Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know.” NRDC, 22 June 2021, www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know.
“Pollution.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/threats/pollution.