4 Unexpected Side Effects Of Pollution

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by Dwayne Hoover

I’m pretty sure that Agent Smith from The Matrix had it right when he described human beings as a virus. We pretty much do exactly what he describes: We find a home, replicate, consume all of the resources and then move on. It’s not exactly far from the truth, except in those instances where we stubbornly refuse to give up our homes and squalor in the wasteland that we’ve created.

The problem is that the wasteland is beginning to engulf the planet. The one thing Smith left out of his analogy is what we leave behind. And sometimes, the effects are just weird.


We’re Getting Sea Life High On Drugs

What once was hailed as a medical cure-all, cocaine is now pretty much universally accepted as a bad thing to partake in. It could be entirely accepted as detrimental to your health if there didn’t exist an alarming number of people who still use it. I don’t know – maybe they’re convinced they’ll eventually create a brand new field of psychology while on the stuff.

The problem is, even if people aren’t consuming the drug, it’s finding its way into our water sources. Given both the sheer amount and our inability to adequately dispose of it, cocaine is affecting life in the sea. Eels, for instance, can experience hyperactivity (surprise!) and muscle damage from the nose candy that leaks into our waterways. And other illicit substances can affect different creatures in a variety of ways.



Mainly, this one.

Prozac, the antidepressant, has been shown to ... well, make fish more likely to bone. But before you go hailing this discovery as a good thing because it could assist in the proliferation of certain species, keep in mind that this could also become dangerously uncontrolled, and our flushed happy pills might wind up inadvertently making the aquatically invasive even more so.

See, human narcotics have random, unpredictable effects on things that aren’t human. That’s why the same drug that makes fish horny has a tendency to make crabs more likely to duke it out. The drugs are designed specifically for people, so if we go spreading them around the planet all willy-nilly it’s not going to end well for anybody.

Well, except for maybe the fish.

Polluted Air Could Be Making You Fat

We all know obesity has been a steadily growing problem in the world for years. And there’s quite a bit of science, both real and garbage, behind why that is. Sure, some things seem obvious, like a reliance on fast food and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Other factors, however, are perhaps less obvious.

Some studies show that polluted air caused by things like exhaust from automobiles and smoke from cigarettes might very well contribute to your love handles. Basically, that inhaled cloud of awfulness you’re subjected to every day may be doing more than just ruining your lungs – it could be affecting your body’s ability to burn the energy it otherwise normally would. Basically, consuming cheeseburgers isn’t quite as bad for you as long as the air around you is clean.



“Dude, it’s cool. I live in the sticks.”

The science behind it is relatively complicated, because it starts with irritated lungs which end up causing your body to react in a variety of goofy ways. It reduces insulin, which hinders the control of blood sugar levels, and even affects your actual appetite. So in effect, you’re pretty much just breathing in fat cells if you live in an area that has high air pollution.

I mean, not exactly. But just in case, maybe we should all stock up on those cans of Perri-Air like in Spaceballs.

Sound Pollution Is Probably Killing Birds Faster

Bear with me on this one, because the explanation requires a dive into the science of aging, and it has nothing to do with buying a sports car in your fifties.

We’re all made of various sciencey things like chromosomes and DNA and genes and what- not. We also have these other things called telomeres, which are like protective little “caps” that sit on the ends of our chromosomes to help protect them. But if those telomeres get damaged in some way, our genes are susceptible to a decrease in life expectancy – which means we are, too.



“Hey, sonny. I say ‘sonny’ even though I’m only 23. It’s those damn telomeres, I tell ya … ”

That very thing appears to be happening to birds. Specifically, some Zebra finches that were studied who were close to some high traffic areas. As it turns out, the birds closest to traffic noise had much shorter telomeres than the ones who didn’t, meaning that noise pollution seemed to be directly affecting their life span, and in a very much life-shortening way.

And while I’m aware that a single study doesn’t definitively prove that “car noise kills birds,” I’ve been to noisy punk concerts before, and I definitely felt like I had been robbed of years of my life by the time the shows were over.

Poor Air Quality May Change The Landscape Of Innovation

Air pollution isn’t solely a respiratory concern. We’re finding out, as is the case with obesity, that once those jerkhead pollutant particles find their way to your lungs, all sorts of other crazy things can happen via the most crazy, convoluted chain reactions possible. It’s sort of like stubbing your toe one day and then finding out ten years later that’s why you went bald.

Even worse, urban dwellers have their actual brains to worry about, because it seems that smog-soaked cities are a great place to experience damage to certain parts of your gray matter. It seems to be most prevalent in older folks and young kids, but still, who would have thought that harmful air chemicals could affect your brain? Well ... scientists, probably. I’m sure that’s why they did the research.



“Yes, according to my analysis, you ask stupid questions with obvious answers.”

Accordingly, companies who are currently leading (or looking to lead) the world in innovation have an important factor to consider when choosing a home base. Do they establish in a major city, with a built-in talent pool that will be key in driving their success— and take their chances on literal brain-ruining air? Or do they find their way to a much more environmentally safe, healthy locale—and count on people’s willingness to relocate or drive past a freshly-manured field or two on their way to the office?

Wait; if they do decide on the latter, what if that town suddenly becomes an economic hub and draws in all sorts of commerce and industry? Then the population explodes, and the pollution along with it, and we end up in this endless cycle of ...


Jesus, it’s like there isn’t anything pollution can’t do. Well, except for give us emphysema while also giving us badass web-slinging powers.

Like this article? Check out “5 Modern Day Captain Planets Who Are Helping Save Nature” and “Viagra Cures Hamster Jet Lag: 5 WTF Scientific Findings”.

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