The Air we breathe: Biodiesel for Health! 11/2/2001
I am a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and I see the challenges that my clients face in their health day in and day out. In my acupuncture practice, I teach my clients the connections between their health and the larger patterns that occur around them. In our modern lifestyles, we have forgotten the integrity of the ancient wisdom that understands that our health is the health of the living systems that we reside in. Our health comes from how we move and from what we eat, from how we relate to other people, from how we relate to the land around us and from how we interact as a community.
People have a tendency to seek an alternative practitioner when conventional medicine has let them down, when there is no longer a pill or surgical procedure to cure what ails them. It is often a long process, but a slowly growing miracle happens as patients become more connected to how their health is intertwined with their environment and their emotions.
One of the oldest principles of Western medicine, "Physician first do no harm", has been left behind in exchange of exciting technological advances and fast acting pharmaceuticals. My patients are often on numerous drugs at once and it is a challenge discerning their underlying imbalance from the side effects of the powerful pharmaceuticals.
Our lungs are an extension of our environment, as we breathe we intimately interact with the quality of the air. Boulder sees a disproportionate amount of respiratory and upper chest problems, with imbalances running from the simple but prevalent winter cough to breast and lung cancer. The dry air combined with a habitual petroleum addiction creates for a poor air quality which compromises our health as a community. The EPA has proposed classifying diesel exhaust as "highly likely to be carcinogenic to humans." The California Air Resources Board has designated diesel exhaust particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant. A recent air monitoring and public health risk study in California concluded that diesel exhaust was responsible for 75% of the total potential public health risk associated with air pollution. In one major study, the risk of mortality in cities with the highest levels of fine particulate pollution was approximately 15 to 25% higher than cities with the lowest particulate levels. The elderly and children were identified as the most sensitive members of the population.
A effective solution exists: take some of the worst air polluting vehicles and switch them over to a cleaner, renewable source of fuel. Vegetable-based fuel systems can apply to any diesel engine. On June 22, 2000, Congress announced that biodiesel had successfully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The tests affirm that biodiesel poses no health threat and that the fuel is non-toxic, completely biodegradable, and contains no sulfur or carcinogenic compounds.
This is an accessible, low-cost path to using a cleaner, renewable source of fuel as opposed to a fuel that is heavily polluting and high in negative social costs from resource wars to health problems. By driving a biodiesel vehicle, you take a polluting vehicle off the road and drive your way to a sustainable future and better health.
Marco Chung-Shu Lam is one of the original founders of the Boulder Biodiesel Cooperative. He is an Acupuncturist, an Organic Farmer, a Father and a revolutionary teacher of permaculture and sustainable living. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or honked at driving his Mercedes 300TD on B100.