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cancer, air pollution, health, environment
Photo by Bruno Miguel on Unsplash

Chemical plants near residential areas can make hazardous air, increasing cancer risks.

When you take a deep breath, it's good to know what you're breathing in. If living in the wildfire West has taught me anything, it's that you can't always rely on your nose to know how clean the air is. On really bad Air Quality Index (AQI) days, we see and smell smoke, but the AQI can still be unhealthy even if the air seems clear.

A new ProPublica analysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that some of us may be living in places with toxic air pollution from industrial chemicals and not know it. Air polluted with hazardous chemicals can cause various kinds of cancer, but until now it wasn't simple to see what your own household risk was.

With ProPublica's interactive, neighborhood-level map, now you can.

And you might want to—especially if you live in Texas, which apparently has a quarter of the 20 hot spots with the highest excess cancer risk. Nothing like getting rid of those pesky environmental regulations, eh?


As explained in ProPublica's article about the first-of-its-kind map:

"At the map's intimate scale, it's possible to see up close how a massive chemical plant near a high school in Port Neches, Texas, laces the air with benzene, an aromatic gas that can cause leukemia. Or how a manufacturing facility in New Castle, Delaware, for years blanketed a day care playground with ethylene oxide, a highly toxic chemical that can lead to lymphoma and breast cancer. Our analysis found that ethylene oxide is the biggest contributor to excess industrial cancer risk from air pollutants nationwide. Corporations across the United States, but especially in Texas and Louisiana, manufacture the colorless, odorless gas, which lingers in the air for months and is highly mutagenic, meaning it can alter DNA."

Yeah. Not great.

Also not great is how people of color are more affected by toxic air pollution. ProPublica shared these statistics: "Census tracts where the majority of residents are people of color experience about 40% more cancer-causing industrial air pollution on average than tracts where the residents are mostly white. In predominantly Black census tracts, the estimated cancer risk from toxic air pollution is more than double that of majority-white tracts."

After reviewing the map, Wayne Davis, an environmental scientist formerly with the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, told ProPublica, "The public is going to learn that EPA allows a hell of a lot of pollution to occur that the public does not think is occurring."

Most people's air is within a safe range, but there are certain hot spots near industrial plants where cancer risk is many times higher than what the EPA deems acceptable. The EPA examines air pollution from certain types of facilities and industries in isolation, not taking into consideration how hazardous air might compound in a cluster of hot spots and put the people living near them at much higher risk.

Matthew Tejada, director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice, told ProPublica it would take "working back through 50 years of environmental regulation in the United States, and unpacking and untying a whole series of knots" to address these high-risk hot spots.

The whole ProPublica report, which you can find here, is worth a read. You can access the interactive map here. (Scroll down a bit to find the bar to enter your city, zip code or street address.)

Pop Culture

Guy makes a tweet about what you should have 'by age 30.' People's responses were hilarious.

"By the age of 30 you should have anxiety, and an emotional support pet that also has anxiety."

Photo by NIPYATA! on Unsplash

This is 30.

When Steve Adcock, an entrepreneur and “fitness buff” posted this to his Twitter:

“By age 30, you should have a group of friends that talk business, money, and fitness, not politics and pop culture.”

… people had thoughts.



His post might have been intended as more of an encouragement to surround yourself with people who challenge your current mindset, considering the tweet continued with “one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made was making friends with like-minded folks who talked about the same [stuff] over and over. I agreed with 99% of it. Your comfort zone will kill your progress.”

But still, overall the tweet left an unsavory taste in people’s mouths—primarily because it implied that money was somehow a better conversation topic than what people are usually genuinely passionate about. Why not talk about your favorite television show with friends if it lights you up inside?


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1989 video brings back strong memories for Gen Xers who came of age in the '80s.

It was the year we saw violence in Tiananmen Square and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The year we got Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" and Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's "Batman." The year "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons" debuted on TV, with no clue as to how successful they would become. The year that gave us New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul while Madonna and Janet Jackson were enjoying their heyday.

The jeans were pegged, the shoulders were padded and the hair was feathered and huge. It was 1989—the peak of Gen X youth coming of age.

A viral video of a group of high school students sitting at their desks in 1989—undoubtedly filmed by some geeky kid in the AV club who probably went on to found an internet startup—has gone viral across social media, tapping straight into Gen X's memory banks. For those of us who were in high school at the time, it's like hopping into a time machine.

The show "Stranger Things" has given young folks of today a pretty good glimpse of that era, but if you want to see exactly what the late '80s looked like for real, here it is:

Oh so many mullets. And the Skid Row soundtrack is just the icing on this nostalgia cake. (Hair band power ballads were ubiquitous, kids.)

I swear I went to high school with every person in this video. Like, I couldn't have scripted a more perfect representation of my classmates (which is funny considering that this video came from Paramus High School in New Jersey and I went to high school on the opposite side of the country).

Comments have poured in on Reddit from both Gen Xers who lived through this era and those who have questions.

First, the confirmations:

"Can confirm. I was a freshman that year, and not only did everyone look exactly like this (Metallica shirt included), I also looked like this. 😱😅"

"I graduated in ‘89, and while I didn’t go to this school, I know every person in this room."

"It's like I can virtually smell the AquaNet and WhiteRain hairspray from here...."

"I remember every time you went to the bathroom you were hit with a wall of hairspray and when the wind blew you looked like you had wings."

Then the observations about how differently we responded to cameras back then.

"Also look how uncomfortable our generation was in front of the camera! I mean I still am! To see kids now immediately pose as soon as a phone is pointed at them is insanity to me 🤣"

"Born in 84 and growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, it’s hard to explain to younger people that video cameras weren’t everywhere and you didn’t count on seeing yourself in what was being filmed. You just smiled and went on with your life."

Which, of course, led to some inevitable "ah the good old days" laments:

"Life was better before the Internet. There, I said it."

"Not a single cell phone to be seen. Oh the freedom."

"It's so nice to be reminded what life was like before cell phones absorbed and isolated social gatherings."

But perhaps the most common response was how old those teens looked.

"Why do they all look like they're in their 30's?"

"Everyone in this video is simultaneously 17 and 49 years old."

"Now we know why they always use 30 y/o actors in high school movies."

As some people pointed out, there is an explanation for why they look old to us. It has more to do with how we interpret the fashion than how old they actually look.

Ah, what a fun little trip down memory lane for those of us who lived it. (Let's just all agree to never bring back those hairstyles, though, k?)

A viral video from a Little League game has people celebrating good sportsmanship.

Youth sports have gotten more intensely competitive, to the point where overeager parents and coaches have to regularly be reminded to take it down a notch. So when humanity takes precedence over team rivalries, it's extra heartwarming.

And considering how many "kids these days" laments we see coming from older generations, it's also heartening to see kids showing excellent character qualities when no one directly asked them to.

A viral video from a Little League baseball game is giving us a nice dose of both—good sportsmanship and basic human kindness from two players from opposing teams.

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