By: Gwendolyn Schmidt
Summary: The US- Mexico border wall has been an ongoing project since Trump’s first Presidential campaign and for about as long, environmental scientists have been giving a laundry list of reasons as to why it is bad for the environment. To add to those reasons, the wall is being painted black as an extra precaution, so people do not attempt to climb it. However, a materials engineer interviewed by the Washington Post said that the black paint would “...increase its ability to retain heat...by less than [ten] percent...” (Dawsey). As of now, there is about 175 miles of wall and the wall is approximately 30 feet tall, which is over a hundred thousand feet of wall on each side to cover in black paint. The paint will need to be replaced about every ten years which is not only very costly, but it can be detrimental to the environment. Although the act of painting the wall black does not contribute to the immediate environmental issues, the long-term effects of paint and high heat will. Commercial paints have volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gases released through evaporation of chemicals, and consistent exposure to VOCs can lead to serious health problems. While wet paint is dangerous to inhale, drying paint will release VOCs into the atmosphere, creating an ozone. On bright sunny days, drying paint will release even more VOCs than normal and can cause people to have trouble breathing. As of late, there have been more and more bad air quality days in 2020 so far than in 2019 and as the climate gets warmer, the worse air we will have. The boarder wall is expected to be 2,000 miles long and no matter how fast it is painted, it will still take months to finish; as well as cost 5 million dollars. Ozone is not only harmful to humans, but plants in the environment as well. Ozone will enter the leaf through the stroma and reduce the survival of the plant. The VOCs in the atmosphere will harm all the plants around the border wall, some of which are already in trouble because of the wall in the first place. Painting the wall black will just add to the environmental issues already going on in the world.
Why we should care? This is an important topic because the environment is only digressing more and purposely adding harmful chemicals to the environment with no real logistical reasoning just does not seem ethical.
This is an interesting article because most people would not think twice about what they are using and how it impacts out atmosphere. When people think about air pollutants they only think of the obvious, factory smoke emission or exhaust from cars, not the everyday products they use. The most interesting part of these articles were about how many people have asthma attacks due to the air quality alone on a warm day. It is very eye opening that it is not just occurring in big cities, but small ones as well. This made me really rethink of the products I use and how they will affect the environment. I am trying to be more environmentally aware in what I use, and in my research, I found many ideas to consider.
Science in Action.
Dr. Paola Crippa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Paola Crippa studies Air Quality and Aerosol Dynamics Modeling, Climate Change, Environmental and Computational Sustainability, she has also been involved in how air pollution affects Covid patients. Dr. Crippa is relevant to this topic because she studies how air pollution is affecting sick people and she knows how poor air quality can affect people's health. In her studies, she measured the levels of fine particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere and how they correlated to the premature death rates in patients with cardiovascular and respiratory issues. The finding was that during the lockdown, there was less PM in the atmosphere which allowed some Covid cases to not die. According to her study about 24,200 cases lived due to the cleaner air.