According to the National Highway Transportation Authority, an average of 38 children die each year because someone walked off and left them in a car in the sun. That is one child every nine days.
In almost every case, their adult was stressed, and balancing a number of issues. They put the baby in the car seat in the back of the car, drove to their destination, but forgot to drop the baby off at daycare on the way to work, and accidentally left the baby in the car in the parking lot.
The car heated up, destroying both the child’s and the devastated adult’s lives.
There are more than 24 million kids under the age of 5 in America. If you saw any one of them in a hot, black car, I know you would call out for people to help and leap into action. The issue is that all 24 million of those children are trapped in an environment that is heating up rapidly, there are proven ways to rescue them, but little action is being taken.
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It may surprise you to learn that one thing that contributes to the tragedy is the color of the car the child was left in. If there were two kids in identical cars, one painted black and one white, the black car would heat up quicker, get about 17 degrees hotter, and the baby would die faster than the baby in the white car.
We are essentially painting our planet black by releasing gases that attract and trap heat just like black paint. By now you have heard a lot about the increasing amounts of “greenhouse gases” being released by cars, industry and electrical generation. What you probably do not know is that these gases do not float up, up and away. They stay in a layer close to the earth’s surface — and warm our entire planet, like black paint on a car.
The layer averages only around 36,000 feet thick. The top of that layer is roughly the same height above the earth that you flew in your last airplane ride. When you were looking out the airplane window, you were looking at the top of the layer of climate changing gases.
This layer is like a blanket made from a lot of different chemicals. These modern chemicals are all around you. They are emitted by your car, your leaking refrigerator or air conditioning unit, or the gas pipe heating your home and water — and all of them keep concentrating into the same limited space, increasing the trapping of heat, and threatening the lives of people below.
One of the most challenging chemicals for our nation to control is the cooling gas that leaks from your air conditioning or refrigerators. These gases are 2,000-3,000 times more climate changing than CO2.
There are only 212 coal-fired electrical generation stations in America, all are inspected regularly, and enforcement action is taken by both federal and state agencies if regulations are broken. There are 110 million households that have air conditioning, nearly 100,000 K-12 school buildings, and millions more businesses, retirement homes, office buildings, and so forth. Once a new air conditioning unit is installed and approved by local officials, depending on where you live, there are weak or no legal requirements that they be inspected for leaks and that the leaks be reported.
If your electric bill seems to be climbing, you can call your air conditioning company to do an inspection and replace any leaking gases. They are not obliged to fix the leak.
One creative group trying to solve this problem is The Environmental Investigation Agency, an independent nonprofit organization. They did a wonderful examination of 45 grocery stores, including Albertsons, Safeway, ALDI, Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Target and Trader Joe’s. More than half the stores investigated had refrigerant leaks detectable where customers shop. You can see a powerful report of their work by googling “Leaking Havoc.”
If you want to help “make the invisible visible” we will loan you (for free) an easy-to-use meter that sniffs out leaks. You point it, listen to the beeps indicating a leak, and move the tip of the tube wherever the noise gets louder.
Rescuing can start by “making the invisible visible.” Just go to www.thepollutiondetectives.org, select “Borrow Pollution Detection Equipment,” and fill out the form. Hurry.
Francis Koster, Ed.D., lives in Kannapolis. He is a retired pediatric health care administrator who runs a not-for-profit called The Pollution Detectives.