Hughesair (Inflection Point)

Retired physician and air taxi operator, science writer and part time assistant professor, these editorials cover a wide range of topics. Mostly non political, mostly true, I write more from experience than from research and more from science than convention. Subjects cover medicine, Alaska aviation, economics, technology and an occasional book review. The Floatplane book is out there. I am currently working on Hippocrates a History of Medicine and Globalism. Enjoy!

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Location: Homer, Alaska, United States

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Friday, April 17, 2009

EPA declares Greenhouse Gasses a Health Threat

Many are unaware of the role CO2 plays in human and, in fact, all animal physiology. We all recognise CO2 as a metabolic by product, but CO2 plays a far more critical role as the primary regulator of acid base balance. This critical acid-base balance is our most closely guarded homeostatic mechanism. We regulate the acid-base balance by our breathing. If we breath a little faster or deeper we reduce the CO2 concentration in our blood and thus move the balance to the -base side of the equation. CO2 diffuses as carbonic acid in the blood, and by breathing off CO2 from our lungs we reduce the acid content of our body. Not good, if we thus increase the pH -- that is lowering the H+ ion concentration -- we change the K+ ion, the Ca++ ion and others that are critical to life. The reverse is true from holding our breath or otherwise retain more CO2.Environmental changes in CO2 has the same effect. Up to a point we can compensate for increased environmental CO2 by breathing faster, additionally to a limited extent our kidneys can compensate as well. I am unaware of there being many studies of long term exposuree to moderately increased CO2. The consequences may not have been adequately considered. Hibernation may involve changes in pH that would be similar to increased environmental CO2. Obesity may already be a reflection of our present higher levels.The consequences of higher levels of CO2 will surely be sever. I read in a recent article that atmospheric CO2 at 570 parts per million will acidify the oceans to the point of completely dissolving of the coral reefs. The ocean, from a mineral standpoint, is completely analogous to our own mineral makeup.The EPA seems right on target by declaring these changes a critical challenge to our health. I think, however, that we will need to put Rush Limbaugh in a phone booth with a canister of CO2 to get the point across.



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