The Air We Breathe

tootie woodstock
Laura, Woodstock 2012

Sitting in traffic in the outskirts of London, looking at all the little homes bang up against the motorway, I thought ‘Wow, how can people live like that? It must be so toxic.’ Then it occurred to me, my building in Manhattan is barely 50 feet from the FDR Drive. Today I counted 16 lanes of traffic and a diesel bus depot right on my door step. In another year there will be a 10 story garbage marine transfer station 100 feet away and 500 diesel trucks will drive in and out night and day  Compared to London where the ‘congestion charge’ has meant that there is often little or no traffic except right in the heart of the city, Manhattan nowadays feels like a racetrack with most avenues carrying the same amount of traffic as a British motorway (4-6 lanes).  It is no surprise then that the last Environmental Protection Agency report on American cities with the highest cancer risk from airborne pollution, put Manhattan 3rd from the top after Tippah county Mississipi and Boyd county Kentucky.

What I notice most after I come home after a long spell away is how my body responds. The effects are subtle, but always present. My hair and nails turn dry and brittle within a couple of days. I wake up coughing at night and have a stomach upset for several days and I feel more tired than usual. Not simply jet lag tired but like someone turned the dial down a notch and my eyesight dims too.  Another weird thing is my nails and hair grow much faster here (I’ve plucked my eyebrows more since my return home than I did in my entire time in the UK. How weird is that?) It is as if my thyroid is being affected too. I do wonder what all the toxins did to Laura’s cancer cells, did they grow faster too? When I am away from NY for a month or more I gradually build up enough gut strength to eat a little wheat, sugar or dairy without triggering any arthritis in my body or any bloating, but now I am back I have to eliminate these foods if I don’t want to live with niggly aches and pains. I suspect all the pollution in the city makes my internal system more acidic and that in turn makes me more susceptible to acid-forming foods.  It’s a funny though – if you tried to sell me one of those houses on the motorway in London I would think you were crazy, so why  do I stay here surrounded by so much more pollution?  Call it a mad love for Manhattan. It has lasted over 20 years.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Brown says:

    Hi Lucie: I often feel compromised too living in Manhattan. Even when I bike to and from work, I wonder sometimes what biking alongside all that traffic is doing to my body. I feel much healthier when I’m away from the city, so I very much relate to what you’re saying. Steve


    1. So glad to hear you say that Steve. Sometimes I second guess myself and say it is just ‘all in my head’. But even after a super stressful trip like the time my mother had a stroke, being away from the city always feels healthier to me.


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