06/18/2014 12:19 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2014

Can Philadelphians Afford to Pay for Fresh Air?

Philly is the 11th most polluted city in the U.S and a metropolis with the highest rate of deep poverty, so if someone did sell cans of fresh air, could anyone afford it?

If you're a consistent reader of Techbook Online, then you know that air pollution killed roughly seven million people worldwide in 2012, with a significant portion of those deaths being reported from China.

The air quality in China is so bad than in early 2013 planes were grounded due to heavy smog; and people were warned to stay indoors... Can you imagine?

Well if you're living in Philadelphia -- America's 11th most polluted City, and a metropolis that according to the State of the Air 2014 report recorded failing grades for all monitored counties in the area, than you, too, may be purchasing fresh air in a can.

NPR, in the last year or so, published two separate stories about Chinese entrepreneurial activists who in protest of the dangerous conditions of air pollution in their country retailed fresh air. Beijing artist Liang Kegang auctioned off his jar for $865 and Chen Guangbiao, a multimillionaire, sold his cans for 5 yaun (80 cents).

Although Philadelphia's smog isn't as bad as the City of Harbin, who had to erect a photographic backdrop of the city's disappearing skyline so that tourist could take photos to commemorate their trip, the peanut chew capital has seen notable increases in smog, actually the worst since 2009-2010.

Kevin M. Stewart, Director of Environmental Health, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, was quoted two months ago by as saying:

"Ozone is a powerful respiratory irritant that sears lung tissue, and even at relatively low levels, can affect even healthy people's ability to breathe."

Among those at greatest risk of air pollution are people with low incomes and people of color. A report by Mother Jones shows that people of color are exposed to 46 percent more nitrogen dioxide pollution each year than white people.

According to, Philadelphia, along with New York City, tops the lists of urban areas with great gaps in pollution exposure between whites and non-whites. Philadelphia also has the highest rate of deep poverty of any of the nation's 10 most populous cities.

Selling cans of air might not be realistic in Philadelphia -- mainly because no would have the disposable income to afford it -- but something drastic needs to be done to create communities and economies that are socially and ecologically sustainable.

And although the Philadelphia metropolitan area had the best local results for two measures of air quality since the association began its annual pollution report 15 years ago, there's so much more work to be done, and it starts by being aware of what sustainable practices you can do in your everyday life to limit emissions, and by calling on your elected officials to draft meaningful legislation that caps how much companies can pollute our air.

The time is now to act. I challenge you all to be greener everyday -- recycle, compost, ride a bike instead of driving, or trade in your gas stove for a low-tech replacement -- because it's our world and right now it needs saving.

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