—“Death in Our Air” by Ben Bagdikian originally appeared in the October 8, 1966, issue of the Post.
Today, polluted air threatens the health of most Americans, corrodes their property, obscures or obliterates their scene, and insults their peace of mind. Unclean air is no longer rare in American cities. It is the rule.
Three years ago, when open fires, incinerators, chimneys, smokestacks, and tail pipes were putting 125 million tons of chemical junk into the American air, the threat was already serious. But the burden has risen relentlessly until this year it is 145 million tons and headed still higher. Clean air begins and ends with politics. Unless there is solid support for pollution control and no political finagling with enforcement, the system quickly breaks down. In Los Angeles, as in most places, the initial response of polluters told to clean up was as predictable as religious ritual:
1. It is technically impossible.
2. It is economically ruinous.
3. If you bother me, I’ll move my factory.
This article is featured in the January/February 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.