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  Sierra Magazine
  November/December 2008
Table of Contents
 
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Lay of the Land

Playing Chicken | 2020 Vision | Low Bench Marks | WWatch | The Hidden Cost of Gas | Sprawl | Bold Strokes | Updates

TEN REASONS
Why Sprawl Is Hazardous to Your Health

1. It’s stressful. Thanks largely to sprawl, the average American driver spends 443 hours a year behind the wheel. (Federal Highway Administration; AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)

2. It scars your lungs. All that driving pollutes the air, causing respiratory illnesses. When traffic was restricted in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics, asthma-related emergencies dropped 42 percent. (Physicians for Social Responsibility; Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse)

3. It’s toxic. Suburban lawns are treated with more pesticides per acre than croplands, exposing residents to chemicals that can cause cancer and damage neurological and reproductive systems. (Environmental Media Services)

4. It spreads disease. As sprawl penetrates deeper into woodland clearings where deer thrive, deer-tick-borne Lyme disease has soared from 120 cases annually to almost 18,000 in the past 20 years. (Biodiversity Project; Lyme Disease Foundation)

5. It’s treacherous. Subdivisions are often built far from vital infrastructure like hospitals. Every minute a heart-attack victim waits for an ambulance reduces the chance of survival by 10 percent. (Biodiversity Project)

6. It pollutes your water. Each year, sprawl destroys 100,000 acres of pollutant-absorbing wetlands. (Sierra Club Challenge to Sprawl Campaign)

7. It limits your food choices. Locally produced food requires fewer pesticides and preservatives, but it becomes harder to find as sprawl destroys some half a million acres of farmland a year. (American Farmland Trust; USDA Economic Research Service)

8. It empties your wallet. Families in sprawling neighborhoods spend $1,300 more each year on transportation than those in denser areas. Wouldn’t you feel sick if you squandered your kids’ college tuition hauling them to kindergarten? (Surface Transportation Policy Project)

9. It can kill you. The more you have to drive the more likely you’ll be one of 43,000 annual traffic fatalities. (Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse)

10. It’s fattening. Carbound communities’ sedentary lifestyle has been linked to a 50 percent increase in obesity. Is it time to curb our appetite for development or for doughnuts? Probably both. (Washington Post, January 21, 2001; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

-- J.H.

SOURCES:

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Aggressive Driving: Three Studies,” March 1997. www.aaafoundation.org/resources/index.cfm?button=agdrtext

American Farmland Trust, “Farming on the Edge,” March 1997. www.farmlandinfo.org/cae/foe2/

Biodiversity Project, “Making the Biodiversity-Sprawl Connection: Human Health Threats at a Glance,” December 2000. www.biodiversityproject.org/messagekit.htm

Environmental Media Services, “Routes of Multiple Exposures to Pesticides.” www.ems.org/pesticides/routes_of_exposure.html

Federal Highway Administration, “Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey,” 1995. www-cta.ornl.gov/npts/1995/doc/NPTS_Booklet.pdf

Lyme Disease Foundation, Inc., “Cases of Lyme Disease Reported to the Centers For Disease Control, 1980 - 2002.” www.lyme.org/resources/stats/cdclymestats_initialpage.html

National Geographic, “Urban Sprawl,” July 2001.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Statistics Related to Overweight and Obesity,” July 1996. www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/statobes.htm

Physicians for Social Responsibility, “No Room to Breathe: Air Pollution and Primary Care Medicine.” www.psr.org/breathe.htm

Sierra Club Challenge to Sprawl Campaign, “Sprawl Factsheet.” www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/factsheet.asp

Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse, “Creating A Healthy Environment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health,” November 2001. www.sprawlwatch.org/health.pdf

Surface Transportation Policy Project / Center for Neighborhood Technology, “Driven to $pend: The Impact of Sprawl on Household Transportation Expenses,” November 2000 www.transact.org/Reports/driven/

USDA Economic Research Service, “Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2000 (Section 1.1: Land Use),” September 2000. www.ers.usda.gov/Emphases/Harmony/issues/arei2000/

Washington Post, “Suburbia’s Road to Weight Gain,” January 21, 2001.

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