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Evolving beyond Pollutants

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As an enviromental science teacher, how would you respond to somone who tells you that we should not worry about air pollution becasue through natural selection, the human species will develop lungs that can detoxify pollutants?

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This is an interesting question... a good answer requires a solid understanding of the processes of evolution by natural selection as well as an appreciation for the complexities of air pollution in its many forms.

For extra details about the effects of air pollution on air quality and health, see http://www.agius.com/hew/resource/introeh.htm. I will summarize here by saying that the idea that the human lung will evolve to deal with air pollution, while not completely wrong, is still somewhat short-sighted and ignores the fact that both the different types of air pollution and people vary considerably. While some individuals are subject to increased risk of certain lung cancers in the face of some chemicals in the air, for example, others are not so affected due ...

Solution Summary

Is is possible for humans to evolve lungs that would not be affected by air pollution? Find out in this solution.