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Film Industry A Major Source Of Air Pollution: Study

You’ve probably heard people say Hollywood blockbusters are bad for your brain, but what you may not have known is that they’re also bad for your lungs.

Special effects explosions, idling vehicles and teams of workers building monumental sets all contribute to air pollution, a university study has found.

The film and television industry and associated activities make a larger contribution to air pollution in the five-county Los Angeles region than almost all five other sectors researched, according to the study, which was released by UCLA.

Despite the fact that Hollywood celebrities traditionally lending their time and names to various environmental causes makes the industry seem sensitive to the issue, the industry created more pollution than individually produced by aerospace manufacturing, apparel, hotels and semiconductor manufacturing, the study found.

Only petroleum manufacturing produced more emissions.

“People talk of `the industry,’ but we don’t think of them as an industry,” said Mary Nichols, head of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment.

“We think of the creative side, the movie, the people, the actors – we don’t think of what it takes to produce the product.”

Researchers looked at the emissions created both directly and indirectly, factoring in everything from the pollution caused by a diesel generator used to power a movie set, to the emissions created by a power plant that provides electricity to a studio lot.

Forty-three people who worked in a variety of areas within the industry were also interviewed, and researchers reviewed major trade publications to see the level of attention paid to environmental issues to see whether studios have recycling programs and green building practices.

Some do, some don’t.

“Nevertheless, our overall impression is that these practices are the exception and not the rule, and that more could be done within the industry to foster environmentally friendly approaches,” the study said.

Part of the problem is that film and television work is usually done by short-term production companies, making it difficult to apply environmentally friendly practices.

But there were a few examples of people doing the right thing.

The makers of “The Day After Tomorrow” (pictured) paid $200,000 to plant trees to offset the estimated 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions caused by vehicles, generators and other machinery used in production and the makers of “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” arranged for 97.5 per cent of set materials to be recycled, including some 11,000 tons of concrete, steel and lumber.

All the steel was recycled and 37 truckloads of lumber were reused in housing for low-income families in Mexico.

And there’s a local angle, too.

While the study applies specifically to the L.A. area, with the large number of big-budget films constantly being filmed in Toronto, and the city’s growing label of “Hollywood North,” it’s safe to say the same applies to Hogtown, even if it’s to a lesser degree.