Shelter in Place

In the movie, Shelter in Place, there is a lot of information about the refineries and how much pollution and pollutants they are putting into the air that is affecting the communities around them. It raises the question, when comes to the severance checks, if it’s worth the health risk to the children to stay in place and cause future complications as they grow and remain in the path of the pollution as it travels through the air. Without understanding the state in which some of the residents are living then we may understand the reasons behind accepting the checks given out by the refiners to help with the cost of living. The video itself in older, and in a modern setting five hundred dollars wouldn’t be enough to cover a single person’s medical expenses due to chemical exposure.

It’s almost strange to think that something as simple as cooking can cause health problems in anyone, let alone children. “Black soot covers the walls of the dwelling. It is the pollutants in this black soot, as well as many invisible pollutants in the air, that women and children breathe in for many hours every day.” (World Health Organization, 2006). By breathing in these chemicals on a day to day bases, these women and children are inhaling the chemicals that come from the various things they use for fuel to burn. Amy Smith and her students had invented some impressive ways using local resources to help reduce the amount of chemical’s put out just from cooking alone. “Burning solid fuels produces extremely high levels of indoor air pollution: typical 24-hour levels of PM10 in biomass-using homes in Africa, Asia or Latin America range from 300 to 3000 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3). Peaks during cooking may be as high as 10 000 µg/m3.” (World Health Organization, 2006).

Essentially indoor cooking has an even bigger impact given the confined space can have a higher build up of indoor pollution. In the move, Simple Designs, Amy Smith’s idea’s are brilliant, there may be some resistance from a local population on using her methods and ideas. There may be resistance on the grounds that the local population doesn’t understand the need to change the way they cook, or that it is tradition to cook in such a way that change it may possibly make them feel as if they are losing their cultural identity. They may also not understand the health risks involved to them or their children in the way they cook as well, they may not see it as a danger to their health or to their families.


World Health Organization (2006). Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health (Pages 7-25). Retrieved from:

Nelson, Z. (Director), Patterson, H. (Producer). (2009). Shelter in place: Living in the shadow of the petrochemical industry. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Smith, A. (2006). Amy Smith—Simple designs that could save millions of children’s lives [Video file]. Retrieved from

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