Column: Gas station opening increases health risks for Prosper residents

Against+a+bright+blue+sky%2C+the+new+7-Eleven+on+West+Frontier+Pkwy+is+being+built.+The+construction+is+just+one+of+the+ongoing+projects+seen+all+around+Prosper.+%22Gas+stations+are+very+convenient+when+you%27re+in+the+middle+of+nowhere%2C%22+junior+Gianna+Galante+said.+%22We+need+more+of+them+in+certain+places+because+it%27s+kind+of+inconvenient+not+to+have+any.%22

Against a bright blue sky, the new 7-Eleven on West Frontier Pkwy is being built. The construction is just one of the ongoing projects seen all around Prosper. “Gas stations are very convenient when you’re in the middle of nowhere,” junior Gianna Galante said. “We need more of them in certain places because it’s kind of inconvenient not to have any.”

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The new 7-Eleven gas station opening outside of Light Farms may do more harm than good, according to recent studies done by health and nutrition researchers. An increase in available convenience stores correlates with weight gain and obesity in children, according to the study published Dec. 10 in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.” For example, having an additional convenience store within a mile of a child’s home over 24 months resulted in an 11.7% greater risk of a child being in a higher body mass index (BMI) range, an estimate of body fat based on weight and height, compared to other children of the same sex and age. 

As the sun sets, the brand new 7-Eleven on West Frontier Pkwy is being built. The construction has been on-going for the past few months. “It’s so surreal to see Prosper grow from a tiny town to a bustling suburb,” columnist Kalyani Rao said. “I’m excited to see what’s in store for us in the future.” (Kalyani Rao)

A study on neighborhood risk factors for obesity found that metropolitan area residents with a supermarket in their zip code were 11% less likely to be obese. The existence of supermarkets in an individual’s near location decreased the likelihood of being obese, while the presence of a convenience store had the opposite effect. A similar finding was reported in a study of adolescents where increased access to supermarkets lowered the average adolescent body mass index and overweight status, while convenience store access increased obesity rates.

Gas stations also release benzene and other compounds to the air, which increase the likelihood of nausea, low-birth weight, cancer, and other adverse health effects among those living, working, or learning within 500- to 1,000-feet. Fast food restaurants and convenience stores, such as well-known gas station franchises in the U.S., sell products dense in calories and high in sodium and sugar, which have played a large role in the epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. These restaurant-convenience stores are collectively known as “food swamps.”

Even taking out the health risks of the equation, gas prices alone have gone up from access to gas station foods. Americans are now pumping 938 million gallons of fuel more annually than they were in 1960, as a result of extra weight in vehicles. And when gasoline prices average $3 a gallon, the tab for overweight people in a vehicle amounts to $7.7 million daily, or $2.8 billion yearly. The numbers are added costs linked directly to the extra drain of body weight on the fuel economy. A scientific paper issued in the journal, “The Engineering Economist” concluded that each extra pound of body weight in all of today’s vehicles results in the need for more than 39 million gallons of extra gasoline usage each year.

For Prosper, these are health risks that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Known for its high-quality school district, we have a large population of elementary-age children. Our families should be careful and monitor their children’s access to gas station products. One ice cream cone may seem like a one-time occasion until it becomes a weekly tradition. Let’s help each other stay healthy.