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Media: Editorial in the Savannah Morning News: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Will Save Lives

Media: Editorial in the Savannah Morning News: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Will Save Lives

Savannah Morning News
Guest Opinion Editorial – August 5, 2015
View the original here.

EPA’s clean power plan will save lives

Since 1964, The U. S Surgeon Generals have issued statements on significant public health threats on everything from tobacco and smoking, to skin cancer, and now in 2015, climate change. This past June, Surgeon General Murthy issued a statement in which he said climate change presents a “serious, immediate and global threat to human health.”

For over a decade now, scientists have said that carbon pollution is a major contributor to warmer temperatures and climate change, enhancing conditions for dangerous ground-level ozone (smog) formation and particle pollution, among other threats to public health. These widespread pollutants cause asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature death.

For the more than 24,000 adults and children with asthma in Chatham County, these vulnerable citizens are among the first to be impacted by climate change. In a recent survey of the American Thoracic Society, 77 percent of respondents have seen an increase in chronic diseases in patients that are linked to air pollution, and 65 percent said they believed climate change was directly relevant to patient care.

We know that children are particularly at risk from air pollution and climate change, causing decreased lung function, higher rates of asthma attacks and increased risk of injury and death from heat-related illnesses and extreme weather events. According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 percent of the current health burden due to the changing climate occurs in children younger than five years old.

The debate is over about whether or not climate change is real. The scientific and medical evidence is overwhelming and we’ve lost valuable time. The real issue now is our response.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of carbon emissions that create harmful climate change. This unregulated carbon pollution hurts us all. In the first-ever federal plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan proposal, is a serious commitment to addressing one of the most serious public health challenges of our day. The final plan, set to be released in August, presents an opening for us to take a big step forward to cleaner, healthier air by increasing our use of renewable energy and energy-efficiency.

We know that cleaning up carbon pollution can also cut emissions of other harmful pollutants from power plants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury, and reduce ozone and particulate matter pollution, providing an immediate, positive benefit for public health. EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards would reduce the burden of air pollution in America, by preventing up to 4,000 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks in the first year they are in place, and prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in 2030.

In EPA’s proposal, every $1 invested in cleaning up carbon pollution is expected to provide up to $7 in health and economic benefits. According to a new study by Harvard and Syracuse University and the Science Policy Exchange, a strong plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants could result in 120 fewer deaths in Georgia each year starting in 2020.

We know what we have to do. By taking crucial steps to reduce carbon pollution, we will lower other deadly power plant pollutants, prevent asthma attacks, decrease emergency room visits, reduce hospitalizations, and protect our most vulnerable populations including our children. We owe it to our families to protect their lives and their health from climate change.

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Written by:
Maeve Howett, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC, IBCLC, CNE
Health Policy Chair, Georgia Chapter, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Susan Berryman- Rodriguez
Project Director, Mothers & Others for Clean Air, a program of the American Lung Association of the Southeast