Lung health vs. pollute for profit

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Lung health vs. pollute for profit

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:48 pm

OP-ED: Lung health vs. pollute for profit
Updated: 09/28/2011 11:04:20 AM EDT

President Obama's recent about face to abandon setting a science-based ozone pollution standard that would have safeguarded public health as required by the Clean Air Act is nothing short of a bitter disappointment. This decision has the potential to impact all who breathe, especially those forced to bear a much greater burden than others living or working in our community.

The American Lung Association's State of the Air report card assigned an "F" to York County for its number of high ozone days, when our air literally becomes too dangerous to breathe. Inhaling smog can feel like sunburn on the lungs and can cause breathing difficulties including chest pain, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

This pollutant is also a known trigger of asthma attacks and can even worsen the severity of these attacks, thereby increasing the need for people with not only asthma but also emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other serious lung diseases to require medical treatment and even to be hospitalized.

York County's 10,218 children and 29,885 adults with asthma are not the only members of our community who suffer the disproportionate burden of our expansive smog problem. Children, older adults, and even people with heart disease and diabetes all face a higher risk of premature death caused by ozone pollution.

Children are among the most vulnerable, because their tiny lungs are still developing. As a result, they breathe more air per unit of their body weight, which leads to dangerous exposure to higher volumes of contaminants than their adult counterparts.

In addition to causing pulmonary inflammation and respiratory infections, ozone can impair proper lung function and even jeopardize children's lung development. This can lead to respiratory ailments that last a lifetime. Tragically, smog has also been linked to premature births and increased mortality in infants.

If the president had properly prioritized public health, upwards of 12,000 lives could have been saved each year and 58,000 asthma attacks could have been prevented annually in the U.S. Standing up for healthy air would have also prevented 2.5 million missed school and work days in addition to 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits.

The president chose to coddle corporate polluters who knowingly pollute for profit.

For those of us in the public health community, it is difficult to fathom how intentionally disregarding the lung health of nearly half the population in our country could be considered a sound decision.

It is a disconcerting surprise that our president not only acted against the health interests of the American people but also against their will.

In June of this year, the American Lung Association conducted a bipartisan opinion survey that revealed an overwhelming 75 percent of voters supported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to set stricter limits on the amount of smog that power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities can release in to our atmosphere. An equally impressive 72 percent of respondents agreed that Congress should not prevent the EPA from strengthening smog regulations.

All the while, some in Congress have gone to extraordinary lengths to falsely frame healthy air as a choice between personal health and a paycheck. Despite the abundance of widely available emissions-control technologies, corporate polluters have stubbornly thwarted their ethical responsibilities by launching massive lobbying campaigns to revoke some of our most basic healthy air protections by destroying the Clean Air Act.

Despite the ever-escalating rhetoric coming out of Washington, the bottom line remains the same -- smog causes broad human suffering, impedes children's lung development and even destroys families by stealing the lives of loved ones the very day spikes in ozone pollution occur.

The evidence is clear. Independent scientific research from around the world has unequivocally confirmed that smog is an undeniably powerful public health threat. The decision to abandon the EPA ozone standards is an affront to the American people -- a big thumbs up to the very smokestacks that kill thousands each year.

The need for healthy air is no less urgent now than before the fiscal downturn. Our leaders in Washington must not lose sight of their responsibility to protect public health. They can embark on this worthy cause by blocking legislation such as the TRAIN Act that would further weaken our most basic clean air protections.

The time for our elected officials to support the Clean Air Act is now. We urge them to oppose any legislation that would block the cleanup of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants or impede rules requiring power plants to clean up soot- and smog-forming pollution that blows across state lines.

Our leaders in Washington need to place the public's demand for healthy air over the false promises made by big polluters. Public health is not a political pawn but a basic American right worth protecting against all odds.

-- Francis X. McKee is chairman of the American Lung Association in Mid-Atlantic Board of Directors.

• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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