White House Summit Underscores Health Impacts of Climate Change
American Lung Association joins U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to raise awareness of the health risks and impacts of climate change
(June 23, 2015) - WASHINGTON, D.C.
Today, several key Lung Association leaders and experts participated in the first White House summit on climate change and health, sharing their experience with health impacts already seen across the United States as a result of climate change and calling attention to the need for a strong response.
"The science is clear that warmer temperatures can lead to elevated ozone and particulate air pollution linked to asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease and premature death, and extreme weather patterns, such as heat and severe storms, cause droughts, wild fires and flooding," said Sumita Khatri, M.D., M.S., one of the speakers at the Summit, who is Co-Director of the Asthma Center at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and member of the American Lung Association’s national Board of Directors. "This can take a tremendous toll on the health of families and communities."
Joining in the discussion along with Dr. Khatri were Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association; and Dr. Tyra Bryant-Stephens, M.D., Founder and Director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). They discussed what must be done to protect those especially vulnerable, like children and older adults, and prevent health-related impacts of climate change.
The Summit featured video remarks from President Barack Obama; U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D.; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and others. Packing the room were health and medical professionals, academics and other stakeholders. Across the country, health and medical leaders, as well as Lung Association volunteers, tuned in to hear from Surgeon General Murthy via the live webcast, and joined the conversation online. The American Lung Association also joined other organizations in issuing a declaration to reiterate their longstanding commitment to addressing climate change as a public health issue.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
A key focus of the Summit was the disproportionate health effects of climate change on especially vulnerable populations, particularly children. Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of changes in air quality and their environment because their lungs are not fully developed. In addition, millions of children have asthma, placing them at an even greater risk.
"Clinicians like me can help children manage their asthma, but we cannot control the external environmental factors that can trigger asthma attacks," said Bryant-Stephens, who introduced EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at the summit. "Children with asthma are more vulnerable to the effects of warmer temperatures and worsened air quality. Taking steps to reduce potential environmental triggers is a crucial step toward protecting the children with asthma in Philadelphia and across our nation," she added.
Right to Breathe Healthy Air
"Studies show that climate change threatens the gains we have made in cleaning up the air we breathe, and can create additional threats to public health from extreme weather events," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "While everyone needs protection, we know those at greatest risk include infants, children, older adults, people with low incomes and anyone who works outdoors. Every man, woman and child has the right to breathe healthy air and it's important we recognize that the health risks are not equally shared."
Stronger Ozone Protections Needed
Wimmer added: "I applaud President Obama's commitment to taking action to address climate change by cleaning up major sources of carbon pollution including power plants, cars, trucks and other mobile sources, and appreciate his Administration's effort to spur dialogue on this issue to protect our health. I hope he shows the same commitment when it comes to adopting stronger ozone air quality protections. Not only is ground-level ozone one of the most widespread of climate change's deadly health threats, but ozone also worsens climate change."
To learn more about the need for healthy air, visit: FightingForAir.org.