Earth Day - Climate Change and Health
(April 21, 2015)
This Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day, and we are again reminded that a healthier planet means healthier people. Two important events recently drove home the urgent message that both air pollution and climate change have a direct impact on our health, especially our lungs. They also underscored the need for our leaders, in Washington and across the nation, to take action now to protect our health.
Presidential Roundtable on Climate Change and Public Health
At a roundtable discussion at Howard University School of Medicine in Washington DC on April 7, President Obama and a group of health experts discussed the health impacts of climate change and the need to take action to protect public health. Participating along with the president were U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., and invited guests.
Among the guests was Tyra Bryant-Stephens, M.D., founder and director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also active with the American Lung Association. Dr. Bryant-Stephens shared her firsthand experience of the health impacts of environmental factors on her patients with asthma.
"Clinicians like me can help children manage their asthma, but we cannot control the external environmental factors that can trigger asthma attacks,” said Dr. Bryant-Stephens. "By raising awareness of the health impacts of these environmental factors and taking steps to address them through programs like the Community Asthma Prevention Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and others, we can take a huge step toward protecting millions of children across our nation, including the nearly 285,000 children with asthma in Pennsylvania."
Evidence warns that climate change will make it harder to clean up the air and protect human health. The American Lung Association's 2014 "State of the Air" report found that ozone worsened in the most polluted metropolitan areas compared to previous years. The warmer summers in 2010 and 2012 contributed to higher ozone readings and more frequent high ozone days for the period analyzed. The report also found that drought, wildfires and grass fires in the western U.S. gave rise to spikes in high particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution can aggravate asthma, cause difficulty breathing and even cause premature death.
"The Surgeon General's participation in today's roundtable marks a critical next step in our national commitment to tackle the serious threat climate change poses to our nation's public health," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Too many people think climate change is something that will happen far into the future, but we see impacts on our health today. We must continue to inform the public and take action now to prevent the worst effects of climate change."
Chicago Roundtable Furthers Focus on Climate and Health
On April 10, in Chicago, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined a roundtable discussion on climate change and health, hosted by American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer and attended by an array of prominent national and Chicago-based health leaders as well as individuals personally impacted by air pollution and climate change.
The group discussed the recent announcement from the Obama Administration of a series of events and activities to help the public better understand the health impacts of climate change on communities across the country.
"Climate change supercharges risks to our health which is why combating climate change is a public health solution that will leave a healthier planet for future generations," said Administrator McCarthy. "That's why we're taking important action to reduce carbon pollution that fuels climate change through our Clean Power Plan."
"Climate change is real, and the time to act is now. We need to move swiftly and boldly to protect our health and our communities from the dangerous impacts of carbon pollution and climate change - especially the health of our most vulnerable populations, children, seniors and people with chronic diseases like asthma," Wimmer said. "In partnership with other health leaders, we will continue to advocate for measures to reduce carbon pollution and the effects of climate change."
The American Lung Association continues to urge the Obama Administration to put into place strong clean air protections, including adopting a strong final Clean Power Plan and more protective National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone pollution. Doing so will help clean up harmful pollutants that impact the health of communities across the country.
Learn more about the American Lung Association's work to support healthy air and steps to reduce climate change at FightingForAir.org.