14 Jun 2011

American Lung Association defends Clean Air Act

It is important to remember that a healthy environment directly benefits the health of the human population. As such, organizations devoted to human health, such as the American Lung Association, are weighing in on national environmental policy. They recognize that recent congressional attempts to weaken environmental legislation will directly harm society’s most sensitive members, the young, who are experiencing unparalleled increases in asthma and respiratory illness, and older adults, for whom unhealthy air can compound other medical conditions.

According to the ALA, over 10.2 million adults age 65 and over live in counties with unhealthful ozone levels, over 9.4 million seniors live in counties with unhealthful short-term levels of particle pollution, and over 5.5 million seniors live in counties with unhealthful levels of year-round particle pollution.

Some illnesses exacerbated by airborne pollution include:

  • Asthma (adult and pediatric)
  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Diabetes

The American Lung Association has many great resources to help you maintain a healthy environment, both indoors and out (http://www.lungusa.org/healthy-air/outdoor/defending-the-clean-air-act/), including ways to contact Congress, and reports and surveys on the benefits of clean air. It has even posted billboards in Michigans 6th Congressional District, home of Fred Upton, chairman of the House Committtee on Energy and Commerce and a key figure in the fight against the EPA’s ability to regulate air pollution. Its website states:

Fighting for Healthy Air

The American Lung Association is working to protect the public health from air pollution. We are defending the Clean Air Act to ensure that all Americans can have air that is safe and healthy to breathe. The Clean Air Act has provided the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority and the responsibility to protect and clean up the nation’s air since 1970. Thanks to that law and later amendments that strengthened it, people throughout the nation breathe cleaner, healthier air.

But, the work is not done; millions of Americans continue to breathe unhealthy air. Polluters and some members of Congress want to interfere with EPA’s ability to protect public health. Most Americansbelieve that the Clean Air Act needs protecting. We are fighting hard to prevent anyone from weakening or undermining the law or the protective standards the law provides. We are fighting to ensure EPA has the legal authority and necessary funding to continue to protect public health.

Who else is weighing in?

  • The American Heart Association: The AHA has determined that there is a noticable link between particulate matter in the air and an increased change of heart attack and states that it causes up to 60,000 deaths each year in the United States. Some research has concluded that air pollution in certain U.S. cities can shorten lifespan by between 1.8 and 3.1 years, increases hospital admissions for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, and that even short-term exposure to elevated levels of pollution can result in a higher risk of death.
  • The American Diabetes Association: The ADA published a study in 2010 concluding that particulate matter may be one of the factors (and a neglected one at that) contributing to an increased prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. It is unfortunate that one of the best treatments for chronic illnesses, exercise, is also one that often exposes us to these harmful pollutants.
  • American Association of Retired Persons: AARP recently cited a study finding that, overall, air pollution is a greater threat to the cardiovascular health of society than alcohol, anger, or even cocaine.

What can YOU do? TAKE ACTION!

As stated above, multiple efforts are currently underway to weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate known harmful pollutants that directly affect your quality and length of life, and the lives of your neighbors, children and grandchildren. Individually, we can each do our best to reduce energy consumption and alleviate the need to burn fossil fuels for electricity generation. However, it is also critical that older adults let their elected officials, particularly in Congress, know how important these issues of health and wellbeing are to them. Follow this link to send a letter to your representatives in Congress not to weaken our protections from these known health hazards.

Remember, if anyone ever questions the value of your “green” ideals, you can tell them that you are fighting for everyone’s well-being.

More resources:
– http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-3-2009/Clean_Air_And_Your_Health/
– http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4419
– http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/10/2196.full
– http://www.epa.gov/aging/resources/factsheets/deh/index.htm
– http://www.epa.gov/aging/resources/factsheets/ehwhh/index.htm