On Tuesday, I will be traveling to Atlanta to testify at the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing on the plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants.
As a pediatrician who has practiced medicine for over 30 years and witnessed the decline in children’s health over this period, I will be voicing strong support for the plan, which is estimated to prevent 150,000 asthma attacks and 6,600 premature deaths annually by 2030.
Every day I practice, I see children struggling to breathe due to asthma worsened by carbon pollution and young kids on three or four different medications to control their asthma symptoms. The quality of life for these children and their families is significantly impacted in a negative way by carbon pollution.
As a doctor, I believe I have an obligation to speak out against those who damage public health and be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves: infants, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities and chronic health problems who receive the brunt of coal-fired power plant pollution.
There are a toxic slew of air pollutants in coal smoke, but the major one causing so many adverse health problems, like COPD, heart damage, asthma, to name a few, is carbon — the key driver of climate change.
Forty percent of the carbon pollution in the United States comes from coal-fired power plants. There are 15 plants in Florida. There is no such thing as “clean coal.”
Climate change affects health by increasing temperatures causing heat waves that can lead to dehydration, heat stroke and death, especially in young children, those with chronic health problems and the elderly.
As temperatures rise, more populations are exposed to disease-bearing insects, extreme weather events, water contamination, flooding, and an increase in wildfires causing smoke and particle inhalation. Climate change increases the risks of asthma and other pulmonary diseases and can cause an increase in cardiac deaths and stroke.
As a nation, it is high time we stand up to the polluters and say: “No more damage to our health. Clean up your act!”
Cutting carbon pollution from power plants will protect public health and drive innovation in clean energy sources that will power the 21st century, growing our economy and creating jobs.
Just from soot and smog reductions alone, each dollar we invest in the Clean Power Plan could net American families $7 in health benefits.
We can leave no greater legacy to our children, grandchildren and the generations that follow than to leave a healthy, carbon pollution-free planet.
We can begin this lifesaving journey through implementing a strong Clean Power Plan that will protect public health and drive innovation in clean energy sources, such as solar and wind that will power our economy and create good jobs.
Dr. Lynn Ringenberg is professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of South Florida. She is president of the Florida Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and president-elect of the national PSR in Washington, D.C., an organization of health care professionals dealing with issues that pose the gravest threats to human health and survival: climate change and nuclear weapons. PSR shared the Nobel Peace Prize for its nuclear work in 1985.