The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environment (ANHE) began in 2008 when a group of nurses decided enough was enough when it came to public health and the environment. Leaders in the nursing profession came together to “promote the integration of environmental health into nursing education, practice, research, and policy/advocacy work.”
Their most recent target? Protecting children, seniors, and others from smog and other air pollutants. Smog can trigger asthma attacks, and exacerbate other respiratory ailments, particularly among children, seniors, and those already ill. CAP’s Lee Hamill has the story.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives is about to vote today to block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting these vulnerable populations from carbon dioxide pollution and the increase in smog due to global warming.
ANHE collaborated with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) to produce The Economic Affliction of Asthma and Risks of Blocking Air Pollution Safeguards, which documents the growing economic cost from asthma. The report, released on April 6th, collected asthma data from each of the 50 states. Barbara Sattler of ANHE warned that
The extent of the asthma epidemic and its related costs outlined in this report are staggering.
Asthma attacks are common in this country. The report points out that in 2008, United States hospitals treated 688,000 children for asthma attacks. Such attacks can be deadly. More than 3,400 people died from asthma attacks in 2007 alone.
The Clean Air Act has done a magnificent job in protecting the health of the 24 million Americans that suffer from asthma, as the report notes. Big oil’s allies in Congress would put them more at risk by attempting to block or delay EPA from setting pollution reduction standards. If they succeed, smog levels will increase along with the temperature. Brenda Afzal of HCWH says,
Americans with asthma provide members of Congress with 24 million compelling reasons for the EPA to be allowed to proceed with needed updates to federal Clean Air Act standards.
The report documents the huge economic burden asthma imposes on the United States. It notes that costs to treat asthma are already over $50 billion dollars annually. Taxpayers foot the bill for these asthma expenditures. A whopping 41.7% of asthma-related costs are covered by the tax-payer funded Medicare and Medicaid. With Congress so concerned with deficit, reducing carbon pollution would cut these costs.
In addition to direct costs, the proposal to block EPA from reducing carbon dioxide pollution would reduce economic productivity by causing work absences due to health problems. Asthma currently accounts for 10.5 million lost school days and 14 million lost work days. According to Sandi Delack, president of ANHE,
School attendance is strongly correlated with academic success and graduation”¦days lost will add to the toll asthma takes to not only its patients, but our society.
Yesterday, many Senators voted to protect children and seniors from more air pollution by voting to allow EPA to proceed with measures to reduce pollution. The Senate rejected all four proposed amendments which would have either permanently blocked or delayed EPA standards. The House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 910, a bill by House Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) that would end EPA’s ability to set safeguards for pollution from coal fired power plants, oil refineries, and other sources. Those that vote for this atrocious bill would condemn some of the most vulnerable Americans to more smog and respiratory illness.
– By CAP Energy Intern Lee Hamill.