Statement on letter urging Gov. McAuliffe to take strong action in implementing a healthy state implementation plan to meet the Clean Power Plan goals for Virginia
Catherine Thomasson, MD
April 1, 2016
Clean Energy is Healthy Energy! Wind, solar and especially energy efficiency reduce the need for burning dirty fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas. The people of Virginia pay over $2B/year to healthcare providers and suffer the consequences of lost wages and premature deaths from the pollution from burning and managing the waste from coal.
Pollutants include sulfur dioxide, ozone, PM2.5, and mercury. They cause increase in asthma attacks in 9% of Virginia children and 7% of adults, exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart attacks and heart failure. One in six unborn children has their neurological development threatened by mercury poisoning that can lead to reduced IQ and mental retardation.
Switching to health energy sources will also reduce the threats of climate change that are already occurring in Virginia. Rising temperatures make smog pollution worse and increase the number of "bad air days" when it's hard to breathe. This puts many of us at risk for irritated eyes, noses, and lungs -- but it is particularly dangerous for people with respiratory diseases like asthma or for those with heart disease. It's also worse for children who play outdoors.
Virginia will also experience at least 1.5 feet of sea-level rise during the next 20 to 50 years, putting coastal communities increasingly at risk. Hampton Roads, home to 1.7 million people, is the second-most vulnerable area in the country to rising seas behind New Orleans. Children and families are traumatized with ongoing psychologic impact from loss of home and personal possessions lost in events like Hurricane Isabel. Virginia has had over twenty-six billion dollar weather events in the last 30 years.
Heat wave deaths have already occurred in Virginia. Who wants to tell their children not to play outdoors, but when the temperature and humidity get so high, they are at risk from heat exhaustion, heat stroke and death with prolonged outside activity. This impacts farmers and their crops and livestock as well. You can't move chickens and cows indoors with air conditioning.
Lastly, Lyme disease is on the rise. It was previously only in northern Virginia but the case load increased by 500% from 2004 to 2013 and moving across the state. Ticks like the warmer temperatures and lack of cold winter temperatures.
Climate change will be devastating to our health. Clean energy and reducing demand with energy efficiency can reduce that threat and save money and provide jobs. This is a win-win opportunity for public health.
Letter to VA Gov. McAuliffe on the Clean Power Plan