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PSR health professionals speak out on the right to breathe clean air

May 24, 2011
PSR activists gather in Washington

Eleven PSR health professionals, representing PSR chapters from coast to coast, traveled to Washington, D.C. recently to convey to policymakers a simple, powerful message: All Americans have a right to breathe clean, healthy air.

They were part of 50 States United for Healthy Air, a unique coalition of health, faith, environmental, and community representatives.  Convened by Earthjustice, this unprecedented coalition was cosponsored by PSR, the American Nurses Association, Hip Hop Caucus, and the National Council of Churches.

As “Clean Air Ambassadors,” PSR’s medical spokespeople spoke out in support of crucial health protections under consideration by the U.S. EPA:   

  • rules to reduce mercury and other air toxics from power plants;
  • more stringent standards for ambient ozone and particulate matter, as well as for particulates, mercury and other pollutants from cement plants;
  • limits on toxic air pollution from boilers and incinerators, and
  • controls for harmful coal ash dumps and landfills.

They brought this message to their elected officials on Capitol Hill and with Obama administration officials, including US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and leading figures from other executive branch offices:  the Council on Environmental Quality, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Department of the Interior, and the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Mercury, arsenic, lead, dioxins, smog, fine particles and dozens of other pollutants are emitted daily from power plants and industrial facilities, causing or contributing to cancer, heart disease, lung disease, neurological damage and premature death.

 “In other words, air pollution is killing Americans,” said Peter Wilk, PSR executive director and one of the PSR Clean Air Ambassadors. “It’s also shortening their lives, costing them days lost from school and work, sending them to the hospital, and hitting them hard in the pocketbook. 

“Setting health-protective rules for limiting toxic air pollutants, and carrying them out consistently, will save lives and save money.”

PSR played a significant role in organizing the multi-day event and leading the half-day training session on lobbying.

Profiles of the PSR Ambassadors, with photos, text and audio, can be viewed on the 50 States United website:

Alan Lockwood MD FAAN, representing New York State;
Barbara Warren
MD MPH, representing Arizona;
Chandran Achutan
PhD, representing Nebraska;
Cindy Parker
MD, representing Maryland;
Harry Wang
MD, representing California;
Kate Etherington
, representing Pennsylvania;
Lynn Ringenberg
MD, representing Florida;
Margaret Kitchell
MD, representing Washington State;
Martin Donohoe
MD FACP, representing Oregon; and
Michael McCally
MD, representing New Mexico.

Peter Wilk MD represented Maine.

The Ambassadors continue to advocate for clean air in their home communities.  Dr. Lockwood has already succeeded in having an op-ed published in a Buffalo, NY newspaper, explaining how the health benefits from clean air also translate into economic savings for families and society.

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