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PSR Raises “Health Voices for Clean Air”

September 21, 2012

PSR board member and senior scientist Alan Lockwood, MD FAAN, spoke recently at Michigan’s Green Healthcare Conference as part of PSR’s “Health Voices for Clean Air” fall campaign.  Dr. Lockwood, who recently authored The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health, participated in a panel about healthcare professional advocacy for environmental and public health measures through cleaner energy.  He discussed how vital clean air is to our health and the importance of replacing coal-fired power with cleaner energy sources.

Dr. Lockwood also spotlighted the Clean Air Act as a vital tool for protecting public health.  The Clean Air Act is the 40-year-old law which establishes the framework for reducing harmful air pollution nationwide.

In March 2011, EPA proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics standards to protect the public against life-threatening air pollution from power plants, such as mercury and arsenic.   Air quality standards are a major tool through which the EPA implements the Clean Air Act. 

According to EPA, enforcement of this standard will prevent annually as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 540,000 sick days. 

The Mercury and Air Toxics standard has not been implemented.  Fossil fuel industries and utility companies, with their allies in Congress, have worked furiously to halt EPA from moving forward to implement this and similar types of protections for public health.

Other energy issues are also under hot debate, again with major health implications.  For example, in November Michigan voters will be asked to decide if the state’s renewable energy portfolio should be made more stringent.  If the referendum is approved, utilities will be required to source 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025.

This would bring real gains for air quality and health.  In 2010, Michigan ranked 7th worst in the nation for toxic air pollution from electricity generation.

Dr. Lockwood stated, “It is critical to ensure the air we breathe is safeguarded.  Over time we’ve come to learn how serious the consequences of air pollution are on children’s health and the health of elderly people and low-income communities living near industrial facilities and power plants.”

Dr. Lockwood and PSR executive director Catherine Thomasson, MD are conducting a five-state speaking tour as the first phase of the “Health Voices for Clean Air” campaign.

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