BY ON May 9, 2011

This piece was cross-posted on Writes Like She Talks.

Norm Roulet’s lengthy, in-depth post at REALNEO“Happy Air Quality Awareness Week? Not in Cleveland, where air quality is poor, and awareness is worse! Meaning Modeling Matters!” is one of an abysmally few pieces of evidence that May 2 through 6 has been Air Quality Awareness Week.

Other pieces of evidence (scant themselves) that folks in Ohio would be made aware, during an effort dedicated to awareness, come from the Ohio EPA and Earth Gauge at WKYC (Channel 3).  But that’s all I could Google up – I hope I’ve missed other coverage, because these results are terribly disappointing.

Worse yet, however, is that the scant publicizing of Air Quality Awareness Week is not nearly as disappointing, or upsetting, as how bad our air quality in Ohio actually is (although the number of inhalers I see in my youngest child’s elementary school nurse’s clinic indicates backs up this assertion without the need for much else, if you ask me).

Luckily, Ohio – as with nearly all the other 50 states, have people who are aware and do care.  The 50 States United for Healthy Air group enlisted two Ohioans in their May 2 effort to pump up the volume and air quality for their home state:

On May 2, 2011, doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, social justice advocates and affected citizens from all 50 states are convening in Washington, D.C. to send a powerful message: all Americans have a right to breathe clean, healthy air.

These Clean Air Ambassadors will meet with members of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Obama administration to speak out for strong protections against pollution that is harmful to our health. Industry lobbyists and their allies in Washington, D.C. want to block these protections from taking effect. But our lives depend on clean air, and these ambassadors will demand that we get it.

You can read about Deborah Lindell of Solon and Rachel Belz of Cincinnati here. (The blog, unEarthed, which is connected to Earth Justice and the clean air awareness effort, looks like a great resource for news on air quality issues.)

This week comes during Asthma Awareness Month and was host toWorld Asthma Day, on Tuesday, May 3.  Ohio is home to several organizations.  The Ohio Asthma Coalition has even producedstatewide plans for combating the illness while the Greater Cleveland area benefits from these organizations.

Don’t have asthma? Don’t know anyone who does? Only read or heard about it – and then turned the page or the radio station? Well then – you’ve come to the right blog post!

First off, the economic impact has long been known to businesses, health care and otherwise. The Partnership for America’s Economic Success says,

While the health impacts of asthma have long been apparent, this report shows that the bulk of costs come in the form of long-term losses in workforce productivity. View the policy brief, or view the full report.

Included in the PAES information is the reality that this disease affects the health and productivity of 34 million Americans and results in “…direct medical costs and indirect costs associated with lost productivity…between $12.7 and $19.7 billion.” (my emphasis) You can read more startling statistic about the prevalence and costs of asthma here, but to think that more than 10% of all Americans live with it, on top of all those who must live with those individuals, and that 8.5% of all children suffer from it – I can barely take a deep sigh that asthma sufferers routinely can’t.

That number pales in comparison to the total amount of economic stress our country experiences from all environmental ills. According to a new report out in Health Affairs,

Poor childhood health caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals, cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, according to a new study[1] in the May issue of Health Affairs. This price tag represents a dramatic increase,  from 2.8 percent of total health care costs in 1997 to 3.5 percent in 2008, report study authors Leonardo Trasande of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Yinghua Liu of National Children’s Study New York-Northern New Jersey Center.

Other papers in that same issue also explore environmental health challenges for children:

Children’s vulnerability to toxic chemicals is covered by Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Lynn Goldman of the George Washington University;

Air pollution and its impact on health and academic achievement comes from Perry Sheffield and coauthors at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and

Exposure to air pollution during important stages of development gets attention from Paul Mohai, Byong-Suk Kweon, and colleagues at the University of Michigan.

And, lest you think this is some issue that’s from the past that just must be under control now? Think again. According to the CDC(Centers for Disease Control),

People diagnosed with asthma in the United States grew by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009, according to a new Vital Signs report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, nearly 1 in 12 Americans were diagnosed with asthma. In addition to increased diagnoses, asthma costs grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, about a 6 percent increase. The explanation for the growth in asthma rates is unknown.

No amount of coughing before, during or after ingesting that information will dilute or eliminate it from reality.

On the heels of knowing that Ohio is the least green state in all of the country and that Ohio continues to get nearly all failing grades in air quality, please spread the word about the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearings – including one in Chicago – that will be held as a result of proposed mercury and air toxics standards being signed on March 16, 2011.  The deets:

April 26, 2011 – EPA will hold three public hearings on the proposed mercury and air toxics standards signed on March 16, 2011. Each hearing will begin at 9:00 a.m. and continue until 8:00 p.m. (local time). The public may preregister to speak at the hearings at a specific time. People also may register in person on the day of the hearing, and will be worked in to openings in the schedule of speakers. To preregister to speak at the hearings, please contact Ms. Pamela Garrett, telephone 919-541-7966 or email

  • Announcment Public hearings (PDF) (2pp, 186k) – Federal Register – April 28, 2011
  • May 24: Chicago, Ill.
    Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
    799 West Madison Street
    Chicago, Ill. 60611
    Preregistration deadline 5 p.m., May 19
  • May 24: Philadelphia, Pa.
    Westin Philadelphia
    99 South 17th Street at Liberty Place
    Philadelphia, Pa. 19103
    Preregistration deadline 5 p.m., May 19
  • May 26: Atlanta, Ga.
    Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
    61 Forsyth Street SW
    Atlanta, Ga. 30303-8960
    Preregistration deadline 5 p.m., May 23
  • EPA also will accept written comments until July 5, 2011. Instructions for submitting written comments (PDF) (1pp, 55k)

(Notice I put the Chicago one in red.) And don’t ignore that very last line!!! You can submit written comments through July 5.  As I’ve written before, what part of our lives is not affected by our air?

TOPICS: Activism, Asthma, Coal, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Pollution