This piece by Stephen Lacey was cross-posted at Think Progress.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a sisterorganization of CAP, is leading a campaign to curb asthma and other harmful health effects from coal-fired power plants. This campaign is already underway and it will continue until July 2, 2011.
Jorge Madrid, research associate for CAP’s energy policy team, reports on the impact of coal on communities close to these power plants.
Asthma affects all Americans. But communities of color are particularly vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as asthma. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that African American children have the highest number of asthma attacks among all ethnic groups, and Latino children are 60 percent more likely to suffer from asthma attacks than white children. Likewise, more than 71 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Latinos live in areas that fail to meet one or more of the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards.
These crippling health disparities are made worse by the fact that communities of color are the least likely to have health insurance and access to treatment and preventive care.
Higher asthma rates also mean more missed days of work and school in addition to increased medical costs. Every day in America, 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma, and 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to the disease.
Asthma is triggered by dirty air and asthma rates are higher in places with bad air quality. Exhaust from cars, factory emissions, smoke, and dust cause poor air quality, which can aggravate the lungs and worsen chronic lung diseases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
Coal-fired power plants are also a big part of the problem. Power plant pollutants are a well-known trigger, as is smog. Asthma has no known cure, but it can be controlled by limiting exposure to these triggers.
The EPA is responsible for protecting our children and families from dangerous pollutants and toxins. They have a proven track record of reducing deaths and illness due to stronger clean air standards.
The EPA took a critical step toward cleaner air on March 16, 2011, by proposing its first-ever air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants. The proposed rule would limit emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other air toxics from power plants for the first time. Adoption of the air toxics rule will prevent approximately 17,000 premature deaths, 120,000 asthma attacks, and 12,000 hospitalizations and emergency room visits every year in 2016, according to the EPA.
All Americans should make a strong statement to the EPA that they want reductions in mercury, arsenic, and other toxic air pollution from power plants. Communities of color in particular can send a message that they want clean, healthy air for their children and families.