(Chicago) – The American Lung Association has launched a statewide campaign to educate Illinois public health professionals about the importance of the Clean Air Act, and encourage them to stand up in support of the legislation.
“The Clean Air Act protects public health by reducing harmful pollutants like soot and air toxics, and gives the Environmental Protection Agency the ability to clean up the air,” said Amy Ochalski, Healthy Air Campaign manager. “It’s one of the most effective tools in our arsenal to protect lung health, yet it continually faces opposition from some members of Congress.
“If we want to continue to have clean, healthy air, the medical and public health communities must engage in this fight.”
Dan Dolan-Laughlin, a Wheaton resident suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), spoke with the group about the real-life impacts of clean air. Having received a double lung transplant in late 2011 clean air is a matter of life and death for him.
“I have to be very careful of where I am,” said Dolan-Laughlin. “I was going to take the train in today [but] I didn’t because the train shed is just about enough to make you pass out if you have a breathing disorder. Walking along the streets in downtown Chicago is not terribly healthy.”
The Clean Air Act was created in 1970 by then President Richard Nixon. The Act gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the power to create health-based standards for improving the air we breathe. Forty years later, some members of Congress now want to weaken the Clean Air Act and effectively roll back the progress that has been made.
The two most widespread air pollutants: ozone – created by gasses that come out of tailpipes and smokestacks; and particle pollution – directly emitted from tailpipes, smokestacks and wood fires – have very serious health effects. The most vulnerable Illinoisans are children and teenagers; the elderly; people suffering from chronic diseases including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes; and individuals with low incomes.
Illinois has 23 coal‐fired power plants that produce over 80 toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, and benzene. These plants are among the largest contributors to our ozone and particle pollution problem. In addition, pollution comes into Illinois from power plants in neighboring states.
“There is a direct correlation between this national legislation and the quality of life for families in Illinois,” said Peter Iwanowicz, American Lung Association’s national vice president. “The Clean Air Act saves lives. It reduces the severity of asthma attacks. It keeps children and the elderly out of the emergency room.”
The American Lung Association estimates that nationally the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 people from premature death in 2010. U.S. EPA estimates that the Act will prevent over 230,000 premature deaths in 2020.
“Most people think scientists, not Congress, should set the health standards for our country,” said Ochalski. “Our goal is to demonstrate that Illinois’ health community supports strong standards to keep people healthy.
Dozens of public health experts, medical professionals and policy experts attended the February 1 event at the American Lung Association’s Chicago office and committed to becoming more involved in the fight for clean air.
Visit fightingforair.org to learn more about the campaign and get involved.
About the American Lung Association in Illinois:
Our mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lungil.org.