The thousands of Maine children with asthma need your help. On unhealthy air days, elevated smog can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks, resulting in more trips to the emergency room for kids. Maine had five unhealthy air days in 2010 — and in the absence of a change in public policy, we can expect more in future years. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is accepting public input until June 25 on new standards that, if implemented, would limit the amount of carbon pollution that new power plants would be able to emit. While the new rules would be of some benefit to all children, our higher rates of asthma in Maine make the issue even more pressing.
While we typically think of automobiles as the major source of carbon emissions, U.S. electricity generation actually creates more CO2 than cars. If we want to effectively reduce pollution, it is imperative that EPA finalizes their proposed standard to limit carbon pollution from power plants, the source of more than 2 billion tons of the pollution yearly.
Why are we talking about global warming when the concern here is asthma? The science of “atmospheric chemistry” ties the two issues together, with the link being ozone, a nasty, irritating component of smog. High temperatures accelerate the atmospheric photochemical reactions that form ozone. That’s why the days with the most dangerous levels of smog often take place during the hottest weeks of the year.
Left unchecked, the higher temperatures associated with global warming will inevitably worsen smog pollution and increase ozone levels, which in turn impairs lung function and triggers asthma attacks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics firmly believes that global warming is a major public health issue. Besides concerns about short- and long-term lung damage, experts also fear that climate change will induce alterations in infectious disease patterns that would hit children especially hard — like the recent upsurge in Lyme in our state.
We’ve known for years that coal-fired power plants are our largest source of carbon pollution. Building on its historic standards for toxic mercury pollution from power plants that were made final last year, and its fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks currently in development, we encourage the Obama administration to move forward with rules that will reduce carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.
The corporate interests that benefit from lax pollution standards will not go down without
a fight, however, despite the common sense value of the new proposal. That’s where
Mainers can help. In order to ensure that EPA keeps these standards strong — and begins
developing carbon pollution standards for existing power plants as well — we urge Mainers to make their voices heard.
Please visit www.environmentmaine.org/action today to let EPA know that Maine wants strong rules for clean air that will allow Maine’s kids to breathe easier.
Ben Seel is a Clean Energy Organizer for Environment Maine, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to protect clean air, clean water and open spaces. Also contributing to this piece were Dr. Sydney Sewall, a pediatrician from Augusta and a member of the board of directors for the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Steve Feder, a pediatrician from Boothbay Harbor and president of the same organization.