DETROIT — The National Medical Association, which held its 113th annual convention in Detroit Aug. 1-5 and counts more than 30,000 African-American physicians as members, issued a statement backing the Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan, released August 3, to cut carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants.
“Quite simply, the final Clean Power Plan standards will help us protect our patients’ health and the health of all Americans,” said NMA President Lawrence Sanders, Jr., MD, an Atlanta internist and the 115th president of the NMA. “Many of our patients are disproportionately affected by the dangers associated with carbon pollution and the other kinds of pollution that pour out of power-plant smokestack across the country. These new, final standards are an important step in addressing both.”
President Obama announced the EPA Plan, which aims to cut U.S. carbon pollution from the power sector by 870 million tons, or 32 percent below 2005 levels, in 2030. Power plants account for roughly one-third of all carbon pollution emission, but no national limits on carbon pollution previously existed.
The NMA statement said:
Medical experts, including authors of a recent report in the prestigious international medical journal The Lancet, have observed that climate change is a healthcare emergency. Already, doctors in the U.S. and around the world have observed global warming’s substantial health impacts, including deaths and injuries from extreme weather events, such as the heat waves, hurricanes, and wildfires intensified by global warming; heart attacks and asthma attacks triggered by increased smog levels; growing numbers of insect-borne diseases spread by ticks and mosquitos; infectious diarrhea related to flooding; and, extended and exacerbated seasonal allergies. The Lancet authors noted that governments must take bold action at the national, international, regional and local level to prevent global warming’s most catastrophic effects.
The Lancet findings have been confirmed here in the U.S. by an astonishing number of NMA’s members. Last spring, NMA released a survey that revealed that 88 percent of participating NMA physicians reported seeing patients made ill and/or injured by climate change.
“People of color are disproportionately affected by the health effects of climate change,” Dr. Sanders said. “And the final standards are an important effort to correct the health disparities that plague American life.”
People of color are more likely to live near power plants and the pollution they release. As a result, approximately half of Latinos and Asian Americans, along with 40 percent of African Americans, live in areas where air quality fails to meet EPA standards. People of color are thus incommensurately impacted by the dangerous so-called co-pollutants that pour out of power-plant smokestacks along with carbon dioxide.
The EPA has estimated the Clean Power Plan can deliver unprecedented health benefits, in fact– preventing each year 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 3,300 heart attacks, 2,800 hospital admissions, and 490,000 missed days of work and school. The plan is also predicted to create an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in economic benefits across the U.S. by the year 2030. The CPP will lower energy bills and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in fields such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and HVAC installation. This is good news for those among our patients who struggle with unemployment and low household income, two conditions that have been shown to negatively impact health.