By Dr. Aparna Bole, MD, FAA, & Dr. Kristie Ross, MD, MS – Originally posted on August 23, 2015 at Cleveland.com
As pediatricians, we are concerned about the health effects of climate change on children. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, released recently, represents our nation’s first substantive effort to limit carbon emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.
The plan will be discussed and debated in terms of its environmental and economic impacts, but it is
also essential that the public health benefits of the plan be included in this dialogue. In particular, the World Health Organization estimates that over 80 percent of the current health burden from the changing climate is on children younger than 5 years old, due both to their small size and the nature of their growth and development.
We are already seeing the health impacts of climate change right here in Northeast Ohio, including the children we take care of in our practices: extreme precipitation events, extreme heat, longer and more intense allergy seasons, and worsened air quality. In our region, rates of asthma in kids are substantially higher than the national average.
In African American children, asthma rates are greater than one in five – more than double the national average. Given that worsened air quality and seasonal allergens are both triggers for asthma exacerbation, children in our community, especially African American children, are already bearing a significant health burden that is worsened by the effects of climate change. For these children, exercise and play outside can be dangerous instead of healthy, with outdoor summer activities triggering asthma attacks.
Because power plants are the nation’s largest carbon pollution source, reducing power plant carbon emissions is an essential component of effective climate action. This measure will also reduce other air pollutants including particulate matter and surface ozone, which have significant negative health effects, especially for individuals with heart and lung disease, and again with a disproportionate effect on children.
A cleaner energy sector will prevent thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of child asthma attacks by 2030. This is why we applaud the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as a needed public health intervention, and an important step toward ensuring a healthy and safe environment for current and future generations of children here in Northeast Ohio, across the country, and around the world.
Dr. Aparna Bole, MD, FAA is the Medical Director, Community Integration, at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, and guest columnist & Dr. Kristie Ross, MD, MS, is the Clinical Director, Division of Pediatric Pulmonology at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.