How Coal Affects Pediatricians
After parents, pediatricians may be the group most concerned with our children’s health. And few things have been shown to negatively affect the health of children as much as pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Nationwide, over 25 million children live in counties that violate national air quality standards for ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide – all pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants. And it is clear to our pediatricians that this pollution has serious negative effects on children. Of the 35 million children who live within 30 miles of a power plant, 2 million suffer from asthma. In the past two decades, asthma rates have more than doubled, resulting in six percent of American children now having asthma.
The increasing prevalence of asthma among children is not only troubling; it is also placing another unnecessary burden on our health care system. Pediatricians want to give their patients the best care that they can, but many are having trouble keeping up with so many new cases of a preventable disease.
Coal-fired power plants affect children more than any other age group. Children are particularly susceptible to air pollution for a number of reasons:
- Their immune defense systems have not yet fully developed
- They breathe more rapidly than adults and a larger portion of their body is lung surface, and so they take in more air per minute for their size. Pound for pound, children on average breathe 50% more air than adults
- They spend more time outdoors than adults, and so have a greater exposure to air pollutants; and are often exercising when they are outdoors, and so the air pollutants penetrate deeper into their lungs
- 72,000 schools are located within 30 miles of a power plant – and many of these plants are old, outdated and very dirty
It is time to put a halt to the rapid increase in asthma cases, and demand that our children have the right to clean air. Pediatricians and physicians are already taking action in some parts of the country, like Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Check out their website to get more information about how physicians can take action and stop the development of more coal-fired power plants, and how you can get involved.
It is possible and profitable to address growing energy needs in the West through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures.