At EPA Hearing, Nurses Say Cutting Greenhouse Gases Will Improve Nation’s Health

Washington, DC — Two nurses representing Health Care Without Harm will testify today at hearings in Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL, in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules limiting greenhouse gases from new coal-fired power plants. The hearings are a chance for the public to express their views on the rules. The nurses will focus their testimony on the health benefits of reducing greenhouse gases.

“These proposed rules will greatly reduce pollutants that are linked to health issues such as asthma, heat stroke, heart disease and respiratory illnesses,” said Laura Anderko, RN, PHD, Robert and Kathleen Scanlon Endowed Chair in Values Based Health Care, Georgetown University, who will testify in Washington, DC. “We commend the EPA for taking this step to protect the nation’s health.”

Greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere, and are associated with heat waves and extreme weather events, both of which are increasing in the United States. Greenhouse gases also contribute to the formation of ozone, the leading component of smog, which is known to cause inflammation in the respiratory tract and reduced lung function. In fact, high ozone levels that are responsible for health warnings during high air quality index (AQI) days, when patients with asthma, children, the elderly, and those with respiratory or heart illnesses are cautioned to stay indoors.

“Asthma is the leading cause of missed school days among children,” said Pamela Ortner, MS, RN, CHPN, a Michigan Environmental Health Nurse Advocate with Health Care Without Harm, who will represent HCWH at the Chicago hearing. “There is strong evidence of a direct link between poor air quality and emergency visits and hospitalization of asthmatic children. These proposed rules will reduce emissions from the industry that is the single largest source of air pollution in the United States, and that is an important step to protect the health of our most vulnerable populations.”

The United States is in the midst of an epidemic of chronic disease, which consumes 3 of every $4 spent on health care. In its report “The Economic Affliction of Asthma and Risks of Blocking Air Pollution Safeguards,” issued in 2011, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) concluded that the already staggering human and financial toll of asthma in the U.S. is likely to increase if Congress acts to stop important updates to the Clean Air Act. Asthma alone costs the nation more than $53 billion per year, according to the report.

“Our nation is spending more than $1.3 trillion a year on chronic illness, much of which is linked to pollution,” stated Dr. Anderko. “These costs are unsustainable, and we need to use all efforts available to reduce pollution to improve public health.”

Health Care Without Harm has asked its membership to submit comments to the EPA on these new rules. The agency has extended the comment period to June 25, 2012.

Heath Care without Harm, an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, is working to transform the health care sector, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. To learn more about HCWH's work, visit our website at, our YouTube channel at HCwithoutharm, and our twitter feed at hcwithoutharm.