Nurses Take Action on Quality of the Air We Breathe

August 2, 2011
Health Care Without Harm Press Release
Contact: Eileen Secrest  540-376-4495

Nurses Take Action on Quality of the Air We Breathe

Lavonia, MI — On Saturday, July 30, two dozen nurses gathered in Lavonia, Michigan to attend an event for nurse leaders who felt called to act on behalf of their patients, families, and communities—to ensure all have clean air to breathe.

They discussed how climate change impacts air quality and health, and how these impacts are affected by policy. The event, orchestrated by nurse advocates Pamela Ortner MS, RN, CHPN and Tom Bissonnette, MS, RN, CAE from Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)-Michigan, focused on making public health a priority.

Mr. Bissonnette opened the event with a discussion of the health impacts experienced by people living in MI with a focus on special vulnerabilities of children and older Americans. Ms. Ortner led a discussion about why nurses are and should be advocating for clean air policy. Dr. Kim Knowlton, climate scientist with the National Resource Defense Council, discussed issues related to the health impacts of climate change, including advocating for public health strategies to prepare for and prevent these impacts. Dr. Knowlton explored links between climate change and infectious diseases such as dengue fever, and heat and ozone-related mortality and illnesses, as well as possible connections between climate, pollen, allergies and asthma.

Other speakers included Michelle Martinez, from the Sierra Club-MI Chapter and Brenda Afzal, MS, RN, HCWH’s U.S. Climate Policy Coordinator. Ms. Martinez discussed current policy opportunities, including the Mercury Air Toxics Rule, the Ozone Standard, and current challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to contact their mission of protecting public health. Ms Afzal led a planning session on opportunities for Michigan nurses to take action on air quality issues.

A reoccurring theme throughout the meeting was that our families, communities and most vulnerable populations have a right to expect the EPA and our state and national policy makers see public health as a priority in all policy and regulatory decisions.


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.