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Shining Light on Health Effects of EPA Power Plan

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Photo: Health care, policy and environmental advocates are gathering in Nashville to discuss the impact of climate change on health, environment and other factors. Photo credit: demondimum/morguefile.com
Photo: Health care, policy and environmental advocates are gathering in Nashville to discuss the impact of climate change on health, environment and other factors. Photo credit: demondimum/morguefile.com
 By Stephanie CarsonContact
May 18, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today policymakers, scholars and medical practitioners are convening in Nashville to discuss the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which is expected to be announced sometime this summer.

While the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy are often discussed, Dr. Don Arnold, associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, is among the health professionals concerned about the negative health impact that climate change and coal-burning fuels are having on people, particularly children.

"Children are unique and are not little adults,” he points out. “Their brains, lungs and other vital organs are developing. Children have higher exposure to environmental pollutants, particularly by either ingestion or by respiration or breathing."

According to the state Department of Health, more than 11 percent of children in Tennessee have asthma, and 7 percent of adults have the disease.

The conference is hosted by the Vanderbilt Law School and Vanderbilt School of Medicine and is open to the public. The event will also be live streamed for those who cannot attend.

Dr. Catherine Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, says the increase in asthma cases isn't just caused by air quality. Warming temperatures and increased CO2 is spurring plants to go on overdrive.

"There is an epidemic of asthma that comes from many things, one of which is increased pollen,” she points out. “Plants like the increased CO2 and they actually make more pollen than they do any other part of their plant. "

Arnold experiences the impact of climate change regularly in his patient population, and feels compelled to speak out on the importance of reducing the state's and country's carbon footprint.

"Children have a longer life expectancy,” he stresses. “They are politically powerless, defenseless and dependent on adults for protection. And when it comes to the effects of environmental pollutants, there are great social economic disparities that children are at risk of."

According to the Tennessee Valley Authority, 36 percent of Tennessee's energy comes from coal-burning power plants.


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