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Report: Tailpipe Pollution Making Virginians Sick

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Emissions from Northern Virginia's heavy commuter traffic causes people to experience serious lung problems such as asthma, according to a new report. (Wikimedia Commons)
Emissions from Northern Virginia's heavy commuter traffic causes people to experience serious lung problems such as asthma, according to a new report. (Wikimedia Commons)
 By Diane Bernard - Producer, Contact
October 28, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginia lawmakers consider new standards for lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, a group of doctors released a report today that showed tailpipe emissions from everyday traffic are taking a major toll on Virginians' health and pocketbooks.

The report said concentrations of harmful air particles contribute to 3,000 premature deaths and more than 3,500 hospitalizations in the state each year, according to Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. Physician Samantha Ahdoot, the group's founder, pointed out that when people breathe in exhaust fumes, damaging particles enter the lungs and bloodstream.

"From there, it gets into our hearts, where it causes heart attacks; it causes exacerbation of lung disease and new lung disease," she said. "For example, it causes asthma attacks, and it even effects pregnant women and can contribute to babies being born too small."

She said air pollution ends up costing Virginians $23 billion a year in health and social-welfare expenses. The state now is considering adopting California's tougher motor-vehicle emission standards to clean up the air and help address climate change.

The report also revealed that the most socially vulnerable communities bear most of the health costs of polluted emissions. Karen Campblin, who chairs Virginia's NAACP chapter's Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, said lower-income and communities of color tend to be clustered around major transportation hubs and processing plants. She pointed to the neighborhoods surrounding the Lamberts Point Coal Terminal in Norfolk as an example.

"They are able to actually process the coal onsite, and the coal is stored in an open-air environment," she said, "and the closer you get you see a film of coal on cars, and it gets into AC units and stuff like that."

According to the report, the potential health benefits from adopting the California car-emissions standards would have an estimated value of at least $100 million a year by 2035.

The report is online here.

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