Maine Health Professionals Call On Washington Today to Combat Climate Change

For Immediate Release

Today, health professionals from across Maine join over 100 leading national and state-level public health organizations and experts who are calling upon President Obama and the U.S. Congress to protect the Clean Air Act and to let EPA start addressing climate changing pollution, as required by law.

Five Maine health organizations have joined the call, including the Maine Medical Association, American Lung Association of Maine, Maine Public Health Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Maine, and the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association. Fifty individual Maine health providers have also joined the effort. National organizations who have signed on include the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to set urgently needed new limits for global warming pollution, but due to intensive lobbying by the coal and oil industries, some members of Congress are trying to block EPA’s ability to act.

 “Fossil fuel emissions are having adverse impacts on the health of Maine people in a variety of ways from mercury in fish to the triggering of asthmatic attacks in vulnerable children. For years this has been considered a necessary price to be paid for our energy use. But now, in the face of global climate change with its additional health risks, we believe this price has become much too high,” says Dr. Jo Linder, President of the Maine Medical Association. “The EPA must act now to reduce these deadly emissions, for the health of this generation and for the better health of future generations.”

 “Climate change threatens our health and national security,” says Tina Pettingill, Executive Director of the Maine Public Health Association. “We can expect increased weather disasters; disease outbreaks from invasive species; Salmonella and diarrheal illness; and threatened food and water supplies.”

 “Global warming is a serious health concern here in the U.S. and around the world,” says Paul Shapero, physician and allergy specialist from Bangor. “Global warming generates more pollen and more smog, which add up to increased asthma attacks here in Maine where we already have among the highest asthma rates in the nation, affecting one-in-ten adults. The EPA is the agency charged with turning this pollution around.”

 “All of us depend on the EPA to apply the best science to keep our air healthy. But for those millions of people with asthma and other lung diseases, the EPA is their best hope that the air they breathe will not send them to an emergency room or doctor’s office,” says Edward Miller, VP for Health Promotion and Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Maine. “We need to do all we can to reduce health care costs, and keeping our air healthy is critical.”

 “It’s clear that for the sake of Mainers’ health and Maine’s environment, we should not be undermining a law that has successfully and cost-effectively reduced dangerous pollution for four decades,” said Nathaniel Meyer, Field Associate with Environment Maine. “Senators Snowe and Collins should champion the concerns of Maine’s public health community by voting against any Senate proposal that weakens the Clean Air Act.”

 “We can be proud of the leadership of Maine’s Senator Edmund Muskie who led the effort to enact the Clean Air Act 40 years ago,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Deputy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Under the Clean Air Act, EPA action has dramatically reduced air pollution that threatens the health of Maine families, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide. It is past time for the agency to tackle the pollutants that cause global warming as well.”

 The joint letter urges Congress and President Obama to fully support the EPA in fulfilling its responsibilities and to oppose any efforts to weaken, delay, or block the EPA in its efforts to protect public health from climate change.