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Sunday, November 16, 2014

5K For Cleaner Air in Nashville - TODAY! Come out and hear me talk about clean air (and sidewalks!)

Shelby Park

I hope you all come out TODAY to move your body in support of clean air and better health for all.  

One in 12 people in the US have asthma and the numbers are increasing each year.  This equates to 25 million people living with this disease in the states.  If you can imagine a population equivalent to 3 NYC's - that is the amount of people who are living with asthma every day. 

More than half of people with asthma will have an asthma attack each year with children being at elevated risk.  According to the CDC, these attacks lead to 1.8 million emergency room visits and over 3000 deaths per year.

Asthma is increasing in industrialized counties - likely a combination of our cleanliness, on one hand, as we do not get the very serious, life threatening illness of childhood any longer - the 'hygiene hypothesis' - if you will -  in combination with the rise in particulate matter in the air - essentially air pollution.  Other factors, including a sedentary lifestyle and obesity fit into this picture, too.  

Smog and asthma are intricately linked and are a serious problem for Tennessee and Nashville.  The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2014" report revealed that the Nashville metro area ranks as the 29th most polluted in the nation for smog.  In regards to ozone, they gave us a grade of 'F'.   

Breathing smog is harmful to your lungs, and is a leading cause of respiratory problems including asthma.  Smog-induced asthma has outsized consequences for our most vulnerable community members, including children and the elderly.  In my pediatric allergy practice, I hear stories of families who literally keep their children inside during the summer months, particularly on air quality alert days, in order to try to stave off an asthma attack.  This is a very sad state of affairs.

Modern smog is mostly created by vehicular emissions and the burning of coal.  Out of curiosity - how many of you walk to complete your errands or to work regularly?  

As many of you know - Nashville is a car city and a significant proportion of our smog is due to this fact.  Our lack of walkability hinders us - but, with enough Nashvillians asking our politicians - we could have a significantly improved sidewalk network and get our citizens to park that car and walk for the benefit of all.  

We need to also address the burning of coal.  Coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution than any other industrial pollution source.  An F is an unacceptable grade.  Current smog rules were set long ago at a level universally recognized by the medical community to be insufficient for protecting the public’s health.   The good news is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing rules that would significantly strengthen protections against smog.  I support and urge you all to support the EPA setting the most protective standard that would cut all of our exposure to poor air quality by 95% compared to the current standard.  If not for you, do it for the friend or family member you have with asthma.


Link:  Noted that my writing on sidewalks was cut from this piece - but readers of Shade Parade Nashville & contributors to The Sidewalk Foundation will know that this is my main focus.

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