Community Leaders Attend Effects Of The Environment On Public Health Forum

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Pediatric Health Improvement Coalition of the Tennessee Valley held a public education forum with Mayor Andy Berke, mothers, business and doctors on the impact of the environment on public health on Wednesday.

The forum of local experts and community leaders was held to help educate the community by offering  local perspectives on the Monday announcement by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency.  The historic carbon pollution standards set by the Clean Power Plan are designed to protect public health, reduce energy bills for households and businesses, create jobs and bring clean power to communities across America. 

Carbon pollution worsens air quality and is a trigger for asthma attacks and respiratory disease. As Chattanooga asthma rates grow,  community members, Mayor Andy Berke and Dr. Ledbetter of the Pediatric Health Improvement Coalition, discussed the impact of environment on public health.   

Dr. Joel Ledbetter, associate professor of Pediatrics, director of Pediatric Pulmonology, Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, discussed the effects of dangerous carbon pollution and other environmental impacts on asthma, COPD, and lung disease.  

“Children’s lungs are growing and pollution affects their lungs dramatically and we need to be advocates for a clean environment and air,” said Dr. Ledbetter.  "Clean air equals healthy lungs and healthy babies. Poor air quality exacerbates children’s asthma, which causes more visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations. Parents have to take time off work and it hurts public health as well as people financially.” 

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke added,  “We don’t have to choose between healthy communities and a healthy economy - just like we saw growth in Chattanooga after once being the dirtiest city in America, we’ll see strong growth in addressing climate change - and it will protect public health.” 

Michael Walton, Executive Director of the nonprofit Green|Spaces Chattanooga offered, "Empower Chattanooga stands in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution, invests in renewable energy, and boosts energy efficiency. We envision Chattanooga seizing this opportunity to implement the highest energy efficiency standards to lower electricity bills, especially for those least able to pay high utility bills. It is estimated that the Clean Power Plan could save consumers $37.4 billion on their electricity bills by 2030.  Beyond efficiency measures, the Clean Power Plan is an opportunity for all of Tennessee to invest in the renewable energy economy, generating clean, reliable electricity, and creating green energy jobs for all.

"Chattanooga has two great opportunities in the face of climate change. We have a multi-trillion dollar market that we have only started to tap, and while we capitalize on this new market, we can invest it in a city that protects and promotes health, while minimizing negative impacts on the environment.” Empower Chattanooga urges the people of our city and our elected officials to support this important piece of legislation, and use it as an opportunity to propel our city to the forefront of the emerging green energy economy, improved public health, and a just and equal community." 

Concerned parents of children with asthma and community members shared how they are impacted by the changes in the climate and environment, and its effect on health.  

Sarah Steffner, a local mom said, “I have two children, one who is nine and one who is seven, both have allergies and one has severe asthma condition. The first time you see your child have an asthma attack it is terrifying.  When the benefit of your action is your children, you recognize you have to act on climate change.” 

Mother Laura Carpenter said, “My responsibility to protect my children and they don’t deserve to breathe dirty air. Climate change is the greatest danger of our time and we can’t leave this as a problem for future generations. That’s why I support the EPA Clean Power Plan.”


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