By William Hardie, MD and Christopher Siracusa, MD
As physicians specializing in care for children with underlying respiratory diseases, we have deep reservations regarding Ohio’s House Bill 6. This legislation, which we feel is misleadingly termed the “Ohio Clean Air Program”, will repeal Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard which limit our state reliance on coal and natural gas power plants. De-regulating these standards will lead to a significant increase in air pollutants. The World Health Organization in their report on air pollution and child health says that developing fetuses, infants, and children are more biologically vulnerable when exposed to particulate matter and air pollutants emitted during the combustion process of burning fossil fuels. Exposure to air pollutants from these emissions is linked to increased school absenteeism, asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and even higher rates of mortality. Last year, researchers from The University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital demonstrated an association between increased exposure to air pollution during the conception period for pregnant women living in Ohio and increased birth defects.
In a comparative study conducted by WalletHub, Ohio ranked 35th of 50 for the most environmentally friendly state. Moreover, Ohio was in the bottom five when it came to utilization of energy from renewable resources and air quality. Ohio’s poor air quality is made even more apparent in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation’s list of top 20 “asthma capitals” of America, in which Cincinnati, Dayton, Youngstown, Toledo, Cleveland and Akron are named. Furthermore, the American Thoracic Society has identified Cleveland and Cincinnati as two of the top ten cities in America that have the most avoidable mortality and morbidity rate by improving air quality. Ohio has an urgent need for legislation focused on strengthening air quality standards, not repealing them.
Economically, there is even further incentive for improving air quality. The EPA has previously estimated that every dollar invested in reducing air pollution results in thirty dollars of health care savings.
Policies which will improve the air quality are wise and essential investments for everyone’s physical and economic health, which is why Ohio needs to maintain our renewable and efficiency standards. As pediatric pulmonologists and advocates for children’s health, we call on Ohio’s senators to protect Ohioans’ right to clean air by voting NO on House Bill 6.
Dr. Hardie and Dr. Siracusa are pediatric pulmonologists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital