Climate change is also a public health issue in the Northeast

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There is no arguing that current emissions standards help fight climate change by reducing harmful air pollutants (“Easing auto emissions rules would set back CT clean-air efforts,” 3/9/17). But they also have a significant impact on public health.

Today, with fairly robust standards in place, Fairfield County has nearly 1 million people at risk for poor air quality, including over 220,000 children and 135,000 senior citizens.

According to the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report for 2016,  Fairfield is the most polluted county not only in Connecticut, but in the entire Northeast.  Ozone, also known as smog, is one of the worst asthma triggers and the most widespread air pollutant created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other gases.

Ozone pollution can cause immediate health problems that continue days later, such as wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even premature death.  If standards on auto emissions are rolled back, you can bet we’ll see an increase in asthma attacks and lung disease diagnoses.  These are serious public health issues that often result in missed school and work days and millions of dollars in lost wages and emergency care, not to mention a less productive and less healthy Connecticut public.

We are encouraged by Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s efforts to fight climate change head-on, but we need all decision-makers to also recognize that climate change is an urgent threat to public health.

Our politicians, from President Trump on down, should note that climate change is not an issue relegated to environmentalists anymore. It’s now a primary concern for health professionals, parents, educators and all responsible citizens who believe they have the right to breathe clean air.

Jon Rosen is chairman of the board of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

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