Be Mindful of Air Pollution from Gas Stoves on Thanksgiving

During the Thanksgiving holiday, Americans eat turkey, take naps, and watch sports. They probably aren’t thinking about how much they use their kitchen stove to cook a holiday meal – but they should.

If you’re one of the over 79% of Illinoisans who cook with gas, you should know that it’s the biggest source of air pollution inside your home. The dangerous fumes it emits will build up inside the home over the course of the day. In fact, Thanksgiving might be the worst home indoor air quality day.

Burning gas creates deadly fine particulate matter, a pollutant the EPA says is more dangerous than they previously thought based on peer-reviewed scientific research published over the last several years. Using cooking gas also creates nitrogen dioxide gas as a byproduct of combustion, and it’s a powerful lung irritant and asthma trigger. One study published in 2022 found gas stoves might explain over 20% of asthma cases in Illinois.

So, if you’re the one cooking for the crowd this year, what can you do to protect yourself and all those house guests?

  • Use the vent fan. If the hood vent fan over your stove sucks the fumes and exhausts them outside your home whenever the stove is on, use it while you are cooking. It won’t get rid of all the pollution, but it will definitely reduce the pollution you breathe.
  • Open a window. Many vent hoods just capture grease and circulate air back into the kitchen. Those won’t do anything at all to reduce the dangerous gases and microscopic particles coming out of your stove. In that case, open a window to let some fresh air in and allow the indoor pollution to escape.

All of the other home gas appliances, such as the furnace, water heater, and dryer, are all vented to the outside for a reason.

In the longer term, you might want to explore options for replacing your gas stove. Soon states will be offering large rebates to help people replace gas appliances with safer, cleaner, and more efficient electric alternatives. Those programs will include rebates of up to $840 for a cool-to-the-touch electric induction stove or cooktop. Additional rebates are available for needed electrical work if you don’t have an outlet for an electric stove. Utilities like ComEd currently offer a $100 rebate for an electric induction stove.

Whichever ways you choose to celebrate, we hope you have a safe and healthy holiday!

RHA and Partners Awarded Federal Grant to Improve Air Quality by Reducing Transportation Emissions

CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association (RHA), in partnership with ComEd, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories, announced it has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive one of just seven awards made nationally through the federal Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) initiative.

The $500,000 federal award will support regional efforts to understand and inform strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost the adoption of all-electric transportation options. Over the next three years, grant partners will conduct research and modeling to better understand the types and the scale of action needed to lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

“Reducing air pollution from motor vehicles will benefit everyone who breathes—not just people living with asthma and other chronic lung diseases,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “The positive impact of this project will be felt throughout the Midwest, and particularly in poorer communities where vehicular traffic is disproportionately heavy.”

Nationwide, transportation is now the largest single source of planet-warming gases, and transportation accounts for 32% of northeastern Illinois’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, further complicated by the Chicago region’s role as a freight and logistics hub. Recent studies reveal that the transition to electric vehicles in Illinois has the potential to provide significant health benefits, with RHA finding as many as 400 premature deaths in Illinois each year due to air pollution from diesel engine emissions alone.

Learn more about the C2C award partnership.

RHA Hosts 27th Annual CowaLUNGa™ Charity Bike Tour to Fight Lung Disease

July 14, 2023 – Chicago, IL – Hundreds of riders will participate in the 27th annual CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour taking place July 29-31, 2023, while raising funds for Respiratory Health Association.

CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour starts at Gurnee Mills Mall in Gurnee, IL and offers a one-day ride (18 or 65 miles), a two-day ride (130 miles) or a three-day ride (190 miles) pedaling over rolling hills through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin. Riders who can’t start on Saturday, July 29, can join the ride on Sunday, July 30 in William’s Bay, WI for a one-day Century Ride. Other stops include Whitewater, WI, before ending on Day Three at Hubertus, WI.

“So many of us have loved ones living with lung disease,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “This event is a great way to make a difference in fighting one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.”

Many riders this year indicated they have been affected by lung disease or lung health concerns such as asthma, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, smoking, COPD, or cystic fibrosis.

Along the way, riders experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

To sign up, please visit RespHealth.org/Cow.

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About Respiratory Health Association
RHA has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change.

RHA Remains Vigilant as COVID-19 Federal Public Health Emergency Expires

May 10, 2023 – Chicago, IL – Tomorrow marks the end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19, declared under Section 319 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act.

As the world transitions into this new stage, it is important to recognize the pandemic is not over. We are simply no longer in an emergency phase. However, we can keep the COVID-19 virus in check. We need to remain vigilant as the possibility remains that new variants will emerge and need to be addressed.

“The lessons of the pandemic should not be forgotten,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “Good hand washing, masking in crowds, and social distancing when you have symptoms remain important preventive measures to stop the spread of viruses.”

Even in a non-emergency phase, the U.S. is still on pace towards 55,000 COVID-19 deaths this year, which is the equivalent of a severe flu season.

Public health officials remain most concerned about the population of people 65 years of age and older. These individuals, and those who are immunocompromised, should continue to receive their COVID-19 booster vaccinations.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

RHA Hosts 26th Hustle Chicago® Stair Climb to Support the Local Fight Against Lung Disease

February 26, 2023 – Chicago, IL – Over 1,500 people climbed to the top of an iconic Chicago skyscraper when Respiratory Health Association hosted its 26th Hustle Chicago® stair climb on Sunday, February 26. Climbers took the stairwells up 875 N. Michigan Ave. to raise awareness and funds for local lung health and clean air programs.

“Since the event began in 1998, nearly 70,000 climbers have helped raise over $19 million for Respiratory Health Association,” said Joel Africk, President & CEO. “These funds support our mission to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change.”

Every year, Hustle Chicago climbers ascend 1,632 steps and 94 floors. The 2023 event includes climbers from 26 states ranging from 6 to 81 years old. The average climb time for the Full Climb of 94 floors is 26 minutes.

Nearly 650 climbers this year indicated they have been affected by lung disease or lung health concerns such as asthma, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, smoking, COPD, or cystic fibrosis.

“Every year we celebrate the incredible climbers not only for their accomplishment making it to the top, but also the impact they have on those living with lung disease,” commented Africk. “Their participation and fundraising support the fight against asthma, COVID-19, COPD, lung cancer and other lung diseases.”

The climb finishes at the 360Chicago Observation Deck, featuring panoramic views of the city and its historic lakefront. The Hearn Company owns and operates the 875 N. Michigan Ave. building.

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Respiratory Health Association (RHA) has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research and policy change. To learn more, visit www.resphealth.org.

Smoke Free Illinois 15 Years Later – More Change is Needed

February 8, 2023 – Chicago, IL – January 2023 marks 15 years since the Smoke Free Illinois Act went into effect, banning smoking in public spaces across the state. This law has saved an estimated 37,000 lives in Illinois, helped reduce heart attacks and other health problems, and saved millions of dollars in healthcare costs. And the law has helped place Illinois on the path to a generation of children who have grown up in a smoke-free world.

“How often in our lives do we have an opportunity to save a life—let alone thousands of lives?” commented Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Respiratory Health Association (RHA), which advocated for the passage of Smoke Free Illinois. “That’s why we continue this fight to keep tobacco out of the hands of our children and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.” Currently, RHA is working to add e-cigarettes to the Smoke Free Illinois Act and to restrict the sales of flavored tobacco products that are marketed to youth.

Tobacco advocates highlight the need for public health funding to support their efforts. Illinois currently ranks 39th in the US in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Only 7.4% of the $220 million Illinois receives annually in Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement is being used to support tobacco control programs.

The need is greater than ever to strengthen vaping restrictions and increase programming to protect our youth from the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

RHA Statement on U.S. EPA Proposed Fine Particle Health Standard

Sign our letter to tell the U.S. EPA to set a stronger fine particle standard!

January 27, 2023 – Chicago, IL – On January 6th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was proposing changes to the federal health standard for fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), one of the most widespread and deadly pollutants in the United States. Despite our hope that an objective view of the collected scientific record would result in a proposed standard truly protective of public health, particularly for the most vulnerable people and communities, Respiratory Health Association was disappointed by the content of EPA’s announcement.

It is abundantly clear that the EPA-favored proposal would simply leave too much deadly soot in the air people breathe. While the scope of the new proposal is an improvement over the current standard, it favors setting a health standard that is too lax by leaning away from limiting pollution to levels that would save nearly 20,000 lives additional lives a year.

Based on the collected scientific knowledge and independent expert opinion, Respiratory Health Association believes this air quality health standard must be tightened to the greatest extent possible under consideration, specifically 8 micrograms/m3 on an annual basis and 25 micrograms/m3 on a 24-hour basis.

This issue is literally one of life and death. Breathing fine particulate matter in the air is literally a death sentence for thousands of Americans every year. Legally allowing this pollution to remain at levels that will continue to add to this tragedy would be not only irresponsible of EPA but patently unjust for the low-income and minority communities now seeing both the highest levels of pollution and the consequent disproportionate health and life impacts.

Americans deserve clean air and that right should not be constrained by the wishes of polluters to continue to emit harmful material into the air. EPA Administrator Regan will make the final call on what EPA’s new health standard will be for deadly fine particulate matter this year. We strongly encourage him to set the tightest standard possible to protect the health of all Americans and prevent the greatest number of premature deaths, particularly for those living with and at risk of developing lung disease.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

Chicago City Council Ordinance Will Strengthen Restrictions on Youth Vaping

January 23, 2023 – Chicago, IL – On January 18th, 2023, the Chicago City Council amended the Tobacco Retail License Ordinance, putting in place new restrictions and licensing requirements for vape shops. Specifically, new Chicago businesses that receive more than 20 percent of their gross revenue from the sale, in any combination, of electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine products, or electronic cigarette accessories will now be required to obtain a special city license. The ordinance also prevents new licenses for tobacco retail businesses within 1,000 feet of any existing retail tobacco store.

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the City of Chicago’s decision to strengthen regulation of these harmful tobacco products,” commented Joel Africk, RHA’s President & Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to fight to reduce the burden of tobacco-related lung illnesses in our communities and to restrict youth access to vaping products.”

Years of strong city and state policies have reduced cigarette use among Chicago high school students by nearly 82% in the past five years. But this success is threatened by a concurrent 56% increase in vaping. Tobacco control programs must also deal with very limited support from the State. Illinois ranks 39th in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, with only 7.4% of its annual $220 million in Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds going toward these programs.

The need is greater than ever to strengthen vaping restrictions and increase programming to protect our youth from the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

Respiratory Health Association Statement on West Virginia v. EPA Decision

The Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA is disappointing and poses an immediate environmental and health threat to communities across the country.

By undermining the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate harmful greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the Court has stifled a regulatory process that had worked for decades to reduce air pollution, curb climate change, and protect people’s health. This ruling particularly hurts people living with lung disease and communities that have long-faced disproportionate amounts of air pollution. Going forward, people in communities like these will bear the brunt of major polluters nearby – breathing dirty air that increases their risk for lung disease. These communities already suffer disproportionately high rates of asthma, COPD, and heart disease, and this ruling will only widen these disparities.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) will continue to work with states such as Illinois – which passed the historic Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021 – to implement clean renewable energy policies and look to leaders like Gov. Pritzker to address diesel vehicle pollution. Ensuring Illinois joins other leading states by adopting the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) Rule and Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) rules will dramatically reduce deadly threats from diesel tailpipe exhaust.

Respiratory Health Association remains committed to advocating clean air and lung health on behalf of people everywhere, and will continue to fight for a future where everyone can breathe clean air.

Dr. Laura Feemster Receives 2022 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Laura Feemster, MD, MS, from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington, as recipient of the 2022 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD. Dr. Feemster accepted the award from Kathleen Hart Solovy as part of RHA’s 2022 Summer Reception on June 30 in Chicago.

The award is funded by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD, and recognizes researchers who have worked to improve the lives of people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“I am deeply humbled and honored to join such a distinguished group of prior awardees, whose notable accomplishments in advancing healthcare for patients living with COPD demonstrates the significance of this award,” Feemster noted. “To accept this honor is truly a highlight of my professional career and I look forward to continuing to help positively impact the lives of people living with COPD and their loved ones.”

Dr. Feemster’s work in COPD focuses on improving health care delivery to patients with COPD – including increasing the use of evidence-based treatments, but also in reducing the use of treatments that are not beneficial and sometimes even harmful.

“Many people living with COPD have severe shortness of breath that limits what they are able to do, or they suffer from frequent flare-ups that lead to hospitalization,” continued Feemster. “While medications and therapies are available that can help improve quality of life and decrease these flare-ups, COPD patients often do not receive these important therapies or receive the wrong therapies. Identifying these gaps and developing interventions to improve the quality of COPD care has the potential to greatly improve the daily lives of the millions of people living with COPD.”

Dr. Feemster is the seventh recipient of the Solovy Award, which was established in 2016. Dr. Nadia Hansel, Director of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was the most recent award recipient. Her ongoing research focuses on the social causes of health-related risk factors for COPD including poverty, obesity, diet, and indoor air pollution.

“We are excited to recognize Dr. Feemster for her work on behalf of COPD patients and look forward to following her research efforts,” said Joel Africk, RHA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “COPD has claimed too many of our family members, friends, and colleagues, and we need to do more for those who are affected by this disease. We are reminded that funding for COPD research is much less than other common chronic diseases, and RHA is forever grateful to Kathleen Hart Solovy for her investment in COPD research.”in bb

Each year Respiratory Health Association also awards early-stage research grants to promising projects covering lung diseases such as lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and COPD. Learn more about RHA’s research program and funding opportunities.