Air Pollution Action Day Called for June 18

Air Pollution Levels to Bring Widespread Unhealthy Air Quality Throughout Chicago Area on Thursday
Air Pollution Exposure a Risk Factor for COVID-19

June 16, 2020 – Chicago, IL — Respiratory Health Association is alerting the public that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is declaring an Air Pollution Action Day for Thursday, June 18 in the Chicago metro area – including the city, north, south and west suburbs. Adjacent areas in Wisconsin and Indiana are also expected to see elevated air pollution levels. Groups who are sensitive to air pollution, including children, elderly people, people who work outdoors, and those living with lung disease should take appropriate precautions.

Warm, summer-like temperatures will lead to increased ground-level ozone (smog) on Wednesday, causing air quality to potentially reach the ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups’ level or higher across much of the region. To avoid possible breathing problems related to breathing ozone smog, people in sensitive groups, especially those living with lung diseases like asthma and COPD, should try to limit outdoor activity, stay cool and comfortable – preferably in an air-conditioned area—limit strenuous physical activity, and stay hydrated.

Employers and residents of the Chicago metropolitan area are asked to follow “green actions” like those described below to help reduce air pollution on Wednesday. These groups are also encouraged to share air quality forecasts and Action Day alerts with colleagues, friends, and family to help protect their health.

• Limit driving if you can — consider walking, biking, or working from home if possible.
• If driving, avoid idling, and try to run errands after 7 pm when sunlight is not as strong.
• Avoid using gasoline-powered equipment on Air Pollution Action Days.
• Set your thermostat up 2 degrees to limit air pollution from fossil fuel power plants.
• Turn off and unplug electronics not in use.
• Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
• Sign-up to receive air quality forecasts via email at www.enviroflash.info.

High air pollution levels are additionally concerning now, as people exposed to higher pollution levels may be at greater risk of getting sick with COVID-19. This may exacerbate infection rates in communities of color already disproportionally harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. People living in these communities also face higher rates of lung diseases such as asthma.

For more information or to talk about the health impacts of air pollution on communities throughout the Chicago area, please contact Brian Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association. He is available by e-mail at [email protected] or via phone at 312-405-1175.

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 resphealth.org.

A Statement on Racial Justice

To the Respiratory Health Association community,

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor have sparked outrage, sadness, and fear across the country. These tragic, preventable deaths and countless others lay bare the persistent racial inequities in our society – inequities that represent a crisis for public health.

Respiratory Health Association supports the protesters and those who are speaking out for racial justice.

To say anything else betrays our guiding principles and vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all. We cannot achieve health equity without addressing the systemic racism that is so deeply rooted in our country. As we watch current events unfold during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded that the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on black and brown communities and is simply the latest in a long list of inequities.

As we stand together demanding change, we must not confuse the actions of those seeking justice and systemic reform with the opportunistic actions of others seeking to harm the movement. Confusing those narratives only adds injustice to injustice.

We appreciate the seriousness of the challenges facing our country and support the work of the many organizations working on the front lines for racial equality, including many such organizations here in Chicago.

Sincerely,

Joel Africk
President & CEO
Respiratory Health Association

We Teamed Up With Fleet Feet and On to Give Back to Front-Line Healthcare Workers

Fleet Feet, Respiratory Health Association deliver 250 pairs of On running shoes to Chicago front-line medical workers

Donation provides comfort to staff at three area hospitals during COVID-19 response

CHICAGO, IL, May 06, 2020 – Fleet Feet, a leading retailer of athletic footwear and apparel; Respiratory Health Association, Chicago’s local lung health nonprofit; and On, innovators in shoe design technology, have teamed up to deliver more than 250 pairs of running shoes to front-line healthcare workers.

Shoes were delivered to healthcare staff at Northwestern Medicine, University of Chicago Medicine, and Loyola Medical Center this week. The deliveries coincided with the start of National Nurses Week and Nurse Appreciation Month.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the generous donation from On and collaboration with Fleet Feet that we hope provides some measure of comfort to medical staff in Chicago,” says Joel Africk, President & CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “We have to do everything we can to face this crisis as a united community, and this is a great example of everyone chipping in.”

“The medical profession is being asked to do more now than it ever has in our recent history. If they are doing more, we can do more to support them,” says Dave Zimmer, Owner, Fleet Feet. “We are fortunate to be working with On to provide footwear to hardworking respiratory therapists, doctors and nurses at local hospitals.”

“We are deeply appreciative of our medical heroes in Chicago and across the world as they continue the fight against COVID-19,” says Britt Olsen, On’s GM of North America. “They are risking their lives every day on the frontlines of this crisis and at On we felt the least we could do is help provide comfortable footwear during the many hours they’re spending on their feet. We also owe a huge thanks to Fleet Feet for collaborating with us in this donation process.”

Since 1906, Respiratory Health Association has helped address Chicago’s greatest lung health challenges – from tuberculosis and influenza to asthma and lung cancer. COVID-19 is the latest challenge. Respiratory Health Association empowers patients and protects the most vulnerable through education, advocacy and research.

Fleet Feet has been a sponsor of Respiratory Health Association’s annual Hustle Chicago® stair climb for more than twenty years. The event is held each February and has raised more than $17 million to support the local fight against lung disease.

Fleet Feet is committed to finding shoes with the perfect fit for runners, walkers, fitness enthusiasts—and now medical professionals—across Chicagoland.

CARES Act Offers New Opportunities to Support Non-Profit Organizations

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The new law provides more than $2 trillion in funding to help individuals and businesses affected by the new coronavirus. The CARES Act also provides additional support for non-profit organizations as they continue important mission work in communities across the country.

One notable element of this non-profit support is a series of tax incentives for charitable giving.  People who make donations to eligible non-profit organizations in 2020 can benefit from some of these temporary changes. What does this mean if you are thinking about donating to a charity like Respiratory Health Association?

  • You can donate up to $300 and make a one-time deduction from your 2021 tax return. You do not have to itemize these deductions.
  • If you itemize charitable giving when filing taxes, there will not be a limit to how much you can deduct on your 2021 return. This was previously capped at 60 percent of your adjusted gross income.
  • Companies can now deduct up to 25 percent of their charitable gifts and food donations made during 2020.
  • The law removes required minimum distributions from retirement plans. However, you can still make charitable gifts from these accounts to reduce your taxable income for 2020.

We understand many are experiencing hardship during these times, but if you are in a position to donate, we need your help. Individual gifts to Respiratory Health Association support programs helping those living with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. As you may know, people with these conditions are at a greater risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19. To address these concerns, we continue to expand our resources for vulnerable populations during the pandemic.

We have developed guides about COVID-19 and COPD and asthma. And we’ve created updated information about smoking as a risk factor for severe effects from the coronavirus and updated tips to help you quit smoking or vaping. We’re also working to assess and meet the needs of pulmonary rehabilitation leaders and provide at-home resources for patients who are unable to attend in-person rehabilitation sessions.

If you’d like to support RHA’s work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, you can donate here. If you have questions about ways to give to RHA, click here or e-mail Anastasia Schriber at [email protected].

Please note this information on the CARES Act and non-profit support is not intended as legal advice. Please refer to a financial professional for questions you may have.

New Report on Air Quality Highlights Urgency for Clean Energy Across Illinois

For Immediate Release:

January 28, 2020

Contact:

Brian Urbaszewski
[email protected]
312-405-1175

Chicago, Springfield, Peoria and Metro East regions Experienced More Than 100 Days of Polluted Air in 2018

CHICAGO – Ahead of Gov. Pritzker’s annual State of the State address to the General Assembly, a new report shows the urgent need to pass clean air legislation in Illinois, with the metropolitan Chicago region and other areas of Illinois continuing to struggle with high levels of air pollution.

The report, Trouble in the Air from Environment Illinois Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and Illinois PIRG Education Fund, details continuing national challenges with air pollution that will only be made worse with increasing global warming. Air pollution increases the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts. The report shows that nearly 9.5 million people in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro region lived through more than 100 days of moderate air pollution or worse. Peoria, Springfield and the Metro East St. Louis region also saw more than 100 days of poor air quality in 2018. The new national statistics from 2018 used in the report represent the most recent data available.

“Instead of undermining clean air protections, our government – at all levels – should be taking every opportunity to clean up the air we breathe,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association. “Since electricity generation and transportation are the most polluting sectors of our economy and that pollution is killing hundreds of people a year in Illinois, we need to transition to clean renewable power sources like wind and solar, while accelerating the use of electric cars, buses and transit that eliminate tailpipe pollution in Illinois communities.” He noted that the Clean Energy Jobs Act being considered in Springfield is the only legislation that addresses both clean energy transitions and the need to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathed Polluted Air in 2018, researchers reviewed Environmental Protection Agency air pollution records from across the country. The report focuses on ground-level ozone and fine particulate pollution, which are harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline, natural gas, and from other sources.

From “Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathed Polluted Air in 2018.” Table ES-1. Ten most populated metropolitan areas with more than 100 days of elevated air pollution in 2018.

“Clean air is not a prescription any physician can write, yet it is a much needed treatment,” said Dr. Neelima Tummala, clinical assistant professor of surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “While the profound consequences on human health are alarming, what gives me hope is that studies show that improved air quality can mitigate these health effects.” Dr. Tummala noted, for example, that studies show that a long-term improvement in air quality can lead to improved lung function in children and decreased incidence of asthma.

The report’s troubling findings come at a time when the federal government is further endangering air quality by dismantling protections under the Clean Air Act.

“The data show that America’s existing air quality standards aren’t doing enough to protect our health,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “As the climate warms, higher temperatures and more severe wildfires increase air pollution and the threat to human health.”

Recommendations in the report include calling on policymakers at all levels of government to reduce emissions from transportation, support clean renewable energy, and expand climate-friendly transportation options with more transit, bike lanes and walkways. The study also calls on the federal government to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards, and support strong clean car standards instead of rolling them back.

“No Illinois resident should have to experience one day of polluted air – let alone over 100 days a year,” said Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “Air quality will only get worse as our climate warms, so we have no time to lose. We must make progress toward clean air.”

###

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.

Illinois PIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful interests that threaten our health, safety, and wellbeing.

What You Need to Know About the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

An Update on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updated 05/21/20

  • CDC has provided new guidelines for re-opening public spaces as nationwide restrictions begin to ease. For additional CDC guidance on activities during the COVID-19 outbreak click here
  • People with underlying medical conditions including chronic lung diseases (like asthma and COPD) are more likely to suffer severe effects of the illness, and should continue taking additional precautions to avoid getting sick.  
  • Individuals should continue to follow guidance from local public health authorities; social distancing and proper hygiene will continue to help slow the spread of COVID-19 while treatments and a vaccine are developed. 

A new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 continues to spread, with cases throughout countries worldwide.

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will develop mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. However, people who are more susceptible to infection may develop more severe disease. The most common symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Some patients may also have aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestions, sore throat or diarrhea. The symptoms are very similar to the seasonal flu virus. Symptoms have appeared anywhere from two to 14 days after contact with the virus. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications yet approved to treat it. If you experience these symptoms, visit a health care provider to determine the cause of your sickness as soon as possible and try to avoid contact with others.

If you live in Illinois and think you may need a COVID-19 test, learn more and find a local testing site here. If you are outside of Illinois, check with your state’s public health department for more information on testing in your area.

There are a number of ways to reduce your risk of infection and prevent further spread. It’s recommended you:

  • Get a flu shot if you have not already. While this won’t prevent COVID-19, it can help you avoid the flu so your immune system is better able to cope with other illnesses.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer which kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
  • Contact a health care provider and stay home if you have symptoms.

If you live with lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, taking steps to avoid getting sick is especially important as viruses can worsen these conditions or lead to additional lung illnesses. For people at higher risk of serious illness, like those living with chronic lung diseases, the CDC has developed additional recommendations:

1. Maintain at least a 30-day supply of your prescribed medications. Check with your insurance provider for refill terms.

2. Stock up on every day supplies in your home.

4. Establish a COVID-19 hygiene routine for people entering home (i.e using hand sanitizer, handwashing, etc.), but try to avoid contact with others as much as possible especially if a COVID-19 outbreak is identified in your community.

5. If home health nurses or aides assist you with household tasks, ask what steps they are taking to ensure prevention practices are in place.

6. Avoid large crowds, cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

7. When you go out in public, stay away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.

In response to continued spread of the virus to new countries, especially those with more vulnerable populations, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the outbreak an international public health emergency

For U.S. residents, the CDC says current risk depends on exposure to the virus, which is known to spread person-to person. It is important to know the signs and symptoms and take steps to prevent infection when the outbreak reaches the U.S. Limiting person-to-person spread by following the steps above can lessen its impact while the CDC learns more about about how it affects people.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) will continue to monitor and provide updates as made available.

For guidance in Spanish, the Chicago Department of Public Health has additional resources. To sign-up to receive alerts from the Illinois Department of Public Health, click here.

FDA’s New E-Cigarette Policy Isn’t Enough to End Youth Vaping Epidemic

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL January 02, 2020 – Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new policies regarding enforcement against certain flavored e-cigarette products. These new policies, however, will fall far short of what is needed to keep teens away from these addictive nicotine products.

By only restricting flavors in cartridge-based products and allowing menthol flavorings to remain on the market in all forms, the FDA is leaving too many ways for Big Tobacco to target and addict kids across the country.

“Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks,” says Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “No level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.”

The vaping industry’s illegal marketing to children has been well documented, and one of the industry’s largest players, JUUL, has been sued by the FDA for making illegal claims about the safety of their products.

“We cannot trust companies profiting off addiction with the health and safety of our nation’s children,” continues Africk.

The FDA’s new policy comes in response to skyrocketing rates of youth e-cigarette use. Currently one out of every four high school students reports using e-cigarettes and the majority report using products in candy and fruit flavors.

###

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906 focusing on lung health and clean air issues. A policy leader, our organization remains 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.

Statement Supporting a Flavored Tobacco Ban and Recall of Vaping Products

Media Contact: Erica Krutsch

Office: 312-628-0225

September 23, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Today, Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) President and CEO Joel Africk called for a flavored tobacco ban and e-cigarette product recall at the Illinois House of Representatives Mental Health Committee hearing on the Vaping Crisis. Africk called for a ban on flavored tobacco products of all types, including e-cigarettes, and the removal of all vaping products from store shelves until it can be determined why eight people have died and hundreds more have been sickened by these products.

At the hearing, Africk gave the following remarks:

This crisis is growing and it’s growing fast. Action is needed now. The federal government is dragging its feet on taking action so we need the State of Illinois to act now to protect against further illness and death.

There is a lack of safety data on either the long-term or short-term health effects of inhaling chemicals previously untested for human consumption. There are known carcinogens contained in the supposedly “harmless” water vapor from e-cigarettes.  There is an epidemic of e-cigarette use among our children, which means we will face yet another generation of nicotine addicts—all at a time that cigarette smoking by children was in sharp decline.

The vaping industry, which is aligned and partly owned by Big Tobacco, has failed to take any decisive and immediate voluntary efforts in the vaping industry to protect the public. Until this crisis, the industry strongly opposed FDA efforts to test the safety of its products pre-market.  And after this crisis arose, at most, there has been a series of measured actions intended to cut off a broader regulatory response. We should not expect anything more from an industry that has deceptively marketed its harmful products.

The only solution given an industry like this is for the government to take decisive action.  First and foremost these products must be pulled from the shelves until we know what’s killing people and making them sick. Then, to prevent further crises, we need a clear set of comprehensive regulations to protect children, adult users of vaping products and the public.  Without such action, this industry will never police itself, and we’ll undoubtedly see the number of deaths and illnesses continue to rise.

###

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains 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, Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit resphealth.org.

Statement Applauding Signing of Statewide Tobacco 21 Law

April 7, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Today Governor J.B. Pritzker made an important stride toward a healthier future for Illinois as he signed a bill into law that raises the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21 years old. Special thanks to Rep. Camille Lilly who sponsored the bill and Senator Julie Morrison who championed the statewide “Tobacco 21” legislation.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work is to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Tobacco 21 laws, like other laws inspired by public health, save thousands of lives a year.  Tobacco 21 in Illinois will reduce youth smoking and, as a result, mean fewer adult smokers, too,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “Ultimately the new law will save more lives than Alcohol 21 and most other public health measures like it.”

Tobacco 21 will yield significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

The new law has been strongly supported by a number youth advocates who joined RHA on advocacy visits and testified at local hearings. “I lost my dad in 2015 when I was 10 to lung disease and lung cancer,” says 14-year-old Ian Piet of Tinley Park. “Because of that, I am supporting tobacco 21 and other measures to help prevent lung disease.”

Respiratory Health Association estimates statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save the lives of more than 24,000 children alive today who otherwise would have died from tobacco-related illness. In addition the policy will save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. A majority of adults in Illinois support the law. Growing support for Tobacco 21 led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.

###

 

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

RHA Calls for Congress to Maintain Tuberculosis Control Funding

Sunday, March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day

CHICAGO, IL – March 22 – On World Tuberculosis Day 2019 Respiratory Health Association, a community public health leader since 1906, is calling for Congress to maintain federal funding levels for tuberculosis prevention and control.

“We know from past experience that when funding decreases, tuberculosis cases increase and spread,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “World Tuberculosis Day is an excellent reminder that we cannot afford to risk the health of our communities by reducing prevention and control funding.”

In 2018, the Chicago Department of Public Health reported 115 cases of tuberculosis –a contagious, airborne illness that impacts the lungs. This figure represents the lowest case count ever recorded. The 115 cases represent a 10 percent decrease over the 128 cases reported in 2017 and a nearly 31 percent reduction from the 166 cases reported in 2011.

“If not treated properly, tuberculosis can be a severe or deadly disease, highlighting the importance of detection, reporting and treatment efforts,” said CDPH Commissioner, Julie Morita MD.  “Sustained funding is necessary in order to protect all Chicago residents from infectious diseases like tuberculosis.”

The decline in cases is likely attributed to effective treatment and containment of new cases. Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria and often spreads when someone infected with the disease coughs or sneezes. Due to the highly contagious nature of tuberculosis, it is critical that every case is treated, contained and documented efficiently.

Respiratory Health Association applauds Chicago Department of Public Health’s work reducing the number of new tuberculosis cases and urges continued diligence.

In 1906, the year Respiratory Health Association was founded as the Chicago Tuberculosis Institute, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death in Chicago and nationally.

The rate of tuberculosis in the United States began to drop in the 1940s and 1950s, as effective treatments were developed, but the disease has continued to be a world health threat, particularly in less developed parts of the world and in the U.S. at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The World Health Organization reports that each year, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to tuberculosis and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.

Contact:

Erica Krutsch, Director of Marketing & Communications

Desk – 312-628-0225

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.