Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act Becomes Law

For Immediate Release

September 15, 2021

Contact: Erica Krutsch

[email protected]

Respiratory Health Association Applauds Signing of Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (Senate Bill 2408)

 Legislation invests in clean energy, electric transportation in historic win for clean air and lung health

CHICAGO –After more than three years of advocacy and grassroots organizing by Respiratory Health Association (RHA) and partners across the state in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, today Governor Pritzker signed into law a nation-leading equitable climate bill.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act sets Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy by 2050 and commits millions of dollars to quickly accelerate transportation electrification in Illinois.

Following the Governor’s signing, RHA released the following statement:

“Respiratory Health Association applauds Governor Pritzker on today’s signing of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. Illinois is now poised to lead the nation in building a strong, sustainable future with an energy plan that addresses the public health threat of pollution from fossil fuels, takes steps to support communities most impacted by poor air quality, and creates quality jobs.

The energy and transportation industries are the leading contributors to air pollution, including particulate matter pollution and smog. Not only do these emissions accelerate climate change, but they have a significant impact on our health.

More than 137 million Americans live in communities, both cities and rural areas, with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Recent research indicates that worldwide more than eight million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution. Air pollution is also linked to increased risk for lung cancer and chronic lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

We would like to thank Governor Pritzker, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and other legislative champions in addition to thousands of diverse advocates who have joined us in advocating for clean energy, clean air, and healthy lungs for more than three years.”

Dr. Nadia Hansel Receives 2021 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Nadia Hansel, MD, MPH, as recipient of the 2021 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD. Dr. Hansel is the Director of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The award is funded by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD. It recognizes researchers who have worked to improve the lives of people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Through the award, Dr. Hansel and her team will work to address the disparities and hospitalization burden of people living with COPD.

More than 16 million Americans live with COPD, a disease that makes breathing difficult and may lead to other conditions. Millions more have early symptoms.

Dr. Hansel has published over 200 articles and has been involved in local, national, and international educational activities focused on COPD. She researches the genetics and environmental factors of COPD and, in addition to her own work, serves as a mentor to investigators who are also dedicated to advancing the knowledge of COPD. A major focus of her work is the study of social causes of health-related risk factors for COPD including poverty, obesity, diet, and indoor air pollution. This is especially important as COPD has been traditionally considered a smoking-related illness, with other possible risk factors not fully addressed. Her work has also produced groundbreaking research showing indoor air cleaners may improve symptoms and reduce the risk of COPD flare-ups.

The impact of Dr. Hansel’s research is significant – and is a reminder that lung disease research is historically underfunded. Every year Respiratory Health Association 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.

Watch our 2021 Solovy Award spotlight:

New Report Shows Higher Rates of Lung Disease Near Chicago’s Busiest Transit Bus Routes

For Immediate Release

September 11, 2020

Contact:

Brian Urbaszewski

[email protected]

312-405-1175

New Report Shows Higher Rates of Lung Disease Near Chicago’s Busiest Transit Bus Routes

Data Highlight Urgent Need for Electrification Across City’s Fleet

CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association (RHA) and University of Chicago Center for Spatial Data Science (CSDS) released findings of a year-long study indicating higher rates of asthma and COPD near several bus routes and garage locations across the city of Chicago. The study, which referenced data from Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to examine lung disease prevalence in relation to Chicago’s bus routes.

The report analyzed 125 permanent CTA bus routes, classifying seven routes with an average of at least 20,000 riders per day and covering at least seven miles as high-traffic routes. Researchers found residents living within 500 meters (about 1600 feet) of these routes had asthma rates of 11.08%, which is 8.4% greater than the overall city rate. Those living within 500 meters of these routes had a 6.69% COPD rate, 10.6% higher than overall rate across the city. Additionally, residents living closest to any of the CTA’s seven bus garages had asthma rates more than 12% greater than the citywide average and COPD rates 23.6% greater than the citywide average.

“We already know that the air pollution produced by vehicles, including the diesel-powered buses which make up most of the CTA’s current fleet, is dangerous for people’s lungs,” commented Joel Africk, RHA President and Chief Executive Officer. “The higher rates of asthma and COPD along those busy routes – where residents are some of the most vulnerable in the city – show how important it is to replace diesel buses with electric models to improve air quality and protect everyone’s health.”

The report includes recommendations for priority routes to place electric vehicles as well as potential funding sources to support needed infrastructure. It was provided to CTA officials as part of its ongoing strategic planning efforts, which also include plans to reduce pollution produced by city transit vehicles. In 2019, Mayor Lightfoot’s transition team endorsed a goal of fully electrifying the CTA bus fleet and the Chicago City Council passed a resolution supporting complete electrification of CTA by 2040.

“Identifying socially vulnerable areas at greater risk of pollution exposure remains an important area of future research in the work of environmental justice and reducing health disparities,” noted Marynia Kolak, Assistant Director for Health Informatics at the Center for Spatial Data Science. “While these associations are complex, reducing the transit dimension of traffic pollution via electrification is a critical need for the city.”

“Federal, state, and local elected officials need to dedicate the resources needed for the Chicago Transit Authority to accelerate the city’s transition to electric buses,” Africk continued, “so residents – especially those living with lung disease – can enjoy the important health benefits cleaner transportation provides.”

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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.

Teen Vaping Rates Soar as Researchers Find COVID-19 Link

Teen Vaping Rates Soar as Researchers Find Link to COVID-19 Infection

CDC Study Shows Urgent Need for Federal, State, and Local Action to Reduce Youth E-Cigarette Use

Contact: Erica Krutsch, Director, Marketing & Communications
734-262-4527 | [email protected]

Chicago, IL – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new findings on youth tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, as part of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The survey found that nationally 32.7% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019. That number represents a 148% increase since 2017. In Illinois, the survey found nearly 20% of high school students used vaping products, a 51% increase, and in Chicago, 12.4% of high schoolers vaped, which is an 88% increase.32.7% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019

“The data show that Illinois and Chicago have made more progress in addressing the teen vaping crisis than some areas of the country, but there is still work to be done,” says Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer at Respiratory Health Association, a Chicago-based lung health organization. “We know e-cigarettes are dangerous, and we need to do everything in our power to prevent a generation of kids from starting.”

The CDC findings come less than two weeks after a Stanford University study found that young people who smoke or use e-cigarettes are five times more likely to contract coronavirus than nonsmokers. Preliminary research also suggests that smokers infected with COVID-19 are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, need mechanical ventilation, or die compared to non-smokers.

“Emerging research has already shown that e-cigarette use may increase coronavirus infection and cause more severe cases of lung disease – and we are only beginning to understand the lasting health impacts of this virus,” commented Ravi Kalhan, MD, Director, Asthma and COPD Program at Northwestern University and RHA board member. “Just a year after we first saw unprecedented cases of lung illness related to vaping, and now facing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially concerning to see a growing number of teens are putting themselves at risk by using e-cigarettes.”

Respiratory Health Association advocates strengthening state and local indoor clean air laws to include e-cigarette and vaping use and banning flavored tobacco products that entice young people to start smoking as meaningful ways to curb teen vaping.

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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. 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. For more information, visit resphealth.org.

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.

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.

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.”

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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.

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.

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.

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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. 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.

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.

Illinois Becomes 8th State in the U.S. to Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

For Immediate Release:

March 14, 2019

Contact: Erica Krutsch

Desk – 312-628-0225

Legislation Passes General Assembly, Awaits Governor Signature

CHICAGO – On Thursday, March 14, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to raise the tobacco purchase age across the state to 21 from 18. The bill passed the House on Tuesday, March 12 before moving on to the Senate Thursday where it passed with bipartisan support. The policy, often referred to as Tobacco 21, aims to reduce youth smoking by removing legal tobacco purchasers from teen social circles.

“We know that 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. And we know that the tobacco industry actively targets young people,” said Joel Africk, president and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “Tobacco 21 will help keep cigarettes and vaping products out of our schools and give our children the chance to live healthier lives.”

Growing support for Tobacco 21 had previously led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws covered approximately 30 percent of the state’s population. A recent study, conducted by Fako and Associates, showed that two out of three adults in Illinois support Tobacco 21, a figure that is even higher among current and former smokers.

Each year tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. RHA estimates that the law would save Illinois $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses. Additionally, 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.

RHA would like to thank Senator Julie Morrison for her role as the lead senate sponsor and Representative Camille Lilly for her role as the lead house sponsor.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. RHA looks forward to Governor Pritzker’s signing of the legislation.

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 Respiratory Health Association (RHA) works to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. RHA serves as Healthy Chicago’s community co-leader for tobacco control and offers evidence-based tobacco control strategies and smoking cessation programs throughout Illinois. Respiratory Health Association played a leading role in the passage of Smoke-Free Illinois and has been a strong advocate for statewide adoption of Tobacco 21 in Illinois. To learn more, visit www.resphealth.org.