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.

BUILDING A HEALTHY FUTURE TOGETHER

Your support made it possible for us to have an impact in communities throughout Illinois and beyond this past year. Together we faced new challenges, found new solutions, and made progress toward a future free of lung disease. As we come to the end of our program year, we want to share some of our work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people with lung disease live better lives.

ASTHMA
In partnership with the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA), we developed a new tool for childcare providers across the state to help children under their care living with asthma. Since its release, more than 2,500 people have viewed the English or Spanish versions.

ENVIRONMENT
After three years of advocacy and leadership with many partner organizations, we helped secure the passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) – a nation-leading equitable climate law. CEJA sets Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy by 2050, and we continue to lead implementation of these efforts – particularly working with lawmakers to accelerate transportation electrification across the state.

AIR POLLUTION
On the heels of a new report identifying serious health risks from diesel pollution in Illinois, we are leading a coalition to secure passage of Advanced Clean Truck rules. This effort, made possible by a grant from the Energy Foundation, would lead to the electrification of heavy-duty trucks – reducing current threats of diesel emissions.

LUNG CANCER
To improve access to lung cancer screenings
for high-risk populations in Illinois, we coordinated with healthcare partners to identify barriers to these screenings. Together, we were able to successfully advocate for $1 million in funding in Illinois to help people learn about and use these services. Expanding access to these preventative services will help identify lung cancer in people most at risk, saving lives along the way.

COVID-19
Thanks to a grant from Will Rogers Institute, we are launching a new project
to develop patient-facing resources about the potential impacts of long COVID. As emerging research continues to document the lasting effects of long COVID, we will be on the front lines of raising awareness about these new challenges and helping people most vulnerable manage their health.

COPD
Caring for a family member or friend living with COPD can be hard. An estimated 16 million people live with COPD and millions more have symptoms but
are not yet diagnosed. This highlights a growing need to support caregivers in the COPD community. In partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Learn More ® Breathe Better™Program, we created an online version of our COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit. Now, informal caregivers across the country can more easily access resources to help navigate the challenges of providing care to their loved ones.

WOMEN’S LUNG HEALTH
One in 6 women lives with lung disease. With remarkable growth of our Catch Your Breath® women’s lung health initiative, we continue to raise awareness about the special risks lung disease poses for women. This year we were able to again partner with CHEST Foundation to fund promising research studying disparities in women’s lung health.

TOBACCO
In partnership with the Illinois Health Practice Alliance, a behavioral health services group with more than 100 clinics serving Medicaid patients in Illinois, we are expanding access to our smoking cessation programs. We trained providers in these clinics on our Counsel to Quit® and Courage to Quit® programs, which they will deliver to people who smoke at some of the highest rates.

RESEARCH
We awarded grants to fund new research into lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and COPD. One of the lung cancer studies from Dr. Maria Lucia Madariagais looking at new techniques to study lung tissue, with the goal of better targeting and improving cancer treatments. Our annual Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD was awarded to support Dr. Laura Feemster’s COPD research efforts at University of Washington.

 

To learn more about the educational programs, research, and policy work your contributions support, as well as to receive updates on our work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, sign-up for our monthly newsletter.

If you’d like to support RHA’s work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people living with lung disease, you can donate here.

New Report Shows Elevated Health Risks from Diesel Engine Pollution in Illinois

Most Heavily Impacted Areas Bear Disproportionate Health Burden

CHICAGO – As rising summer-like temperatures lead to worsening air quality, a new Respiratory Health Association (RHA) report details how harmful pollution from diesel engine exhaust is making the air unhealthy for Illinois residents to breathe. The report, which references data and projections from the Clean Air Task Force (CATF), shows that exhaust from diesel engines will lead to more than 5,000 asthma attacks, nearly 200 heart attacks, and 416 premature deaths across the state in 2023 alone.

“The number of people directly impacted by diesel pollution in Illinois is already staggering,” noted Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s director of environmental health programs. “It’s even more alarming when you see these pollution levels are 21 percent higher than the national average. While Illinois residents comprise 3.8 percent of the U.S. population, the 416 projected deaths in 2023 represent 4.7 percent of total projected deaths nationally.”

The report breaks out health data at the county level for the top 12 counties in Illinois. All are in the top nine percent of counties nationwide for diesel exhaust exposure. The so-called “Dirty Dozen” counties include Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane, Grundy, Kankakee, Kendall, McHenry, Dekalb, Madison and Iroquois. Collectively these counties include 64 percent of Illinois’ population, but see 77 percent of the premature deaths, and 80 to 83 percent of the harmful health effects from residents breathing diesel exhaust.

“The figures in this report are additionally concerning as Illinois’s freight industry and truck production continue to grow – affecting everyone’s breathing, but especially more vulnerable people living in predominantly low-income minority communities near diesel engine magnets,” Urbaszewski continued. “With zero-emission trucks already being built here in Illinois, we need to make sure that clean, non-polluting vehicles stay in Illinois rather than just be exported to other states.”

The report’s release comes one year after the Illinois General Assembly urged Gov. Pritzker to join an agreement with 17 other states promising to increase the number of zero-emission trucks sold in coming years (House Resolution 296, Senate Resolution 293). Known as the Multi-State Medium- and HeavyDuty Zero Emission Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding, the states that have signed on pledged that 30 percent of new large trucks and buses sold in 2030 will be zero-emission, and that 100 percent of those vehicles sold would be zero-emission by 2050. To date, the Governor has yet to commit Illinois to this agreement.

The health impacts presented in the study are solely due to fine particulate matter exposure, which are particles small enough to reach deep into a person’s lungs and bloodstream. While the report looks at pollution exposure at the county level, people who live, work, or go to school closer to places with higher diesel exhaust concentrations, like near highways or freight facilities, are also more likely to have health impacts due to this pollution no matter where they live in Illinois.

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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 resphealth.org.

Media inquiries:

Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs

[email protected]

New Study Reveals Widening Racial Gaps Among Chicago Children with Asthma

Young boy taking an inhaler with a spacer or holding chamber attached

Black children are more than four times as likely to end up in a hospital emergency room due to asthma than white children, according to latest data.

Chicago has long been known as an epicenter for asthma, with higher rates of the disease in minority communities on the city’s south and west sides. A new report examining data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) shows little progress in addressing these disparities, with even more troubling trends among children.

The report, released today by Respiratory Health Association (RHA), focuses on the rates of asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits from 2016 to 2021, and follows up on a report released in 2018. It documents increasing racial health disparities among Chicago children.

Between 2016 and 2021, there were 23,550 asthma-related ED visits among Chicago children 19 years old and younger. Most of those visits, 70% (16,436), were among school age children 5-19 years. In total, Black children accounted for 53% of these 16,436 asthma-related ED visits. In children 4 years old and younger, 40% of visits were by Black children.

“Every child should have the same opportunity to breathe easy, and it’s clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities,” said Joel Africk, RHA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “It’s unfair these kids have to miss out on time with classmates and friends – and fall behind – just because of their asthma.”

While disparities in asthma-related ED visits exist across all races, the greatest gaps are between Black and white children – and that gap increased during the latest reporting period. As of 2021, Black children ages 5 to 19 years old were 4.3 times more likely to have an asthma-related ED visit than white children. This is a 9% increase from the gap previously reported in 2016.

Additionally, there were 3,148 ambulance visits to schools for asthma-related emergencies where race was documented. In these cases, 84% of students requiring an ED visit were Black. Notably, just 36% of Chicago Public School students are Black.

Having an inhaler on hand in school is important for kids with asthma.

“Unfortunately, many Chicago area kids are feeling some of the worst effects from asthma,” noted Erica Salem, Senior Director, Strategy, Programs and Policy at RHA. “It’s crucial to support more research into these racial disparities and expand community- and school-based asthma programming. With the City of Chicago aiming to eliminate racial health disparities, an investment in asthma is long overdue.”

The report’s release comes during Asthma Awareness Month, observed every May to help people learn about the disease and discuss ways to control it. A combination of asthma education and proper treatment have been shown to help kids manage their asthma and live well.

You can read RHA’s full report on childhood asthma disparities in Chicago here.

Respiratory Health Association Hosts 25th Annual Hustle Chicago® Charity Stair Climb

The Hustle Chicago Event will raise funds for lung health and clean air programs throughout the Chicago area and across Illinois

Chicago, IL – May 5, 2022 – More than 900 people will make their way to Soldier Field Sunday, May 15 to support lung health and clean air programs. Hustle Chicago® charity stair climb, formerly known as Hustle Up the Hancock, returns outdoors for a second year while celebrating 25 years of making a difference in the fight against lung disease.

“We are excited to celebrate a milestone year for Hustle, a Chicago tradition that has raised over $22 million for Respiratory Health Association since 1998,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer. “These funds support educational programs that help people living with diseases like asthma and COPD, research into new treatments for lung cancer, and efforts to reduce air pollution in our communities.”

Participants in the climb come from all walks of life and many are personally impacted by lung disease, including Maureen Campbell, a resident of La Grange. Maureen was inspired by her mother’s fight against lung cancer to climb her first Hustle in 2018.

“Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer and the least funded,” says Campbell, who is climbing at her fifth Hustle this year. “I’m still angry that this horrible disease took my mom. She did everything right. I’m fueled by a desire to help people living with lung disease and for more research that can save lives.”

Climbers at Soldier Field will take the stairs in the stadium’s upper level, looping around as many times as they can in 20-minute waves. Each stairway is approximately 104-110 steps, and 7-8 full loops would equal the 1,632 stairs taken at Hustle’s traditional venue, 875 N. Michigan Ave. Climbers and guests will also enjoy a post-climb party under the stadium’s historic columns.

“More than two million people in Illinois live with lung disease, and many more have not yet been diagnosed,” continued Africk. “The Hustle Chicago® stair climb is a great opportunity for people to enjoy a unique venue, get some exercise, and most importantly make an impact on people living with lung disease. It’s always remarkable to see climbers dedicate their time and energy this way.”

People can still support this year’s event by signing up as a virtual climber or by donating to a participant’s fundraising campaign. Learn more at resphealth.org/hustle.

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About Respiratory Health Association 
A public health leader since 1906, Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is dedicated to its mission of preventing lung disease, promoting clean air and helping people live better lives through education, research and policy change. To achieve that goal, RHA collaborates with researchers in pursuit of new treatments and cures for disease like asthma, COPD and lung cancer; empowers adults and children by teaching them skills to manage their health; delivers evidence-based tobacco cessation programs; and works with lawmakers to craft innovative policies that build a more equitable and sustainable future. Learn more at resphealth.org.

Skokie Flavored Vaping Product Ban Falls Short

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2021

Contact: Erica Krutsch

[email protected]

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Skokie’s Ban of Certain Flavored Vaping Products

Skokie, IL – This week the village of Skokie passed an ordinance banning the sale of certain flavored vaping products within village limits. The ordinance is part of a local effort to curb tobacco use by teens, as recent surveys have shown that over 80 percent of e-cigarette users between ages 12 to 17 report flavoring as a primary reason for using a tobacco product.

Notably, the new law does not restrict the sale of menthol flavorings.

In response to the ordinance, Respiratory Health Association issued the following statement:

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the village of Skokie for taking steps to limit access to some flavored vaping products that disproportionately drive teen tobacco use today. Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks. We only wish the ordinance had followed the science and banned menthol flavoring— one of the preferred flavors among the teens Skokie is trying to protect. In fact, research suggests that banning some flavors while still allowing menthol flavoring will simply lead to young people switching to menthol products.

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. Additionally, no level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.

The soothing sensation of menthol-flavored tobacco makes it easier to inhale and potentially harder to quit.  Because menthol products feel less harsh, they have greater appeal to new smokers and young people.[i]

We hope the village of Skokie will continue to develop additional measures that deter youth nicotine use, improve health equity, and protect vulnerable communities.”

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html

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.