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.

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 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.

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.”

New Rule Decreases Coal Pollution

For nearly two years we’ve been fighting an effort to allow coal power plants to nearly double the amount of lung and climate-damaging pollution they pump into the air we breathe. The proposed changes to the state’s air pollution control rules were negotiated behind closed doors by the company that owns eight polluting power plants and then-Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration.

Respiratory Health Association sent advocates and policy experts to testify against this attempted rollback at hearings, working with a coalition of environmental and health organizations across the state and the Illinois Attorney General. We also worked with local media to shed light on the situation and inform the public.

In a victory last month, the matter was settled and vast pollution increases were avoided. RHA testimony about coal power plant pollution at a hearing in 2018

The new rules require Vistra, the company that owns half of Illinois’ remaining coal-burning power plants, to close 2,000 megawatts of dirty electricity production by the end of this year. That’s roughly the equivalent of three coal plants.

In addition, the rule caps the emissions across the entire fleet at a level roughly equivalent to the pollution produced each year over the last two years – down considerably from the original request to double emissions.

Coal power has long been in decline because it is more expensive than other methods of producing electricity. Renewable, non-polluting wind and solar energy are becoming less expensive and more reliable as primary power sources every day and continue to grow dramatically in Illinois.

Legislation known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act is also gathering momentum in the Illinois General Assembly. It creates a path to eliminate burning fossil fuels to produce electricity while dramatically increasing investment in wind and solar energy while also accelerating electrification of transportation.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act didn’t get a vote in the last legislative session, but with nearly 80 legislators sponsoring it, we plan to continue building support for the legislation during the veto session this fall.

If you’d like to be stay up to date about clean air and lung-friendly policy efforts like these, sign up for RHA’s advocacy action alerts. You’ll be alerted to changes in policy and given the option to easily contact your elected officials via email.

Together We Made Strides toward Cleaner Air

RHA has worked for decades to reduce pollution from industrial sources like power plants and the millions of vehicles operating in Illinois.  This spring, your advocacy visits, emails and phone calls led to substantial victories for clean air. We also gained ground on important policies we’ll continue to advance next session.

 

Clean Energy Jobs Act Continues to Build Momentum

The ambitious Clean Energy Jobs bill continues to gain momentum with 49 co-sponsors in the House and 27 in the Senate by the end of May – with many joining as co-sponsors after RHA’s Lung Health Education Day in March.

The bill would ensure all electricity comes from non-carbon sources by 2030 (no fossil fuels) and all electricity comes from clean renewable sources by 2050; that the benefits of clean energy development from this transition are distributed equitably; and that efforts to electrify transportation remove the emissions equivalent of a million cars from the air people breathe.

RHA will continue to build on this momentum until the General Assembly comes back to Springfield in October.

 

Long-Standing Prohibition on State Action to Address Climate Crisis is Repealed

Legislation passed this session will remove a law passed 20 years ago that prohibited Illinois from enacting any policies to reduce greenhouse gases and tackle the climate crisis. The vote reflects that the state legislature increasingly sees an unstable climate as a health threat, especially for vulnerable people and those living with chronic medical conditions.

Removing this restriction means Illinois can now forge a more effective climate strategy and implement stronger greenhouse gas reduction policies, which will help expand clean renewable energy resources and reduce ozone smog. As the Sun-Times noted, Illinois could now even require tighter pollution limits for cars.

 

Clean Energy – Clean Air Victories in State Budget and Capital Spending Plan

The new state budget and capital plan passed this spring included several provisions to reduce emissions from electricity generation and transportation. Some harmful ideas were prevented as well.

Early versions of the capital plan included a $1000/year registration fee for any electric vehicles (EVs), which would have been a serious blow to the small but quickly growing market in Illinois just as more affordable EVs are beginning to show up at dealerships. In the end, zero-emission EV registration fees were raised to the same level as fossil fuel-powered vehicles and an extra $100/year fee was assessed since EV don’t contribute to state gasoline taxes. While this eliminated discounted registration fees for EVs, one of the very few incentives Illinois had to encourage people to by zero-emission vehicles, it also means EV fees are only a quarter of what was initially proposed.  Electric vehicles will still save drivers hundreds of dollars a year on gasoline not bought, and help reduce smog and greenhouse gas pollution!

 

Other victories this year in the state budget:

  • $50 million for the Renewable Energy Resources Fund. This supports the Illinois Solar for All program, which prioritizes new solar electric generation projects and solar job training in low-income communities.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for state facilities. This is sufficient funding to reduce 5% of state building energy usage, which will lower power demand and air pollution.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan to construct electric vehicle charging infrastructure in low income communities, helping ensure all communities can use electric vehicles.
  • $20 million is re-appropriated and another $60 million is appropriated from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund. Illinois EPA can now spend $80m on electric vehicle projects in the coming year that help reduce emissions from transportation sources to clean the air.

 

Together we’ve made great strides toward cleaner air, healthier lungs and a more sustainable future.

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion today.

Take a Stand Against Coal Plant Pollution

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is working openly to allow most of Illinois’ remaining coal-fired power plants to nearly double their emissions of lung-damaging air pollution.  Dynegy, an energy company that owns eight coal plants in Illinois, started working behind the scenes with the IEPA over a year ago to weaken existing public health protections from air pollution.

Press conference with clean air activists

Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s Director of Environmental Health Policy at a press event opposing the ruling.

The IEPA is pushing the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) to remove existing limits on the pollution emission rates for this fleet of eight coal plants in southern and central Illinois and to instead impose annual caps on how many tons of deadly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides the plants emit. The proposed rollback would allow Dynegy to keep dirty coal plants open while closing cleaner ones equipped with pollution ‘scrubbers’ and to emit approximately 30,000 more tons of air pollution every year that triggers asthma attacks, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths.

RHA has spoken out against these efforts that could drastically increase dangerous air pollution and harm people living with lung disease and will continue to do so.

This month, we joined with our partner organizations to file a motion to stop the hearings on Dynegy’s rollback proposal until Dynegy completes a recent merger with a much larger company.  Texas-based Vistra Energy acquired Dynegy in October 2017 and has not been involved in this rulemaking. We believe this dangerous rollback attempt should be put on hold until the merger is completed and Vistra publicly states whether it, too, wants to double air pollution from these coal plants.

Please join us in asking the IPCB to protect us all and prevent coal power plants from doubling the pollution they put in the air we breathe.

PROTECT THE ILLINOIS CLEAN AIR LAW

NO ROLLBACKS FOR OUR STATE’S BIGGEST POLLUTER!

Governor Rauner’s EPA is poised to eliminate air pollution safeguards that would allow THOUSANDS MORE TONS of air pollution into the air you breathe every year.

According to today’s Chicago Tribune, Illinois EPA and the state’s largest polluter, Dynegy. Inc. have been rewriting Illinois air pollution laws in secret since last year, and are now poised to propose a massive increase in how much pollution Dynegy’s EIGHT huge ancient coal power plants in Illinois would be able to emit.

HOW MUCH?

As much as 10,000 TONS more smog and soot pollution than they are emitting now.

WHEN?

As early as NEXT YEAR.

WHY?

The most likely reason is that Dynegy wants to run its cleanest coal plants – the ones equipped with modern pollution scrubbing equipment – LESS often, and wants to run its dirtiest most polluting coal power plants MORE. They could make more money by running their cheaper dirtier power plants, but YOU will wind up paying the price.

Whatever rollbacks the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Dynegy are able to force through will eventually have to get approval from state legislators before Dynegy would be allowed to run its dirtiest coal power plants more oftern – so YOUR legislators can help stop this attack on clean air.

You can take action! RHA has prepared an email that encourages legislators not to approve these rollbacks. Our e-advocacy system makes it easy for you to send the email directly to Governor Rauner and your legislators. Send your emails now.

For more information about RHA’s clean air initiatives, contact Brian Urbaszewski via email at [email protected] or by phone at (312) 628-0245.