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Public health professionals: ‘To save lives, support clean transportation’

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More than 50 public health professionals and organizations have sent a letter to Virginia General Assembly leaders urging them to take actions that protect public health and communities.

The letter comes on the heels of the House Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee vote on Thursday to advance HB 1965, partroned by Del. Lamont Bagby (HD-74), that would create a rule for low-emission and zero-emission vehicles in the state.

“Virginians depend on clean water, clean air and a safe climate for the health and prosperity of their families,” Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, chair and co-founder of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.“ As a pediatrician, I am dedicated to ensuring that all children have an optimal environment in which to live, learn and play. By reducing carbon pollution, Virginia will protect families from poor air quality and respiratory illness, worsening heat waves and more severe storms. We are looking to elected leaders in Richmond to set concrete and attainable carbon reductions goals for Virginia.”

The letter urges the Virginia General Assembly to take action to defend public health and describes transportation’s contribution to climate change.  Transportation accounts for the greatest share of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia at 48 percent.

Air pollution also poses immediate health risks from transportation related air pollution. A recent report from Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action found that fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) from Virginia’s cars and light trucks contributes to 92 deaths, 71 non-fatal heart attacks and 2,600 child asthma attacks every year.

These health harms cost $750 million annually, and double if vehicles from out of state are included. The health impacts from reducing vehicle emissions are disproportionate across Virginia, as elderly, lower income and minority populations experience a 61 percent higher death rate attributable to our vehicle air pollution.

“Continuing to operate transportation systems on fossil fuels puts human health at serious risk,” Dr. Homan Wai, MD, FACP, associate professor, VCU School of Medicine “We need to start immediately reducing emissions and other tailpipe pollutants from transportation. The world’s top climate scientists and health experts are in clear agreement. These are forward-looking policies that will improve health and reduce the impacts of climate change in communities across Virginia.”

Organizations like Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, along with public health professionals including medical doctors, pediatricians, and nurses signed the letter in support of a several policies that can position Virginia as a leader in reducing transportation air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

HB 1965 would set in place the strongest fuel efficiency standards, joining 13 other states in adopting Advanced Clean Car Standards.


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