August 11, 2011

Health Care Without Harm Launches Clean Air Promise Campaign

Aims to Emphasize Health Benefits of Clean Air, Engage Wide Group of Advocates for Public Health

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health Care Without Harm has announced a new initiative to help support the Clean Air Act. Called the "Clean Air Promise," the campaign will target the health care community, legislators and policy makers, community and business leaders, and individuals, asking them to make a Promise to protect America's children and families from air pollution. The new campaign is part of a wider initiative by HCWH to defend the Clean Air Act, which has engaged nurses and other health care professionals to help draw attention to the health consequences of air pollution.

Those making the Clean Air Promise will be asked to tell their elected leaders and friends about making the promise, and to support the Clean Air Act and other actions being taken by the Environmental Protection Agency to improve the nation's air quality. They will also be able to share their stories and read those left by others.

"Air pollution is a serious threat to public health, but it's one we can significantly reduce," said Brenda Afzal, MS, RN, U.S. Climate Policy Coordinator, HCWH. "It will take the efforts of all of us to help keep the regulations in place that would reduce air pollution, and to strengthen those regulations to include other harmful pollutants that put our nation's health at risk."

Air pollution is linked to a number of illnesses, including asthma, and exacerbates chronic diseases such as lung and heart disease. Air pollution contains toxins, such as mercury, that interfere with the normal physical and mental development of children. And no regulations exist now to reduce carbon dioxide, widely implicated in ozone formation and linked to climate change. More than 24 million Americans have asthma, with direct treatment cost of $53 billion a year. Regulations in the Clean Air Act, as well as development of new standards addressing ozone and mercury, could prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. They could also prevent 120,000 asthma attacks and about 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children annually.

Mercury, which is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women, is a particularly harmful pollutant because it builds up in the environment and in the fish we eat. Mercury exposure affects a child's ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. According to the EPA, the mercury contamination problem in the U.S. is so widespread that as many as one in six women of childbearing age is likely to have mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk.

"The Promise campaign is a way of making the issue of Clean Air more personal, both in being able to share and read personal stories of real people affected by air pollution, and also to empower individuals to take action to protect our air quality," said HCWH founder and President Gary Cohen. "We hope to involve millions of people to reduce air pollution, to protect the health of our nation, particularly children and those at higher risk, and reduce our healthcare costs."

The EPA is charged with regulating air pollution under the Clean Air Act, which this year marked its 40th anniversary. Recently the EPA has announced new regulations that would amend and update the Clean Air Act. The EPA predicts that the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments will prevent more than 230,000 early deaths by 2020.

For more information or to make the promise, visit

HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, visit our website at


SOURCE Health Care Without Harm