Biden admin's clean energy plan is helping doctors like me take better care of our patients

Asthma affects the quality of life of more than 24
million Americans and their families. Nearly one in 13 school-age children has asthma, which is
the leading cause of school absenteeism. Every year, asthma leads to more than 13.8
million days of missed school for American children.

As an emergency physician and co-founder of Arizona Health Professionals
for Climate Action, I wanted to take an opportunity this Asthma
Awareness Month to highlight the role that pollution and climate
change play in exacerbating asthma — and what we can do about it.

At AZHPCA, we understand that the health of our planet is directly
linked to the health of our patients. Climate change impacts all aspects of
healthcare, from disease outbreaks to natural disasters. As health
professionals, we believe that we have a responsibility to advocate for climate
action to protect the health of our patients and the planet.

I’m grateful that the Biden administration has so far taken more than 300 climate actions — more than
any other presidential administration in history. This includes actions to curb
pollution, improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink,
and accelerate the clean energy transition. These actions will help improve the
quality of life of Americans living with asthma-and help improve health
outcomes across the board.

In the United States, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas
emissions. Trucks engines, for instance, burn petroleum products that produce
carbon dioxide and nitric oxide, which can lead to a wide range of
health-related harms, including increased birth defects, low birth weights,
heart attacks, increased fetal death, respiratory illness, cancers, and
increased dementia rates.

Increased health-related harms mean more emergency room visits and
hospitalizations, and more premature deaths. This burden is disproportionately
borne by low-income communities, children, and communities of color.

Unfortunately, air pollution is particularly acute in Arizona,
especially Phoenix, which ranks
fifth worst for high ozone days out of 228 metropolitan areas, according to the
American Lung Association. In fact, four Arizona counties — Gila, Maricopa,
Pima, and Pinal — were given an “F” by the ALA in its latest State of the Air
report for having among the most frequent high ozone days. Extreme heat,
drought, and wildfires-all of which are exacerbated by climate change-all
contribute to high ozone days.

So, what can we do? At an individual level, we can bike and walk rather
than drive, when possible, which improves our health directly, as well as the
broader environment. We can purchase electric vehicles, which can save us money
in both the long and short term, thanks in part to the Biden administration’s
tax credits of up to $7,500 for a new electric
vehicle and up to $4,000 for a used electric vehicle.

At a government level, we can raise emission standards, which help
prevent ozone formation in hot climates like ours, and in turn aid disease
prevention. Biden is tackling the problem of the petroleum-burning
truck engines I referenced earlier through new clean truck standards issued by
the Environmental Protection Agency.

These clean truck standards are projected to prevent up to 1
billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three
decades and save Americans up to $13 billion due to fewer hospital visits, lost
work days and deaths. These environmental standards will bring the largest
benefit to an estimated 72 million Americans who live near freight routes.

Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration announced over $12.8 million
in funding for Arizona to expand its electric vehicle charging infrastructure,
making EVs more accessible to all Arizonans.

The Biden administration is also funding low and zero-emission electric
school buses across the country to protect our children, especially those
suffering from asthma, from harmful tailpipe exhaust. In 2022, eight Arizona
school districts received more than $10
million in federal funds to replace 50 buses in 2022.

Working in the emergency department and through my role in AZHPCA, I
know that investing in a healthier environment will pay dividends many times
over.
And that’s why we need to encourage President Biden to continue with these
historic climate investments to increase our health and well-being, for the
benefit of our families’ lungs and those of future generations to come.