Local members of the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) attended the Olympia City Council meeting yesterday March 22 to push for electrification and decarbonization in the city.
PSR representatives, both practicing and retired doctors, warned of the dangers of using fossil fuel in homes: both as an immediate danger to homeowners’ health as well as contributing to global warming which can increase risks to public health.
Dr. Gordon Wheat, an Olympia resident for 34 years, wanted utility providers to include warnings on how burning gas indoors products will sicken and potentially kill, and to recommend not using gas without an accompanying exhaust system. He also questioned why gas hookups were still being considered that will force their continued use.
“There's only one ethical and financially prudent course to take today,” commented Wheat. “That is to fully decarbonize.”
Family physician Dr. Diane Deakin warned how methane contributes to global warming which in turn causes increased incidents of heat stroke and dehydration.
“These types of things always affect the elderly and young children as well as people living in less than ideal conditions,” said Deakin.
Deakin also pointed out how increased temperatures contribute to increased transmission of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria; increased water-borne diseases such as cholera and those caused by amoeba and red tide; and cause forest fires which aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma.
“These are true public health issues that we can try to prevent,” Deakin remarked. “Or we can deal with the consequences when for many, it'll be too late.”
Dr. Megan Hubbard, a pediatrician practicing in Olympia, cited studies that report children living in a home with gas cooking stoves have a 42% increase in the risk of asthma symptoms and a 24% increased risk for the diagnosis of asthma. She added that 23 million adults and six million children suffer from asthma in the US and that a study of 1.5 million children with asthma recorded 72,000 E.R. visits and 1.3 million school days lost per year.
“We know that air pollution leads to a variety of health impacts, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and premature death,” pointed out Hubbard.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gilman acknowledged the doctors’ concerns, thanking them for the information they shared.
“I'm starting to be convinced that perhaps these health issues create a need for us to take action just as much as the broader environmental-climate issues,” Gilman remarked.
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