By Harold Wimmer
Lung health has taken center stage in the COVID-19 pandemic era, and it’s never been clearer that pulmonary well-being is essential to life. Yet nearly half of all Americans live in communities impacted by air that is unhealthy to breathe, and climate change is making it even harder to protect our environment. A new report, “The Road to Clean Air” by the American Lung Association, highlights a powerful strategy to address the dual public health crisis of air pollution and climate change: a transition to electric vehicles.
Transportation is a logical place to start, as the sector is a leading contributor to both climate change and air pollution. And according to the Lung Association’s 2020 “State of the Air” report, Cook County ranks among our country’s most polluted areas.
“The Road to Clean Air” report details how a nationwide transition to electric cars, buses, and trucks increasingly powered by clean, non-combustion renewable energy would benefit the health of Americans across the nation. The report found that, if that transition were made by 2050, our nation would avoid 6,300 premature deaths and prevent more than 93,000 asthma attacks and 416,000 lost workdays per year — benefits valued at more than $72 billion. Illinois itself could see $3.2 billion in annual benefits.
Harold Wimmer is the president and CEO of the American Lung Association and member of Illinois Clean Air Now (ICAN), a coalition of clean energy, health advocacy, and transportation industry stakeholders.