Hello, my name is Ann Darwicki. I am a registered nurse with 23 years of experience caring for women and children. I am a founding member and current chair of Nurses Healing our Planet, the environmental ad hoc committee of the Delaware Nurses Association.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today and to applaud the EPA on the proposed carbon pollution standards for coal burning power plants. I would also like to preface my conversation with you by saying that I love electricity, in fact, I often remind my husband after every camping trip that it is my favorite invention, with indoor plumbing being a close second! With that being said, I am for responsible energy production that does not have the unintended side effect of making us sick.
I do not need to go over the statistics on coal burning power plants and the resultant air pollution, as you are very well aware of them. As you know, we are intricately and intimately connected to our environment and our health is directly impacted by it. We know that on days with higher pollution that there are increased deaths from heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disease. We know that poor air quality is linked to prematurity and growth retardation of our babies as well as infant deaths. We know that asthma rates have doubled in the past twenty years and it is now the most common childhood disease. I am thrilled to see that you are showing how reducing soot/ smog, reducing our air pollution is going to reap savings in health care costs. These are not insignifigant costs- the United States spends annually- 10 billion dollars treating asthma, 26 billion dollars treating preterm births, 154 billion dollars treating chronic lung disease, 432 billion dollars treating heart disease and strokes.
Unfortunately, we can lose sight of what these facts and figures mean in human terms. I have often quoted that my home state of Delaware is designated a nonattainment area for ozone and consistently does not meet ambient air quality standards. Yet when a nurse that I worked with in the NICU had to move out of Delaware because her son, who is fit and athletic, could not breathe the air in Delaware without the use of a rescue inhaler, while on vacation in Florida with 100 degree temperatures, he was able to breathe normally. It takes on a whole new meaning. Or when shortly after their move, her forty two year old husband died suddenly, unexpectedly of a heart attack. Or when last year as a clean air ambassador for 50 states united for clean air, I heard of how a 14 year old honor student, with a bright future ahead of her, died from an asthma attack because her mother could not afford her asthma medicine. These personal stories have forever changed me.
In business as well as medicine, we are always adapting and improving as we know better. By no longer flushing our medicines down the toilet, phasing out mercury thermometers, and removing lead from paint and gasoline, we know that our actions, our government actions work. Our best approach is to be proactive, we cannot make a wrong decision by erring on the side of health and safety. Every effort is worthwhile- please uphold your proposed standards. Do not waiver. For an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For breathing is not an option, breathing air that does not make us sick or kill us prematurely should not be an option either.
Ann Darwicki, RN