Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Air You Breathe Might Make You Sick

The air you breathe might make you sick, and your doctor wants to change that.

"We can either watch as our patients develop diseases and even die — because of the quality of air we breathe — or we can go public and work to reduce and reverse the progressive deterioration of the environment we live in," says Wesley Stafford, MD, a Corpus Christi allergy and asthma physician and member of the TMA Council on Science and Public Health. "We owe it to our patients, our communities, our children, and ourselves to get involved."

Dr. Stafford knows all too well just how damaging air pollution can be. His patients frequently suffer increased respiratory disease symptoms when air quality is poor. Pollutants like low-level ozone, secondhand smoke, and particulate matter can trigger asthma attacks and other lung and health conditions, and even heart attacks, according to physicians. These pollutants, along with compounds such as mercury, can especially threaten the health of very young or elderly people, and unborn children.

As doctors witnessed their patients getting sick from these causes, TMA became inspired to urge government leaders and legislators to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants and diesel engines. When Las Brisas Energy Center, LLC, applied for a permit to build a petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi, Dr. Stafford and other Texas physicians called attention to the detrimental health impact the plant could have on the area’s residents. The project is on hold awaiting further review by the Environmental Protection Agency.

More information on how doctors are working to keep patients safe from pollution can be found in the April issue of Texas Medicine magazine.

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