WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: http://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/936516

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Page 51 of 227

[ forum ] P H Y L L I S T H E E R M A N N writer residents in Wellesley and Weston can agree that health is a priority for our families, our community, and the world at large. Dr. Regina LaRocque, a Wellesley resident and an infec- tious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, is on a mission to educate the public about the direct connection between air pollution, climate change, and our health. Lately, we have seen how climate change is claiming human lives with more extreme natural disasters, but we don't necessarily notice the more immediate threat from air pollutants like vola- tile organic compounds, ozone, and particulate matter. This fossil fuel-related air pollution, as well as chemical pollution, is causing a worldwide health crisis. In October 2017, an international group of scientists reported in The Lancet that pollution caused an estimated nine million prema- ture deaths in 2015 — or 16 percent of all deaths worldwide. This amounted to three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and 15 times more deaths than from all wars and other forms of violence. Unfortunately, President Obama's Clean Power Plan is being legally challenged. If it were fully implemented, this plan would prevent 90,000 pediatric asthma attacks, as much as 3,600 prema- ture deaths, and 300,000 missed school and work days each year. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency asserts it would lower electric bills and create jobs. Fossil fuel-related air pollution is a problem right here in Massachusetts. The 2017 "State of the Air" report by the American Lung Association gave five of Massachusetts' 14 counties (including Norfolk County) a "D" or an "F" grade for air quality on high ozone days. Air pollutants are associ- ated with respiratory and cardiac diseases, asthma, heart attacks, bronchitis, and lung cancer, as well as increased hospitalization rates and premature death. People with respiratory diseases, pregnant women, young children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable. Dr. LaRocque, like many physicians and public health professionals, knows that improving air quality by shifting to clean energy sources will not only help stall the coming threat of a warming planet, but will also bring health benefits. As an infectious dis- ease specialist, Dr. LaRocque also sees a clear line between climate change and infectious diseases, as severe weather events and expand- ing habitats for mosquitoes bring more insect and water-borne infections. This fall, Dr. LaRocque testified at the State House about these health concerns on behalf of Partners HealthCare, arguing in support of legislation that would require utilities to increase their renewable energy investments and speed the state's transition to a clean energy future. What does she suggest residents do to improve the situation? Move quickly toward clean energy sources and away from fossil fuels. As WellesleyWeston Magazine has reported in the past, many local residents are doing Climate Change and Our Health 50 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 8

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