ir in Chicago, like manyother places nation-wide, can be dangerousto breathe. High levels of airpollution cause significantproblems for people sufferingfrom chronic diseases includ-ing asthma, bronchitis, emphy-sema, cardiovascular diseaseand diabetes. While childrenand the elderly are particularlyharmed by air pollution, evenhealthy adults are at risk whenpollution levels rise aboveacceptable levels.Thankfully, we have a keyweapon in the fight against deadly air pollu-tion. The Clean Air Act gives the UnitedStates Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) the power to set health-based stan-dards to improve the air we breathe. In 2010,the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 Americansfrom premature death; U.S. EPA estimatesthat it will prevent over 230,000 prematuredeaths in 2020. Further, he recently adoptedthe Cross State Air Pollution Rule which willsave 1,500 lives each year in Illinois alone.Since its creation, the Clean Air Act hasenjoyed widespread, bi-partisan support.Signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970,the Act was bolstered by Jimmy Carter in1977 and again by George H.W. Bush in1990. Today, a majority of Americans (69percent) believe that Congress should notinterfere with the U.S. EPA's authority toprotect Americans from toxic air pollution.In fact, three out of four voters support theU.S EPA setting tougher standards on specif-ic air pollutants, including mercury, smogand carbon dioxide.Despite all of the Act’s support and suc-cess, the air we breathe is still under attack.Currently, Congress is considering legisla-tion that would eliminate some of our mostbasic protections against dirty and danger-ous air and would make it harder for the U.S.EPA to do its job. In response, the AmericanLung Association is working in conjunctionwith leading public health organizations andmedical communities to make sure leadersin Washington do not weaken clean air pro-tections.Today, we ask Chicago’s medical commu-nity to join us in this fight for clean air.On February 1, the American LungAssociation in Illinois became the latest stateto engage in our national campaign.Together, we hope to educate Chicago’s med-ical and public health communities aboutthe critical importance of the Clean Air Act,and how vital it is to stand up and show oursupport.Congressional interferenceand weakening of air pollutionstandards would result in seri-ous health consequences foreveryone in Chicago andIllinois as a whole. Those whoremember life before the CleanAir Act can attest that the hazethat regularly envelops theChicago skyline on summerdays used to be much worse.Because of the Act, the city’sair continues to improve, andwith it, so do the lives of thepeople who live here. While it seems indefensible to opposesuch a necessary lifesaving measure, somepeople in Washington are doing just that.Despite the wide availability of emissionscontrol technologies, lobbyists for coal-firedpower plant operators and their allies inCongress are fiercely leading the charge toweaken and in some cases, eliminate manyClean Air Act protections. In 2011, moderateimprovements to the Mercury and Air ToxicsStandards were barely finalized beforeCongress scheduled hearings to delay theirimplementation. A similar move has beeninitiated to block the aforementioned Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires coal-fired power plants to be responsible for thehealth impact their emissions have on down-wind communities.Fortunately, the destruction of the CleanAir Act is not a fait accompli. As recent leg-islative battles have demonstrated, money isno match for the power of civic action. When citizens speak, legislators listen. When citizens write, legislators respond. When citizens organize, legislators takeaction.And when Chicago’s doctors, nurses andother health professionals demand a strongClean Air Act, the Illinois delegation willcertainly take note.Chicago’s medical and public health com-munity has the opportunity to stand up forthe wellbeing of the people it serves. TheAmerican Lung Association in Illinoisimplores you to join us in the fight forhealthy air. I encourage you to visitFightingForAir.org and the E-Advocacy net-work at LungIL.org to learn more about ourcampaign and how you can tell Congressthat science – and not politics – should setair quality policy.
Peter Iwanowicz, Assistant Vice Presidentwith the American Lung Association, can bereached at (202) 785-3355.
Fighting for Air in Chicago
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Ottawa Regional to Join OSF Healthcare System
A definitive agreement has been signed that may result in Ottawa Regional Hospital &Healthcare Center joining the OSF HealthCare System. Ottawa Regional Hospital, to berenamed OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center, is expected to join the Catholic systemlater this spring. The announcement comes after nearly 15 months of due diligence, aprocess described by the organizations as validating the benefits to the communities theyserve. Before a change of ownership occurs Ottawa Regional’s corporate members mustratify the proposed arrangement and the organizations must receive approval from theIllinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board.
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