June 15, 2012

Another Bad Air Quality Day makes it “Unbearable” for West Michigan Asthmatic Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Clean Energy Now

Friday, June 8th, 2012
Contact: Monica Bakker, Monica.bakker@sierraclub.org  
              Shane Levy, 415.977.5724, shane.levy@sierraclub.org

Bad Air Quality Days on the rise with warmer weather forcing West Michigan Families to stay indoors

HOLLAND, MI – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality declared Saturday an “orange” air quality day in West Michigan, meaning unhealthy air for children and those with respiratory problems to breathe.  “Orange” air days and other poor and dangerous air quality days are determined by the level of ozone pollution, known as smog, and other dangerous pollutants in the air. Ozone pollution from coal-fired power plants combines with warm weather to exacerbate respiratory problems for certain groups, making it harder to breathe. Four coal-fired power plants from Holland to Muskegon contribute to the pollution, along with automobiles and pollution blown in from across Lake Michigan. 

“Michigan’s most vulnerable are being exposed to unhealthy air from local coal plants like the James De Young, BC Cobb, JH Campbell and JB Sims and are struggling with something as simple as breathing,” said Monica Bakker, a new mother with Sierra Club in Holland. “We all deserve the right to enjoy summer out of doors. Our kids should only have to remember to pack their swimsuits this summer, not their inhalers.”

Smog is a dangerous pollutant, which causes the lungs and airways to become inflamed and swollen. Even at low levels smog can cause asthma attacks, aggravate lung function or cause permanent lung damage. Children, seniors and people with chronic respiratory and heart disease are especially high risk.

"Air quality alert days like today make it unbearable for children with
existing asthma and elderly with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to breathe," said Christina Fuglseth, Respiratory Therapist and Chair of the Holland Better Breather’s Club. "Investing in clean, renewable energy projects instead of coal will translate into healthier
children being able to play outside without fearing consequences and the elderly being able to enjoy the outdoors.”

In the Grand Rapids/Muskegon/Holland metro area 24,055 children and 86,359 adults suffer from asthma. For those individuals and others with respiratory condition, air alert day represents an especially dangerous threat to their health.

As summer heats up, warmer weather will increase levels of dangerous smog pollution.   Coal-fired power plants are estimated to cause more than 12,000 visits to the emergency room and more than $100 billion in health costs each year.  Holland Board of Public Works JD Young coal plant, Grand Haven Board of Power and Light JB Sims, Consumers Energy's Cobb plant in Muskegon and West Olive plant are all major contributors to the pollution in West Michigan. 

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Air Now Index: michigan.gov/air

###