The revelation that secondhand cigarette smoke caused at least 7,000 lung cancer deaths a year, over 30,000 heart disease fatalities and thousands of hospitalizations for related conditions resulted in massive smoking bans all across the country.
Critics, like myself, of this seismic change in public policy, predicted doom and economic disaster. We were wrong.
Around the same time, 20 years ago, power plants and other major air polluters were asked to produce plans to reduce coal-based carbon emissions. Particulate matter emissions from these plants contain mercury, heavy metals and sulfur and nitrogen oxide.
Since 2000, these emissions have been responsible for at least 7,500 premature deaths a year, according to the Clean Air Task Force.
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Particulate matter emissions also result in 159,000 annual emergency room visits for asthma, heart attacks and related conditions. Ozone, a product of nitrogen oxide, triggers 6.2 million asthma attacks annually. Mercury is a neurotoxin that affects development in fetuses and young children.
The proposed EPA Clean Power Plan asks that the 20-year-old emission targets be met so that we can do for our atmosphere what the cigarette ban did for indoor air. Critics predict doom and economic disaster and, again, they will be wrong.
The Clean Power Plan is the right plan for us, our children and our planet. I learn from my mistakes. Here’s hoping others can do the same.