LTE on Climate Bill
Re: Aug 12, 2022, “A huge side benefit of the new climate bill” - Manuela Anteoni, The New York Times By Ruba Omeira & Vasalya Panchumarthi, Medical Students at Georgetown University
Climate change is not only inevitable; it is happening now: floods in Pakistan, record-setting heat waves on the west coast of the United States, rising sea levels globally. With these extreme weather events having such dire global impacts, the Inflation Reduction Act could not have been passed at a better time. It is a promising step that will help reduce emissions, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods, and promote a direction toward environmental justice. It is a big win for climate health. However, it alone will not be enough.
As medical students, we are concerned about the health risks of fine particulate matter with diameters of less than 2.5 μm (PM 2.5), which is known to cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and is a risk factor for global mortality. Although there have been movements to combat air pollution through the 1970 Clean Air Act, for example, nearly the entire global population breathes air that is beyond WHO quality limits.1 Moreover, improvements in air quality have been inequitable; lower-income neighborhoods continue to be exposed to disproportionately high levels of air pollution. Within our local community in DC, Wards 7 and 8 are neighborhoods with the greatest proportion of people of color and have the lowest income and educational levels. Thus, it is not surprising that these neighborhoods are exposed to far greater levels of particulate matter compared to higher-income neighborhoods.
We see our future as physicians treating patients in the context of climate change. Therefore, we must play our part now in propelling this movement by advocating for more climate and environmental health topics to be integrated into the medical school curricula and raising awareness of the adverse effects of climate change during our encounters with patients.
Time is essential when it comes to climate change, and we cannot prolong inaction.
1 “Billions of People Still Breathe Unhealthy Air: New Who Data.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 4 Apr. 2022.
Ruba Omeira and Vasalya Panchumarthi are Medical Students at Georgetown University.