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Letter: Coal-fired power creates health problems

Zuni physician Valory Wangler writes about the devastating health impacts of coal fired energy in the four corners region. "Every asthma attack I see in my clinic is one too many. We all have a responsibility not to harm the health of our communities and PNM is no exception."

Farmington Daily Times

Valory Wangler, MD

Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility


07/04/2015 04:17:11 PM MDT

Few things are more heart wrenching for a physician than watching a young child wheeze, cough, and struggle to breathe while terrified parents stand nearby. As a physician in the Four Corners, I see this all too often.

Air pollution from sources like coal-fired power plants has a serious impact on human health. Exposure to particulate matter in air pollution decreases lung function, and increases asthma attacks, heart attacks, cancers, emergency department visits and deaths. New studies now link this particulate matter to brain aging and smaller brain volumes. Each month researchers find new health consequences of pollution, and no doubt many more are to come.

A (2012) New York University study estimated the health impacts of the San Juan Generating Station here in the Four Corners, including my community, and the results are astounding. Failure to control pollution at the station generated up to $240 million in health care costs for our region over five years. This includes an estimated 227 asthma attacks, and 370 missed work days per year that could have been avoided.

Coal-fired power plants are also an important contributor to global climate change. The Lancet, high among the most reputable medical journals in print, just released a landmark issue focused on climate change as a "medical emergency" that "threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health."

Just as climate change is slated to disproportionately impact minority and underserved communities, so too does PNM's plan place the burden of pollution not on the majority of PNM consumers in the central state, but here in the Four Corners and disproportionately on our Native communities.

New Mexico has exceptional potential for the development of solar and wind energy development. We are blessed with hard to match amounts of sun, wind, and open space. Instead of the short-sighted decision to continue sourcing dirty and unsustainable energy.

New Mexico should capitalize on the fact that few states are better endowed with the natural resources to be leaders in sustainable solar and wind energy production.

Our health and our children's health depend on it. Every asthma attack I see in my clinic is one too many. We all have a responsibility not to harm the health of our communities and PNM is no exception.


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