Recently, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy joined together with Physicians for Social Responsibility, one of Climate for Health's partners, to create a fact sheet entitled "Energy Efficiency and Health". When the public thinks about energy efficiency, "health" may not be the first association that comes to mind. There is, however, a strong correlation between the types of energy we use and public health. The fact sheet attempts to address some of these key correlations. Fossil fuel pollutants, for example, have adverse health impacts on the respiratory system, the circulatory system and the nervous system. Conversely, clean energy choices and energy efficiency is good for our health.
Join with other health leaders who are interested in addressing energy policy for the purposes of protecting public health, within your institution or beyond.
Energy efficiency is all about using technology and best practices to produce the same or better levels of services, such as light, temperature control, or motor drive power, while using less energy. Very simply, it’s about reducing waste.
Energy efficiency and health. Lowering the amount of energy we waste reduces our need to burn coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity. Those reductions in pollution mean big gains for health, as pollutants from fossil fuel combustion contribute to four of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, and stroke. These pollutants damage all the major organ systems in the body.
RESPIRATORY SYSTEM Fossil fuel pollutants, particularly fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, contribute to serious respiratory health problems including: lung cancer, which kills more men and women in the US than any other form of cancer; COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), the third leading cause of death in the country, and asthma, which is at epidemic levels and is disproportionately harmful to children, especially minority and poor children.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM Air pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels harm cardiovascular health. They contribute to coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the country; hospitalizations for heart attacks; and congestive heart failure, when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs in the body.
NERVOUS SYSTEM Pollutants released by burning coal target the nervous system, particularly the brain, leading to serious neurological consequences. These include stroke and loss of intellectual capacity due to mercury exposure.
Finally, burning fossil fuels contribute to climate change by releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane. Climate change leads to extreme weather events that can severely affect health, from heat waves, droughts and extreme storms to expanding the habitats of disease-carrying insects.
Fortunately, a reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels will allow dramatic improvements to human health. That means that energy efficiency benefits health.
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