Press Release: Health and Climate Advocacy Orgs Highlight the Burden of Asthma in Connecticut Communities

Hartford, CT – Today, health professionals and climate advocates from the American Lung Association, Connecticut Coalition for Climate Action (CCCA), and the Connecticut Health Professionals for Climate Action (CHPCA) held a press conference commemorating World Asthma Day. They were joined by Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani and State Senator Saud Anwar, both of whom highlighted the need to mitigate greenhouse gasses and air pollution so that asthma and existing respiratory illnesses aren’t further exacerbated.

Pictured here from right to left are Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, Ruth Canovi, advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Connecticut, Gabriela Campos, a New Haven-based activist, Gabriela’s son, Anakin, Mark Mitchell, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Climate, Energy, and Environmental Health Equity at George Mason University, and Lorena Venegas, an East Haven-based activist.

Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, stated: “Addressing climate change and air quality, and its effect on public health is a major pillar in the mission of our agency. We need to implement actions that enhance health equity, increase resiliency, and ensure that Connecticut communities are prepared for the health impacts of climate change. Asthma is one of those conditions that severely impacts those populations who are more vulnerable to the health effects of climate change and poor air quality.”

State Senator Saud Anwar, MD, co-chair of the Public Health Committee, stated “As air quality becomes a more important metric, determining health and safety in our day-to-day lives, that makes it even more important that we recognize World Asthma Day. We should work to reduce pollution and improve air quality to support the millions living with asthma every day.”

Ruth Canovi, advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Connecticut, stated “Today, on World Asthma Day, we need to recognize the disproportionate burden of asthma we face here in Connecticut. We know that 11.8% of kids in Connecticut have been diagnosed with the disease, compared to the U.S. average of 7.5% of kids. And when we break down the numbers of who is impacted most, again our Black and Brown communities bear the brunt of the asthma burden in Connecticut. We have an obligation in Connecticut to do all that we can to improve the quality of the air we breathe. That is why we are calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to clean up Connecticut’s air and improve public health and environmental justice.”

The speakers called for urgent legislative action on climate and environmental justice. SB 1147, a bill that would strengthen the state’s environmental justice law, has passed successfully through the Environment and Appropriations Committees (the latter with bipartisan 35-10 vote on Monday), and speakers urged continued momentum to get it through the Senate and House. SB 1145, a bill that would help Connecticut create a pathway to reach its greenhouse gas emission targets, passed the Environment Committee but appeared to die Monday when the Appropriations Committee failed to act. Speakers urged legislators to find a path forward this session for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give state agencies the tools they need to meet the climate targets set in the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.

Mark Mitchell MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Climate Change, Energy, and Environmental Health Equity at George Mason University and Co-chair of the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council, stated “Asthma is an environmental justice issue. Because of Connecticut’s history of red-lining, exclusionary zoning, and other racially-motivated policies, traffic and industrial pollution is concentrated in communities of color. This leads to asthma hospitalization rates that are 2 to 3 times higher among Black and Latinos in Connecticut and asthma death rates that are 8 times higher among Black children when compared to white children. We must adopt policies that improve health for all, address climate change and also reduce health disparities. We must set specific statewide pollution reduction targets and allow our state environmental agency to deny permits for new pollution sources in overburdened communities, as bills SB 1145 and SB 1147 propose.”

The advocates’ call for legislative action on climate accountability and environmental justice follows the 2023 State of the Air Report. The report found over 306,000 people with asthma in the State of Connecticut, 65,000 of whom are children with pediatric asthma.

Sanjiv Godse, MD, pediatrician and chair of Connecticut Health Professionals for Climate Action, stated “Asthma is one of the leading chronic diseases in children. It affects millions of children across our country and has profound health and economic consequences. Hartford and New Haven consistently rank among the top asthma capitals in the United States. If we are to improve asthma outcomes, we must address the historical inequities of asthma as well as prepare for future threats such as climate change. We need the General Assembly to pass SB 1145 and SB 1147, as their passage will address both of these concerns.”

Additionally, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection recently released their 1990 – 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, which underscores the urgent need for increased efforts to reduce emissions to meet our commitments and keep pace with our neighboring states.

Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney at Save the Sound, stated “It is both timely and ironic that we are assembled here to acknowledge World Asthma Day. It’s been 41 days since the UN’s latest IPCC report confirmed the need for much more rapid and consequential emissions reductions; 12 days since Connecticut’s greenhouse gas inventory confirmed that we are not on track to meet our own climate reduction obligations; and one day since the Connecticut General Assembly abdicated its responsibility to address climate change by burying the session’s most important climate bill in the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. Legislators serious about protecting the health of Connecticut’s communities must identify a path for climate action this year.”

Donna Kosoriowski, MS, RN, NCSN-E, member of Connecticut Nurses Association and Association of School Nurses of Connecticut, stated “Nurses are very aware of the challenges of children dealing with asthma at school, at home and during extracurricular activities, sports and social events. Asthma is exacerbated by poor air quality, pollution, lack of access to appropriate health care, and associated barriers. Mitigating poor air quality from greenhouse gas emissions and toxic hazards is critical to ensuring that we are doing all we can to support kids with asthma and their families.”

Gabriela Campos, New Haven-based activist and mother of children with asthma, stated “As a mother of three I have watched my children’s respiratory health decline as pollution in my area has drastically increased. Air pollution impacts all of our children. I call on the General Assembly to ensure the passage of SB 1145 and SB 1147 in order for Connecticut to honor its climate and environmental justice commitments and allow our children to have healthier futures.”

Gabriela Campos, joined by Lorena Venegas, speak to the disproportionate share of air polluting sources impacting East Haven and New Haven residents, referencing CT DEEP’s Demographics and Affecting Facilities map.


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