Zero-Emission Revolution: Pennsylvania’s Path to Healthier Children

Electric vehicle charging© HadelProductions from Getty Images Signature / Canva

HARRISBURG, PA — Today, a promising new report is making waves for the future of Pennsylvania’s children. Unveiled by the American Lung Association, the report, “Boosting Health for Children: Benefits of Zero-Emission Transportation and Electricity,” illuminates a clear path to a healthier future for the state’s youth through the transition to zero-emission vehicles and electricity.

According to this startling report, this transition could prevent a whopping 148,000 cases of pediatric asthma and countless other respiratory symptoms in Pennsylvania children by the year 2050. But how, you might ask?

The answer lies in the report’s projected health impacts based on full switch-over scenarios. Imagine: by 2035, all new passenger vehicles sold are zero-emission. By 2040, all new trucks boast the same green credentials. Picture the nation’s electric grid powered entirely by clean, non-combustion renewable energy also by 2035.

The implications for the nation are astounding, as such a transition would prevent nearly 2.79 million instances of pediatric asthma attacks and save over 500 infant lives by 2050. Drill down to Pennsylvania, and the potential benefits between 2020 and 2050 include preventing up to 148,000 pediatric asthma attacks, 141,000 pediatric upper respiratory symptoms, and 98,900 pediatric lower respiratory symptoms.

Aimee VanCleave, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania, sheds some light on the importance of this change. “Transportation is the leading source of air pollution that impacts public health in Pennsylvania. This pollution significantly affects our children’s health and their futures, especially as climate change intensifies,” VanCleave said, advocating for a statewide shift to Advanced Clean Trucks standards to curb pollution and enhance the future for Pennsylvania’s children.

As Pennsylvania secures over $40 million in federal funding to address methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the moves towards reducing reliance on fossil fuels and accelerating the use of non-combustion, renewable energy and zero-emission transportation technologies are accelerating.

This comes soon after the School District of Philadelphia doubled its electric bus fleet, thanks to federal funding. It’s a clear signal that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should bolster local efforts to provide a healthier, cleaner environment for our children.

However, the air quality battles remain. The 2023 “State of the Air” report indicates that over 27 million children across the nation live in areas that have failed at least one air pollutant test. Alarmingly, 1.7 million children with asthma inhabit areas that received an ‘F’ for one or more pollutants. The health risks linked to air pollution disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color, where children are even more vulnerable.

This report focusing on children’s health is an offshoot of the American Lung Association’s broader “Zeroing In On Healthy Air” report released in March 2022. This report estimates a jaw-dropping $1.2 trillion in public health benefits accompanying a nationwide transition to zero-emissions.

Here’s the key component: Federal and State policymakers hold the power to truly affect children’s health by cutting harmful air pollution and climate change that jeopardizes their future. The American Lung Association is calling out to Pennsylvania policymakers to enact policy standards that reduce diesel exhaust and promote the sale of more zero-emission vehicles. They are also advocating for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish stronger pollution limits for new vehicles, driving a nationwide shift to zero-emission vehicles. Adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks standard could bring the advantages of zero-emission trucks to Pennsylvania communities, particularly those most affected by traffic pollution today.

As the revolution for zero-emission transportation and electricity gains momentum, we stand on the precipice of a future where Pennsylvania’s children breathe easier and live healthier lives. Now, that’s a future worth driving towards.

Learn more and see the full report at Lung.org/EV.

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