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Read the latest from HealthFirstPA partners and other organizations concerned about how harmful pollution and other environmental factors affect public health.

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Updated: Oct 26, 2022

By ELIZABETH BECHARD


There’s a good chance that as you’re reading this, you’ve already touched multiple items of plastic so far in your day. Perhaps you’ve brushed your teeth with a plastic toothbrush, typed an email on a plastic computer keyboard, tucked a handful of Goldfish crackers into a Ziploc bag for your child’s lunch, or donned a disposable N95 mask. Maybe you’ve joined a 5-year-old in an epic kitchen table battle between Barbie and Buzz Lightyear. Maybe you’ve put a plastic bandage on a small, scraped knee…


Even for those of us who are already trying to minimize our use of plastic, avoiding it entirely can feel nearly impossible. And while many of us are aware of the growing harms of plastic pollution and some of the frightening potential health impacts of plastic exposure, many of us don’t realize that the plastic we use in our everyday lives is made from fossil fuels—the very same fossil fuels that are causing climate change.


Plastics are the largest category of petrochemicals, which are extracted from deep in the earth to create the products we use in our everyday lives. The ubiquity of plastics and other petrochemicals comes at a steep cost to our health, especially for those living near production and processing facilities. People living near petrochemical production facilities have higher risk of numerous types of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, asthma and respiratory illness, and kidney disease. Children are especially vulnerable to harms from petrochemical pollutants.


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Updated: Oct 26, 2022

This is the oral testimony of Patrice Tomcik, Senior National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force, on June 24, 2022, to the US House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis about cutting methane pollution.


"Chair Castor, Ranking Member Graves, and members of the Select Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about protecting our health and our climate by cutting methane pollution.


"I am Patrice Tomcik, a Senior National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force, a national community of more than 1 million parents and caregivers united to protect our children’s health from air pollution and climate change. We envision a safe and equitable future where all children breathe clean air and live in a stable climate.


"I am the mother of two boys living in Southwest Pennsylvania on top of the Marcellus Shale, where many oil and gas operations are located within communities like mine.

In the US, the oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane pollution contributing to climate change. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the main component of natural gas..."


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Updated: Oct 26, 2022

By The Environmental Health Project


How do respiratory hazards affect us?


Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental risks to health, often resulting in premature death. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), respiratory hazards that threaten our health can exist in various forms, such as gases, vapors, dusts, mists, fumes, smoke, sprays, and fog. When inhaled, these chemicals can bypass our body’s protective mechanisms, enter the deep lung, and cross into our circulatory system, exerting their effects along the way. Some hazards, like carbon monoxide, are short-acting, which means they work quickly and can detrimentally affect one’s health within minutes. Others, like formaldehyde, are long-acting and have been shown to cause long-term health impacts, such as cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. For a full list of chemical carcinogens, visit the National Cancer Institute or explore PubMed.


What are the most common air pollutants?


Some of the most commonly known air pollutants as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are particulate matter (often referred to as “particle pollution” or “PM”), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can harm human health and the environment, and all of these are released or formed during shale gas development processes.


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