Open trash burning here is harming residents’ health

I am a pediatric pulmonologist who has worked at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for over 30 years caring for children with a variety of respiratory issues. In addition, I am involved in research including studying the effects of small particles on acute lung injury and have served on the American Thoracic Society’s Environmental Health Policy Committee.

I am writing to stress the importance of eliminating exposure of open trash burning near Ohio Living Cape May retirement village in Wilmington.

We are currently experiencing increasing rising temperatures during the summer due to climate change, and with rising temperatures come major public health risks; heat waves are the deadliest weather phenomenon in the U.S., even when compared to hurricanes and floods. The most obvious is the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. But along with heat comes bad air quality, which poses its own dangers.

Air pollution, specifically ozone and fine particulates in the air, are known to increase morbidity and mortality. Air pollution has long been recognized as a human health hazard, prompting the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1963. Globally, long-term exposure to fine particulates caused one in five deaths in 2018, including 350,000 deaths in the U.S.

Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved by improving the quality of the air. Those most vulnerable include children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing heart or lung disease. Older people are more likely to suffer heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation and pneumonia because of air pollution, resulting in thousands of additional hospital admissions each year.

The impact of air pollution on human health is especially important to residents of Clinton County. The 2021 American Lung Association listed Cincinnati and Wilmington as the 11th most polluted area in the U.S. for annual fine particulate pollution. The open burning of trash or brush is a significant contributor to air pollution.

The combination of summer heat and trash burning in an area with already poor air quality is very dangerous to the elderly here.

I strongly recommend that every effort should be made to improve the quality of the air we breathe, including curtailing the burning of trash near the residents of Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington.

William D. Hardie, MD

Lebanon. Ohio