Each day as part of my routine for uploading news articles for the website, I come across articles about our toxic environment and the actual or possible effects on human health. Depressing is an inadequate descriptor of the feeling state that envelopes me as I try to decide whether or not to post the article. Most often I decide not to post, for it seems that there is often little or nothing we can do to change this in the short term.In a few short centuries and especially in the past 100 years we have made the earth a toxic waste dump. The earth’s atmosphere, soils, and waters have a finite ability to absorb and transform toxic materials. We are long past the point of safety. There is probably no one alive on the planet today that doesn’t have a smorgasbord of toxic chemicals in their bloodstream and tissues. Anytime a scientist studies the placental blood in humans, they are amazed at the quantity and variety of toxic chemicals that they find. Dominique Belpomme, a European cancer specialist, said that “many newborns at the moment of birth are contaminated with more than 200 chemical substances…Up to 75% of cancers are provoked by chemical pollution.”Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, phrased it well when he wrote: “Illnesses do not come out of the blue, they are developed from the small daily sins against nature. When enough sins have been accumulated, illnesses will suddenly appear.” The daily sins of toxic emissions from industry’s smokestacks and discharges into public waterways have become deadly gifts to our children. In the moral struggle to create a healthy planet, environmental activists have been the prime players in the political arena so far. But they are under staffed and under funded compared to the medical establishment. There is a small but growing movement within the medical community to get involved. You can read more about this in an article Beyond the Patient (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/220) in Orion Magazine. In WNC we are at a crossroads, and we are well aware that we have a unique opportunity to actually do something to prevent more toxic pollution. Despite its defeat in Woodfin, Progress Energy still plans to build a new oil burning electric peaking power plant in WNC.
The direct medical costs from the particulates and other pollutants that will be emitted into our air are estimated to be $57 million dollars over the next 30 years based on an EPA model. We will all pay those costs with our dollars, and if recent history is a guide, the hospital system locally will bear the brunt of lost income as the number of uninsured continues to rise. Of course, there is no way to measure the costs of children’s suffering from asthma, nor their diminished respiratory capacity that lasts their lifetimes. And of course there is no way to measure or quantify the suffering caused by stroke, heart disease, and respiratory disease in adults and elderly.
We ask all local medical practitioners, the Buncombe County Medical Society, and the Board and leadership of Mission Hospitals to reflect on their duty to preserve the public health. We invite them to demonstrate that they care about the future of our children. We want them to join the public dialogue and convince Progress Energy to find a way to meet our sustainable energy future without burning more fossil fuel.