The Switch To Electric Cars & Renewables Will Make Our Children Healthier

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Talking to people about electric cars as a way to address the problem of a warming planet is fraught with danger. Lots of people think it’s a plot to steal their beloved SUVs and pickup trucks from them. In a world where everything is politicized, getting people to consider driving electric cars is seen as an attack on their right to drive what they want, when they want, and where they want.

In a new report, the American Lung Association says switching to electric cars powered by renewable energy could have a dramatic effect on the health of our children. Everyone wants their children to grow up to be healthy adults. Well, almost everyone. W.C. Fields liked to say, “Anyone who hates dogs and small children can’t be all bad,” but he was a social outlier — hopefully.

Electric Cars & Renewable Energy

Based on a model in which all new vehicles sold by 2035 have zero tailpipe emissions, the group concludes that there would be 2.7 million fewer asthma attacks among children, as well as 147,000 fewer acute case of bronchitis. The transition to electric cars would also prevent 2.67 million cases of upper respiratory symptoms and 1.87 million cases of lower respiratory symptoms in children. There would also be 508 fewer cases of infant mortality, the Lung Association report claims.

Highlighting the specific impact switching to EVs would have on kids is important because children’s bodies develop at a different rate than adults’, said Laura Kate Bender, national assistant vice president for Healthy Air at the American Lung Association. “Kids are at greater risk of air pollution, their lungs are still growing,” she told The Verge in an interview. “I can say that as a person growing up with asthma, [it] put me in the ER more often than I think my parents would have liked.”

Combustion engine vehicles account for over a quarter of all global emissions. That’s why governments around the world are attempting to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, which emit far fewer pollutants in the atmosphere. Children stand to gain a lot from this switch, especially kids at particular risk for respiratory illness.

That’s assuming all new passenger cars sold in the US are EVs by 2035 and all new heavy duty vehicles sold are electric by 2040. What’s more, those vehicles would need to be powered by an electrical grid that is also free of fossil fuels. “We see the two as inseparable,” Bender said. “That’s really how you get to the greatest possible health benefits.”

The growth and development of a child’s lungs and breathing ability start in utero and continues into early adulthood, the American Lung Association report says. 80% of the air sacs within the lungs develop after birth. Those sacs, called the alveoli, are where the life-sustaining transfer of oxygen to the blood takes place. The body’s defenses that help adults fight off infections are still developing in children. The protective barrier surrounding the brain is not fully developed in young children, and their nasal passages aren’t as effective at filtering out pollutants.

Children have increased exposure to air pollution compared to adults. They breathe more quickly than adults and breathe in more air in relation to their body weight than adults do. They are often outside for longer periods and are usually more active when outdoors. Consequently, they inhale more polluted outdoor air than adults typically do.

“I’m a pediatrician in Orange County, California,” says Afif El-Hasan. “I see young patients every day who suffer because they live near warehouses and highways, including port traffic. The heavy exposure to vehicle pollution worsens asthma and increases the risk and severity of upper airway illnesses.”

Electric Cars & Health

Let’s be clear. No one is suggesting that electric cars are created from 100% pure pixie dust. The mining operations needed to make batteries, steel, and aluminum all produce pollutants. Tires and brake pads do shed fine particulates, whether they are part of an electric car or a conventional car. The point is that electric cars are significantly cleaner overall and put fewer pollutants into the air for our children to breathe than conventional vehicles do. By the same token, converting the electrical grid to renewables helps lower the emissions from power plants.

One would presume that those who are hopping up and down about how states should control females and their reproductive organs to protect the unborn would be strongly in favor of reducing pollutants in the air so those fetuses can grow healthy in the womb and breathe clean air after they are born. But as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan so famously said, “For conservatives, life begins at conception and ends at birth.”

Here’s a recent example. Red states are vigorously protesting the EPA’s so-called Good Neighbor rule that seeks to address pollution from one state being blown by the prevailing breezes to adjoining states. Government overreach, they cry. A denial of state’s rights. If we want to pollute our skies, it’s nobody’s business but our own! Actually, by that logic, there is no United States. There is just a collection of individual fiefdoms who act independently according to the whims of whoever happens to be in charge at the moment.

The Supreme Court & The Administrative State

Today, the Supreme Court is taking up this burning question — one a a series of cases designed to give the Court an opportunity to dismantle the administrative state completely and deny Congress the ability to delegate any of its authority to the executive branch. This would be the same Congress that, when faced with one of the most important decision in the history of America — whether or not to continue assisting Ukraine in its struggle against tyranny — decided to give themselves a two week vacation.

If the Supreme Court continues to dismantle the administrative state — something conservatives have longed for since FDR was president — virtually all environmental action will become impossible at a time when the climate crisis is getting worse by the minute. In the world of weaponized right wing ideology, concerns about the health of children are little more than trivial distractions. Red states proudly turn their noses up at funds to help feed hungry children or provide them with quality health care. Why should they care if their little lungs are saturated with crud from burning fossil fuels?

The Takeaway

Pollutants from fossil fuel combustion are a danger to young bodies. Is that any reason to stop using them? Not if you listen to the hysterical cant of the right wing lunatics. As Ebeneezer Scrooge might say, “They should hurry up and die and reduce the surplus population.”

The press is full of stories about how sales of electric cars are falling. There is a certain amount of glee in the headlines that Joe Biden’s plan to accelerate the transition to electric cars is trouble. Why celebrate such a thing when the result is kids will have more health issues? Can these people not see beyond the end of their own noses? Apparently not. Demonizing electric cars and renewable energy is self defeating but they don’t care as long as they win. What a sad commentary on America today.


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