2011 Advocacy Successes
Our dedicated volunteers and patient advocates play a key role in carrying the message of lung health to our lawmakers. Sharing personal stories with lawmakers gives them a perspective on how their policies impact individuals beyond statistics. Through your visits, calls and emails, our representatives understand what it is like to live with COPD, to manage a child's asthma or to care for people living with lung cancer. Giving a voice to people living with lung disease has made the following successes possible. View this information as a printer-friendly PDF here.
Continuing efforts to clean up power plants
We continue to lead the charge in cleaning up harmful coal-fired power plant pollution. As part of the 50-member Chicago Clean Power Coalition, we worked with Aldermen Joe Moore and Danny Solis in July to introduce legislation in the city council to clean up the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants. The plants emit thousands of tons of deadly air pollution every year and cause health problems for nearby residents. To date, 34 more aldermen have co-sponsored this important legislation, and the ordinance has been assigned to a committee.
Enacting the Chicago Clean Construction Ordinance
Respiratory Health Association worked with the City of Chicago for more than two years to support clean construction. In April, Mayor Daley submitted and the city council passed a Clean Diesel Construction Ordinance. For large, city-funded public construction projects, the ordinance limits diesel engine idling, bans the use of vehicles with the oldest, dirtiest engines, and will ensure that construction equipment working on the projects will be 90% cleaner within a decade.
Calling for more diesel pollution project funding
Respiratory Health Association strongly supported a number of diesel retrofit funding projects in the Chicago region, ensuring that more than $30 million in 2012-2016 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality transportation funds will be spent in the region to clean up Metra locomotives, public transit buses and school buses throughout the region.
Speaking out at EPA power plant rule hearing
In May, our staff and advocates testified in support of a new U.S. EPA rule aimed at cutting toxic coal-fired power plant pollution across the country. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are designed to cut fine particle pollution - which contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and cadmium - from the air we breathe. Once implemented, EPA estimates that these rules will save more than 11,000 lives and prevent 130,000 childhood asthma attacks each year. Respiratory Health Association played a key role in bringing clean air advocates, medical professionals and people living with lung disease to the hearing, and we worked with the media to broadcast the importance of these rules.
Cleaning up Metra's pollution
In late 2010, we worked with Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne on an investigative piece that found air pollution inside Metra cars up to 72 times higher than outside air. With increased public attention, Metra formed a task force to investigate the problem and propose ways to improve air quality. Through Respiratory Health Association's task force participation, in 2011, Metra began using much cleaner diesel fuel, strictly limited locomotive idling, accelerated the upgrading of existing locomotives, improved station ventilation and began using better air filters on passenger coach cars. We continue to urge Metra to install idling controls on all of their locomotives, use exhaust pipe pollution controls and invest in cleaner, new locomotives that meet the strictest EPA standards.
Building awareness for COPD
People living with COPD continue to share their stories by calling for awareness and resources dedicated to COPD. Two of our COPD patient advocates convinced their legislator Representative Will Davis to introduce legislation that recognizes November as COPD Awareness Month. This legislation passed with overwhelming support in the Illinois House of Representatives and brought necessary attention to the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Collecting data on COPD
To gain a clearer understanding of how COPD impacts Illinois, Respiratory Health Association commissioned a series of five questions related to COPD to be included on the 2010 Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. The survey found that 398,919 people in Illinois (4.2 percent) have been diagnosed with COPD. Based on government estimates that as many as half of the people living with COPD are undiagnosed, an estimated 800,000 Illinoisans likely have the disease. We distributed this data to key decision makers in government and in the health care industry to demonstrate the need for more resources dedicated to combatting this disease.
Leading the COPD Caucus
In June, Senator Dick Durbin officially became a co-chair of the U.S. Congressional COPD Caucus. The COPD Caucus is a bipartisan group of lawmakers who work to raise awareness about COPD and promote government policies to improve the lives of people with the disease. The caucus also provides opportunities for people living with and affected by COPD to advocate for lung-friendly policies and voice their concerns and opinions. Respiratory Health Association's supporters had an impact on Sen. Durbin's decision to join the caucus. In 2009, 250 Cruising with COPD attendees wrote thank you letters to Sen. Durbin for his role as a COPD Caucus member, and we have been longtime supporters of his COPD work.
Protecting clean energy policies
Illinois is legally required to generate 25 percent of its power from clean, renewable sources by 2025, and Respiratory Health Association is ensuring that we are on track to meet the requirement. In the spring, we worked with other organizations to stop a bill in Springfield that would have reclassified burning tires as a renewable energy source to generate electricity. Defending how clean, renewable power is defined in Illinois law ensures that we increase the proportion of our electric power that comes from non-polluting wind and solar energy.
Fighting exemptions to smoke-free laws
In 2011, casinos and other special interest groups began seeking exemptions to the smoke-free law. Our staff and volunteers worked diligently to pass the historic smoke-free law, and we continue to be vigilant of the rights of workers and patrons to breathe clean air. So far, no exemptions to the law have passed through the legislature, and we continue to monitor these efforts.
Advocating for lung health at the State Capitol
As part of our State Advocacy Day in the spring, an enthusiastic group of 50 people living with lung disease, medical professionals and volunteers visited the capital to advocate for bills that protect lung health. Advocates met with Senate President John Cullerton, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and the Governor's staff to share support for lung-friendly legislation and share their stories of living with lung disease.