Statement of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Posted: 4/22/2010

Billed as a “teach-in” to raise public consciousness about the dangers of pollution, the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 drew 20 million Americans who wanted to express their concerns about the environment. Four decades later the Earth Day message still resonates across the country, around the world, and here at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), because public health is inextricably linked to a healthy environment.

Pollutants, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise are important risk factors for chronic disease in this country. These risk factors have been shown to be associated with the environment. One reason childhood obesity is at epidemic levels is the shortage of safe green space to go outside and play. Around the world, we’re already seeing and anticipating increased air pollution, more intense hurricanes, and heat waves linked to global climate change that threaten our health.

I am celebrating Earth Day at a Chicago public housing project that has made a commitment to being smoke-free. That’s good for the air in the building, and good for families and neighbors, who will breathe less second-hand smoke.

I hope you will join me in observing Earth Day 2010, and make a commitment to follow through on the message it sends. Celebrating Earth Day reminds everyone that protecting the environment is one of the most important commitments you can make to the health of the planet, and to the health of every American.

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For more information on the smoke-free project, visit our Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project page.