Acting on Climate Change: Nurses Managing Patient Care in their Communities

Gina McCarthy and Katie Huffling Gina McCarthy and Katie Huffling

Health care workers strive day in and day out to provide the best care for their patients. Yet too many Americans are still exposed to air pollution, which can lead to illnesses like asthma. Carbon pollution from power plants comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, putting our families’ health at risk. Rising temperatures from climate change bring more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons—and the elderly, children, and the infirm are most vulnerable.

That’s why health practitioners like, the nurses with Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE), have such an important role to play in managing environmental risks that impact human health. EPA recently took part in a briefing hosted by ANHE and spoke with nurses about mentorship opportunities through the Asthma Community Network and the EPA Breathe Easies asthma education campaign – a great resource for school and pediatric nurses.

Nurses from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) talking with a mother and a child.

ANHE nurse counseling family on how to manage asthma on days with poor air quality.


ANHE is just one of the many nursing organizations on the frontlines, seeing the health impacts of climate change. They see how extreme temperatures cause ailments like heat stroke and hypothermia, and cause utility bills to spike. They see expanding ranges for mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks that carry diseases like Lyme, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. And they see how more frequent storms, floods, drought, and wildfires put families’ lives and livelihoods at risk.

That’s why President Obama’s Climate Action Plan directs EPA to take commonsense steps to curb the harmful carbon pollution that fuels climate change from our nation’s largest source—power plants.

Our nation already limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic, but currently there are no limits on carbon pollution. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution 30% by 2030, and will reduce the smog and soot that come with it. In just the first year these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks, and those numbers will go up from there.

Nurses know that the easiest ailment to treat is one that never develops—and as trusted health professionals, our nation’s 3 million nurses can have a huge impact on their patients and communities. They know that by addressing climate change now, we can protect Americans’ health today, and the health of generations to come.

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