Scientists and physicians have known for decades that poor air quality is bad for our lungs, especially for children, the elderly and those who have respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies. Within the past few years, more research has shown that poor air quality is also harmful to our heart. In fact, the scientific evidence linking air pollution to heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death has “substantially strengthened,” and people, particularly those at high cardiovascular risk, should limit their exposure, according to an updated American Heart Association scientific statement in May.

The pollution of particular concern for cardiac issues is called particulate matter 2.5, particles of pollution so small — just 2.5 microns in size — they get past our lungs’ natural defenses and enter our bloodstream. The greater Birmingham area is currently listed by the federal government as being in nonattainment for this pollution.

The vast majority of the particle pollution in our area is coming from the three outdated, coal-fired power plants that surround our community. While these power plants have recently had some upgrades installed, there is still plenty more that can be done to ensure they are operating as cleanly as a more modern facility.

It is past time for the corporate executives in charge to make the right decisions on behalf of citizens. It is our hope they not continue lengthy and expensive legal, lobbying and regulatory battles — all at ratepayer expense — challenging the efforts to clean up our air. Instead, we want to see a corporate culture that makes clean air a top priority so our lungs can breathe a little easier and our hearts can beat a little stronger.

Kirsten Bryant

Executive director 

Alabama First

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