Experts Hail New Carbon Pollution Standards at EPA Hearing
Three Natural Resources Defense Council experts are scheduled to testify today at a public hearing here convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed rule to limit to industrial carbon pollution from new power plants.
Below are statements by Dan Lashof and David Doniger in the Natural Resource Defense Council's (NRDC) Climate and Clean Air Program, and Kim Knowlton in NRDC’s Global Warming and Health Project:
“Power plants are America’s largest source of carbon pollution, so there is simply no question that carbon dioxide from power plants endangers public health and welfare. Given that, EPA is simply doing its job by moving forward with common-sense standards to limit carbon pollution standards from power plants. These standards are long overdue.
“Improving and finalizing this proposal is a critical step toward creating an electricity system we can all live with. After all, electricity customers are also breathers. We need a reliable electric system—but a system that destabilizes our climate is not something we can rely on.”
—Dan Lashof, program director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program
“Climate change is an urgent public health concern. Many Americans have had personal experiences with extreme weather in recent years that brought home some of the damaging effects and high costs of a changing climate. Many of these extreme events are influenced by climate change, which is loading the weather dice and contributing to some of the most harmful health conditions we face—including increased ozone pollution, lethal, extreme heat, floods and droughts.
“To avoid the unmanageable effects of climate change, limiting carbon pollution is critical. Supporting the New Source Performance Standard places national limits on industrial carbon pollution and is a significant milestone to prevent more potentially disastrous health effects of climate change.”
—Kim Knowlton, senior scientist, Global Warming and Health Project
“The carbon pollution standard is another important step that EPA has taken under President Obama to clean up and modernize the nation’s most polluting sector: the power plants that provide our electricity.
“Carbon pollution imposes staggering health costs by worsening dangerous air pollution and driving increasingly extreme weather. Power plants have long topped the list of industrial sources whose pollution endangers public health and welfare.
“Market realities have already driven decisions on new power plants away from coal. Power companies simply aren’t planning to build new coal plants due to the availability of low-cost natural gas, strong growth in wind and solar power, and big opportunities to improve energy efficiency.
“The new standard only reinforces what most power company executives and investors already understand—that carbon pollution and climate change are serious concerns, and that if and when underlying market economics support a comeback for new coal-fired power plants, they will need to be designed to capture their carbon and keep it out of the air.”
—David Doniger, policy director, Climate and Clean Air program
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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