LETTERS: We must address home pollutants for our health, climate


Editor: Clearly, whether you base your concern on the most recent IPCC report or the wildfires, drought and extreme weather events facing every part of our country and world, the climate crisis threatens all of us.

As a grandmother and retired family physician, I have devoted a large amount of time since I retired to trying to find legislative solutions that will move our state in the right direction to do our part to tackle this looming issue which threatens the health of each of us as well as many other precious species. But we must all come together now to accelerate our efforts to stop using the fossil fuels that we have come to rely on for so much in our daily lives.

One especially concerning area to me is the need to quickly stop using natural gas to heat our homes and water and to cook our food. Not only does the process of extracting methane and the inevitable leaks associated with that extraction contribute greatly to global warming but burning those fuels in our homes produces very concerning indoor air pollution along with climate warming CO2. In a home where natural gas is being burned to cook our food or heat our home, indoor air pollution may exceed levels which the EPA would consider dangerous for health outdoors.

We are exposing our children to harmful nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide every time we cook their dinners. And those levels of pollutants affect those living in poverty the most because their homes are smaller, producing higher concentrations of the harmful chemicals in addition to the fact that these same folks live in parts of our cities where air pollution is worse. As a family physician working in community clinics for most of my career, I know the high levels of asthma, heart disease and chronic lung disease that my patients from poor communities had to face.

The solutions to moving our homes from polluting natural gas to efficient clean electricity exist but they are not based on private enterprise alone. The costs to our society and our local and state government of pollution and the climate crisis are high. We must begin to exchange those costs for incentives to help residents of Colorado convert their homes to homes in which heating, cooling, water heating and cooking are all powered by clean electricity-electricity which in Colorado will more and more be provided by renewable wind and solar. Our elected officials need to facilitate a swift, equitable transition off fossil gas for everyone. And, as the City of Denver is planning, assure that new housing is fully equipped for electric cooking and heating.

In addition, HVAC and appliance companies must be encouraged and given incentives to educate their workers to install heat pumps, induction stoves and heat pump water heaters and to market those options to consumers.

— Dr. Jan Douglas, via [email protected]

Douglas is the Legislative Committee co-chair for the Colorado Sierra Club.

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