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AARC Members Testify at Senate Hearing

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June 10, 2011

AARC members James Ginda, MA, RRT, AE-C, CHES, and Patty Resnik, MBA, RRT-NPS, FACHE, CPHQ, CPUR, testified before a joint hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety and Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility on Wednesday, bringing the respiratory therapist’s perspective to the topic of “Air Quality and Children’s Health.”

The hearing was spurred by ongoing debate in Congress on pollution standards. Under requirements of the Clean Air Act of 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency will be updating air pollution standards for mercury, ground level ozone, and other pollutants over the next couple of years. Following a ruling from the Supreme Court, the agency is also setting standards to address air pollution linked to global warming.

With the help of the AARC’s government affairs staff, Ginda and Resnik prepared five minute oral testimonies aimed at educating the subcommittee members about the link between air quality and childhood asthma.

Ginda, who is a supervisor of respiratory care at Kent Hospital in Warwick, RI,  specifically addressed airborne toxins and how they impact the respiratory system, noting that particulate matter is composed in part of black carbon fine particles, which can make their way past the upper airway lung defenses even in healthy individuals.

“The black carbon in particulate matter has been shown to be a formidable opponent for alveolar macrophages, which are important for infection protection and a last line of lung defense,” he told the Senators. “Chronic inflammation which is uncontrolled can lead to airway remodeling and a fixed degree of airflow obstruction. Both the fine particle and gaseous components of air pollution are triggers in asthma, and can affect children even at levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”

Ginda also shared information about the impact of a law passed in his state on protecting the public from diesel pollution that he says is a “shining example of cooperative effort between concerned legislators, state agencies, environmental groups, industry representatives, and health advocates.”

Resnik spoke about the costs related to pediatric asthma care and specifically shared data from Christiana Care Health System in Delaware, where she serves as corporate director of performance improvement and utilization management.

“What we see in our facilities reflects what the American Lung Association’s 2011 State of the Air Report showed: that every county in Delaware received failing grades for ozone. In fact, New Castle County, the most populated county, as part of the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, is among the top 25 most polluted cities for ozone and both year-round and short-term levels of particles. Until air pollution levels improve as a whole, the public’s health will continue to be at risk,” she noted.

The two RTs also got a chance to fill the Senators in on what pediatric respiratory therapists do and the treatments they deliver to children under their care in response to a question to that effect asked by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), who co-chaired the session with Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

Additional information was provided during other questions asked by the Senators as well. Ginda in particular emphasized the link between air quality and asthma by citing the results from studies conducted in Mexico City, Italy, and the U.S.

The testimony given by Ginda and Resnik is just one more example of the inroads our profession is making in our nation’s capital and reflects the many years of work the AARC has invested in networking with our elected officials through our government affairs staff and our annual PACT Lobby Day.