National Disability Organization States that Climate Change is a Public Health Issue; Urges Congress to Support EPA Carbon Pollution Rule

August 18, 2015

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a final Rule that, when fully implemented, will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2030. The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) supports this Rule that will help prevent serious, long-term health consequences for the over 53 million Americans living with disabilities, including increased illnesses; secondary disabilities; and death due to respiratory illness, heat-related stress, insect-borne diseases and increase environmental disasters.

Climate change raises temperatures and exacerbates smog pollution, triggering asthma attacks and permanently damaging and reducing lung function. These maladies fall most heavily on our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, people with disabilities, and the poor. Carbon pollution is a significant contributor to climate change. The rule would also reduce other harmful pollutants that cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease and prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children. People with disabilities, whose health is often already compromised, are even more prone to these types of illnesses. About 18.7 million adults live with asthma (CDC, 2012) and about 20% are people with disabilities (CDC, 2015).

In addition to these health risks, Americans with disabilities are more likely to be poor than any other demographic group. More than 28 percent of adults aged 21 to 64 who have a disability live in poverty, compared with the overall 12.4 percent national poverty rate. Poverty leaves this group and other vulnerable populations less prepared to adapt to natural disasters and disabilities that occur due to climate change.

AUCD urges Congress to support the new EPA rule in order to protect people with disabilities and the general public from the adverse health impacts of climate change.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities, located in Silver Spring, MD, is a national, non-profit organization that promotes and supports the national network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice through research, education and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families and communities. For more information and a directory of member centers, please see the AUCD website at