Dear City Commissioners,

I have sent you previous correspondence regarding my concerns of the adverse health impact and wanted to keep you apprised of some very recent landmark developments with respect to particulate matter air pollution.

There was a scientific position statement published last week in a prominent medical journal summarizing the health impact of particulate matter air pollution and asserting new health care recommendations based upon the recent research. As a result of this article and the forthcoming recommendations, members of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the American Heart Association were on Capitol Hill last week reviewing this material with lawmakers in a Congressional briefing. I suspect this information will affect the regulation of clean air as well as public health recommendations to reduce air pollution exposure. Here is a link for lay persons describing this new information for your review. Air Pollution Increases Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

A few new strong position points are being made by the American Heart Association in this publication:

  • They classify particulate matter air pollution as "a modifiable cardiovascular risk factor" such as diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and hypertension. -They state that there is no safe lower limit for this pollutant given the linear relationship between mortality rates and PM2.5 level.
  • They present research material of the adverse health effects involving Ultrafine particles, which appear theoretically and in the initial studies to be as toxic, if not more so, than PM2.5.
  • Citizens should take measures to avoid exposure to particulate matter air pollution.

The relevance to the proposed biomass facility is this:

  • Wood burning biomass incinerators produce fine particulate matter air pollution.
  • Ultrafine particulates are also released with wood burning biomass/ combustion processes (ie., gasification). The USEPA is currently funding larger studies to corroborate the initial studies which demonstrated toxicity of this pollutant. At this time, however, there is no reporting or monitoring of this pollutant so there is potential for great adverse health impact.
  • 41% of the current ambient air quality monitoring sites in the Mid-West are currently not in compliance with the current legal levels of regulated pollutants such as PM2.5. Given these high rates of non-compliance, the USEPA is recommending that communities be proactive with respect to preventing air pollution.

I am aware that the current proposed plant will likely emit less PM pollution per megawatt than some existing plants such as the one in Cadillac. However, contributing to air pollution with a biomass burning incinerator does not seem appropriate at this time given the recent scientific advances regarding the adverse health effects of Ultrafine particles, PM2.5 and other pollutants; that our ambient air quality will not be monitored; that our citizens seem largely opposed to it due to health and ecological concerns; and that our clean options such as wind/solar/hydro/methane recycling have not truly been maximized.

For your information, I have several additional local physicians who would like to co-sign the letter that was previously sent and signed by physicians. I will be sending out an addendum to that letter to you with the additional names attached. I suspect there will be many more beyond that once there is review of these recent findings and recommendations by the American Heart Association and there is improved awareness of the gravity of the health effects of air pollution as evidenced in recent studies.

I hope that with the awareness of this recent scientific information, you will vote against the capital budget proposal put before you next month by TCLP if it contains a biomass or other incinerator solution. I would also recommend that you encourage them to come up with a new plan that entails truly clean energy proposals in an effort to protect the health of the citizens you serve.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information or to discuss this further. I would be more than happy to meet with you in person or discuss this over the phone and help interpret the research.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

Laura Shea, MD Brookside
Family Medicine 505 E. State St. , Traverse City, MI 49686 231-883-2210