Robin Cooper, MD
February 28, 2018

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on this important topic today.   I am speaking on behalf of Climate Psychiatry Alliance, a national organization with the mission of educating the public and the psychiatric profession about the impacts of climate change on mental health. I am a practicing psychiatrist for over 35 years and am on the clinical faculty at UCSF.  I have been active in climate change health impacts for many years and am in the leadership of the Health Action team of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is a national organization with over 455 chapters and 95,000 citizen members. 

We know the unmistakable fact linking coal power plant emissions to climate change.We in California are getting a sense of what the future has in store for us as we face droughts and mega-wildfires already ravaging our state.  I am sure you will hear much testimony on this.

But today I want to address one area of emissions and air pollution that is less well known. Most people are aware of air-pollution impacts on asthma and heart disease. But, since I am a psychiatrist and have studied the impact of air pollution on the human brain, I think I can add a new dimension to the conversation of health impacts of carbon emissions.

There is new and emerging reputable scientific studies that ADD to the scientific understanding of the links between air pollution and brain damage since the initial studies that were presented when the Clean Power Plan was originally proposed which must be taken into account when considering any changes to the CPP.  With the advance of powerful technology, very small participles in air-pollution, particles called Particulate Matter, have recently been able to be studied.  These tiny and ulta-tiny particles can be directly breathed thru our olfactory system(our noses)  and are also absorbed into our blood stream and travel straight into the central nervous system/the brain. These particles mount an inflammatory reaction in our brains.  Inflamed brains can be damaged brains.  We have evidence linking stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive impairments and early brain aging to air pollution.   Children, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable and studies indicate links between air-pollution exposure and numerous developmental problems including autism, ADHD, neurobehavioral problemsand lower IQ.

All public health recommendations advocate for the reducing and limiting exposure to air pollution.  

As the EPA considers any changes to the CPP, it is essential that you take into account the new and significant scientific information that underscores previously unknown risks of air pollution. 

For the sake of our current environment and health and for the longer-term impacts on climate stability, the Clean Power Plan should be retained.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this vital issue.  I would be happy provide further information or references.