EDF Health

Another reason to reduce methane emissions: Saving lives 

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President, Healthy Communities

Cutting methane emissions is one of the fastest, most effective ways to stabilize the climate. It can also improve public health.   

Today, 130 countries are committed to cutting methane emissions by 30% by 2030 as part of the Global Methane Pledge. As countries work to meet these commitments and more nations join the Global Methane Pledge, there is an opportunity to identify and implement solutions that both reduce methane emissions and improve the public’s health. Finding climate solutions that center health and wellbeing of people is essential if we are to secure a vital Earth for everyone.

At this year’s COP in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, we have a unique opportunity to bring together experts on oil and gas, agriculture, waste and public health on November 15 at the Health Pavilion to discuss the nexus between methane and health as well as opportunities for action.


Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, and cutting these emissions is important because it is the fastest way to advance global climate goals while also achieving significant near-term public health benefits. Methane contributes significantly to the impacts of climate change on our health–from extreme heat to increased risk of infectious disease. It contributes to ground-level ozone and particulate pollution, which damages airways, aggravates lung diseases, causes asthma attacks, increases rates of pre-term birth, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and boosts stroke risk.

Consequences from these health impacts include lost productivity, higher medical costs, and greater pressure on health systems. By suppressing crop growth, ozone can also exacerbate food insecurity.

But there’s also reason for hope. We can prevent vented and fugitive methane emissions with existing technologies, and our ability to identify methane leaks continues to improve. By taking full advantage of such tools and targeting super emitters, policymakers can advance climate action while delivering enormous health benefits regionally as well as to communities living near oil and gas operations.

We can also reduce methane emissions in agriculture and solid waste management. Providing livestock with higher-quality feed would cut methane produced during digestion, improve the animals’ health and deliver more nutritious dairy products for people. Capturing methane from manure and treating digestate to minimize ammonia emissions (precursors of particulate matter) would provide a local source of energy, reduce odors, and mitigate public health risks of those living nearby.

It is crucial to highlight the near-term health benefits of cutting methane. With the help of researchers and community-health practitioners who understand the issue best, we hope to generate the support, collaboration and investment needed to cut methane emissions and improve public health worldwide.

With support from the Wellcome Trust, EDF will convene a series of dialogues in early 2023 about the health-methane nexus and hold a workshop during the UNFCCC Intersessional in Bonn to collaboratively develop recommendations to the UNFCCC for presentation at COP28.

Watch the “Health-Methane Nexus: Opportunities for Action” panel livestream from COP 27 at 10:00 a.m. EET (Egypt)/3:00 a.m. ET or view the post-event recording at GlobalCleanAir.org Convenings.

Also posted in Air pollution, Methane, Public health / Read 1 Response

Environmental Justice and Community Organizing: A conversation with Eric Ini of Michigan United

For the better part of the last decade, Eric Ini has worked with communities fighting for environmental justice. Human health is inextricably linked to the environment in which we live. And health disparities exacerbated by local pollutants are often tied to entrenched inequities and injustices. 

As a campaigner with Greenpeace in Africa’s Congo Basin, Eric helped local communities preserve rainforest sought for palm oil plantations. Last year, he joined Michigan United, drawn to the group’s work to protect the health of frontline communities after its members helped pressure Marathon Petroleum Corporation into paying $5 million to buy out residents in the predominantly black neighborhood of Boynton affected by years of pollution from the company’s refinery in southern Detroit. 

Now Michigan United’s environmental justice director, he is part of a coalition opposed to the state’s permitting of an Ajax Materials Corp. asphalt facility near Flint, Michigan and demanding action to protect public health. The state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) granted the permit last year, despite overwhelming opposition and calls from the federal EPA to evaluate the cumulative impact on the surrounding community of emissions from the Ajax facility and the many industrial facilities already in the area. 

I sat down with Eric to hear more about his environmental justice efforts and the lessons he’s learned in his work with communities, governments, and companies on multiple continents.    Read More »

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Breathing wildfire smoke: A scientist mom’s concerns

This post originally appeared on EDF Voices

Maria Harris is an Environmental Epidemiologist.

Downtown Oakland, CA skyline obscured by wildfire smoke. Aug. 22, 2020 Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Getty Images.

If the risks, hardships and anxiety of life during a pandemic were not enough, my fellow northern Californians are now facing another health crisis.

As I write this, hundreds of wildfires are burning across the state, among them two of the largest ever in California. Together, the fires have burned more than 1.4 million acres, destroyed 2,800 homes and buildings, killed eight people and forced thousands to evacuate their homes.

On top of the acute risks to lives and homes, residents across the state are suffering from highly polluted air as massive plumes of smoke fill the skies above our homes.

Children, seniors and those with lung disease are especially vulnerable

As a mom of two young kids, it’s been a tough couple weeks of anxiously monitoring air quality data and maps to determine if and when it might be safe to go outside, while seeking information on how to keep my family healthy.

As an environmental health scientist, I know that wildfire smoke has been linked to a range of negative health impacts, including asthma exacerbation, which can lead to emergency room visits and hospitalizations, along with increased rates of heart attacks and even death. Children and pregnant women, as well as those with heart disease or respiratory conditions like asthma, are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of wildfire smoke.

Read More »

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Podcast: Hurricane Harvey’s Toxic Aftermath

In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rains brought unprecedented flooding to Houston and large portions of the southeast coast of Texas. The storm destroyed homes and businesses, prompted numerous rescues, and left Texans to piece their lives back together. Harvey also led to substantial releases of toxic chemicals into communities.

The Houston area is home to hundreds of chemical plants and refineries. While highly visible incidents, like the explosions at the Arkema chemical plant, dominated news coverage, toxic chemical releases from plants occurred throughout the region.

In this episode of our podcast, we spoke with EDF’s own Dr. Elena Craft, who helped spearhead efforts to monitor these releases in real-time. Elena talks about her experiences on the ground, the inadequacies of many chemical plant risk management plans, and what it all means moving forward.


Want to hear about other environmental health issues? Subscribe and listen on iTunes or Google Play, or check out Podbean to listen via desktop!

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Podcast: What a changing climate means for human health

Climate change poses clear threats to the environment and global ecosystems, but it also presents risks to human health. Evidence suggests that droughts, heat waves, and extreme weather events will become more severe as our planet continues to warm. These effects of climate change can directly harm people by exacerbating medical conditions such as respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease. They can also indirectly impact health as they cause food and water shortages that affect the most vulnerable among us. Our changing climate represents a challenge for public health throughout the world.

In this episode of our podcast, we spoke with Dr. Jay Lemery and Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, both physicians at the University of Colorado, about what climate change means for our health and patient care, and what the path to a healthy future looks like.

Want more? Subscribe and listen on iTunes or Google Play, or check out Podbean to listen via desktop!

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