How About a Clean-Air Shave?

By Scott Burris

Somewhere along the way, environmental law and public health law got separated.  Despite the importance of clean air and water to public health – not to mention parks, recreation, salubrious zoning – the two fields developed independently in the law. That’s changing in a lot of ways, and one very good example is a study proceeding now in New York City.

Particulate matter from power plants is a significant source of air pollution that makes people sick. New York City estimates that air pollution like this sends 8,000 people to the hospital every year, and kills 3,000. In places like New York, the power produced to meet peak demand tends to be dirtier than the power produced by continuously operating sources. Reducing peak demand – called “peak shaving” – therefore can have a significant impact on total pollutants.

A study from NYU law school’s Institute for Policy Integrity is investigating the impact of a variety of peak-shaving policies on health.  A new brief reporting on the work is worth a read by anyone working on health and the environment.

Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research

Based at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, the Center for Public Health Law Research supports the widespread adoption of scientific tools and methods for mapping and evaluating the impact of law on health. It works by developing and teaching public health law research and legal epidemiology methods (including legal mapping and policy surveillance); researching laws and policies that improve health, increase access to care, and create or remove barriers to health (e.g., laws or policies that create or remove inequity); and communicating and disseminating evidence to facilitate innovation.

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