The so-called “regulatory reform” bill  (aka the “Polluter Protection Act”) that’s been wending its way through the General Assembly this year contains a laundry list of provisions that would weaken important environmental protection laws and regulations. Laura Wenzel of the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air program at Clean Air Carolina details some of the most troubling in this “must read” op-ed:

H765 and Air Quality: Jones Street has it in for the Joneses

By Laura Wenzel, MSW

Air pollution impacts our lives in surprising ways, and some of the worst impacts don’t happen all at once, but as a gradual accumulation of stresses. Unfortunately, a bill currently being negotiated in the NC General Assembly boosts the harms of air pollution in just this way: a series of weakening changes that add up to bigger risks to our kids, our families, and ourselves.

H765, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, includes provisions that threaten air, water, and land. But to understand just the air quality provisions, let’s consider what H765 does to the hypothetical Jones family.

The Jones family includes Tonya, a pregnant woman; her six-year-old son Joseph; and her mother, Pauline. Their neighborhood is adjacent to a warehouse district, where heavy trucks travel daily. Currently, unless a truck’s engine is required for an operation like refrigeration, the truck is not allowed to idle for more than five minutes. This not only saves wear on the truck’s engine, it prevents diesel pollution from concentrating in the area. However, H765 repeals the anti-idling rule, allowing truckers to idle their vehicles for an unlimited amount of time.

This is bad news for the fetus that Tonya Jones is carrying. Read More


After reading this fact sheet from the American Public Health Association (APHA), it is apparent that NC policymakers need to take action in order to improve our state’s public health. If our state legislators were assigned a grade for how they are investing in NC’s public health, it would not be a passing grade. The following statistics show there is much room for improving NC’s public health rankings:

  • Ranks 8th for prevalence of diabetes amongst adults.
  • Ranks 47th for the availability of dentists.
  • Ranks 10th for infant mortality.
  • Ranks 47th for the amount invested in each person’s public health needs. NC spends $11.73 per year per resident.
  • Ranks 5th for the number of children living in poverty.

While these numbers are unimpressive at best, there are some public health areas that NC has improved on. First, the high school graduation rate has improved, but then again the Senate budget proposes tax cuts that lower the number of teacher assistants, which could negate the progress made. Second, NC has made great progress in reducing air pollution, but then again the House wants to cut auto emissions tests in some counties.

Even though the sequester led to significant cuts in public health funding, there is federal funding available to address the poor rankings listed above. NC could receive funding to help the following:

Fifteen percent of North Carolinians are uninsured and 500,000 people are in the Medicaid coverage gap. These are people that could seek primary preventative health care that will yield better health outcomes such as prenatal and maternity care to ensure healthy outcomes after childbirth. Research has shown that children eligible for Medicaid miss fewer school days, have higher educational attainment. and their families have more financial security. There are also 150,000 people in NC in the coverage gap with mental health and substance use disorders that need ongoing treatment. The Affordable Care Act has written into law that the federal government will cover 100% of Medicaid expansion costs until 2016 and up to 90 percent of costs starting 2020. Ensuring coverage to one half million North Carolinians is one public health act that will pull NC up the rankings.


Tech Times has another story this morning that you can mention the next time some troubled soul tries to tell you that government should stop requiring vaccines in order to combat infectious diseases and protect the public health:

Health Officials Declare Rubella Completely Eradicated In The Americas

Rubella, also known as German measles, a disease considered a grave risk to unborn children, has been eliminated from the Americas, a scientific panel says.

Medical experts say the successful elimination of the contagious viral disease is a historic achievement for North and South America, on a level with the elimination of smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

With the success of mass vaccination programs, the last endemic cases of rubella in the Americas were in Brazil and Argentina in 2009.

With no cases declared during five consecutive years, the Americas have been declared free of the rubella virus, says Carissa Etienne, head of the Pan-American Health Organization, a part of the World Health Organization.”

The story also notes that:

“Measles were eliminated in the Americas in 2002, but a rise of the number of children unvaccinated over parents’ fears of autism from the MMR vaccination has allowed imported cases to cause outbreaks in the U.S., such as the one traced to Disneyland in California in late 2014.”

Sen. Rand Paul - Photo: Facebook

Sen. Rand Paul – Photo: Facebook

In the mid-20th Century, conservatives fulminated about the “monstrous commie plot” of water fluoridation. Today, sadly, there appears to be a modern day equivalent of this imaginary bogeyman.

According to a rather disturbing story in this morning’s Charlotte Observer, Kentucky Senator and presidential wannabe Rand Paul has endorsed the dangerous idea that childhood vaccinations should be left to the whims of parents.

“Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claimed Monday that vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders.’

Paul, in an often contentious interview with CNBC, argued that parents should have a choice whether to vaccinate their children.

‘I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,’ Paul said.

The scientific community overwhelmingly believes that vaccines are safe and the alleged link between vaccines and autism has been discredited.

As the country was reminded in recent days with the outbreak of measles at Disneyland, vaccinations are a critical, life-saving public health tool — a tool that’s built in large measure on universal compliance. How do people think we got rid of dreaded killers like smallpox and polio — through prayer and fasting?

Whatever the source of Paul’s wacky views — be they old-fashioned conservative fear and paranoia or, as journalist Amanda Marcotte argued persuasively on Talking Points Memo yesterday, elitism, for the sake of all our kids and grandchildren, let’s hope Paul’s ridiculous stance falls flat and is quickly consigned once more to the dustbin of history.

state Sen. Thom Goolsby

Former State Sen. Thomas Goolsby

It’s a testament to just how far we have to go in this state — a place in which innocent people are shot and killed on what seems like an almost daily basis — when reasonably intelligent people write lengthy and celebratory blog posts about the long list of ways in which state lawmakers have made killing machines easier to obtain, brandish and use in recent years.

That’s what former State Senator Thomas Goolsby, a Wilmington criminal defense and personal injury lawyer, did last week on his law firm blog. Goolsby’s overwhelmingly depressing lists (click here and here to view them) were trumpeted yesterday on the soon-to-be-defunct legislative news website of former State Representative Tim Moffitt yesterday (Moffitt was defeated in November and will presumably stop referring to himself as a State Representative shortly).

Moffitt’s post is entitled “Of Interest to Gun Owners.” Lets hope it’s of interest to all caring and thinking North Carolinians — gun owners and non-owners alike — as they come together in the years ahead to begin to rein in this state’s out-of-control gun violence crisis.