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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of May 10-16


This week, readers sent us comments about the League of Women Voters’ ads and Newt Gingrich.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

League of Women Voters’ Ads

Factcheck.org’s May 11 piece ["Deceitful Attacks from the League of Women Voters] was off-base in characterizing as "deceitful" the League of Women Voters’ ads that targeted two lawmakers who voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating public health protections. The Factcheck.org piece based its conclusion on the argument that there is no direct connection between carbon dioxide pollution and adverse health effects, such as asthma.

In fact, the basis for the ads is the formal determination by the EPA that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, endanger public health and welfare. In its technical findings, the agency said: "climate change is expected to increase regional ozone pollution, with associated risks in respiratory illnesses and premature death."

The EPA said greenhouse gases endanger public health because they cause climate change, which is expected to increase regional ozone pollution that does cause asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses — which are commonly treated with the type of nebulizer depicted in the ads.

The ads did not say there’s a direct connection; they did make clear, however, that there is a health consequence, and that has been recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the American Lung Association and many other health professionals.

Dan Lashof
Director, climate center
Natural Resources Defense Council
Washington, D.C.

I’m writing as a pediatrician and a public health researcher in response to the article titled “Deceitful Attacks from the League of Women Voters” posted on 5/11/11 on your website. I disagree that the League of Women Voters’ ads are deceitful, but I agree that the ads are simplistic. These ads appropriately link greenhouse gas emissions to asthma. What they don’t spell out is that greenhouse gas emissions result in climate change. Climate change, driven by carbon dioxide and other "invisible greenhouse gases," has multiple health effects. One of the most direct is that the increased heat from climate change facilitates the conversion of air pollutants such as volatile organic chemicals and nitrogen oxides into ozone. And, as the article acknowledges, there are well-known health effects from ozone, worsening asthma being one important one.

Using ozone projections for the 2020s created for the New York Climate and Health project, my colleagues and I have shown increases in ozone-related emergency department visits for asthma of up to 10 percent in the New York City metropolitan area. Additionally, less rainfall resulting from climate change will likely make wildfires more common in the western part of the United States, which are a major source of particulate matter that also contribute to respiratory problems like asthma.

So while the effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is not direct – meaning it is not by inhaling those gases that we become ill – those gases are contributing to climate change and the evidence supporting the negative impacts of climate change on asthma continues to grow. I would ask that your article be modified to help clarify but not undermine their important message. Thank you.

Perry Elizabeth Sheffield
Assistant professor, Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New York, N.Y.

As a longtime League of Women Voters member, I am very concerned about the ads the LWV/USA has been running against the votes taken by Sens. Claire McCaskill and Scott Brown. Do you know who is financing these TV ads?

In my experience, the LWV never had the kind of money to run such an expensive campaign. Has the League been "snookered" to run these ads in order to make it harder for two pro-choice supporters? Two somewhat liberal senators up for reelection in 2012? Two senators who mostly support the EPA? What?

I hope your organization can follow the money. For me, it makes no sense that the LWV sounds so partisan.

Kathryn Allen
Columbia, Mo.

 

Factcheck Obama, Too

I read your FactChecking Gingrich article that you published today ["FactChecking Gingrich," May 11] since he announced his run for president and noticed you did a fairly thorough summary of the times you’ve caught the former speaker in false statements, distortions, exaggerations and outright lies over the years.

I’m wondering when, since you profess to be nonpartisan, you will do a fairly thorough summary of the times you’ve caught President Obama in similar false statements, distortions, exaggerations and outright lies. It is clear that he is running for president again, so to be fair and impartial, you should do a matching summary.

Will Nordmeyer
Dayton, Ohio