Breathe easy during Clean Air Month

Aspirus Health is committed to clean air initiatives

There are few things as refreshing as a deep breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the quality of our air isn’t always good for us. When polluted by manmade sources like car exhaust and factories, or by natural sources like wildfires, our air has the potential to do us harm.

Our lungs need clean air to stay healthy. That’s why it’s important the air we breathe is free of pollution. Each May, the American Lung Association (ALA) celebrates Clean Air Month to educate people about the impact clean air can have on their lives.

While air pollution is no good for anyone, some people are at greater risk for harm. According to the ALA, air pollution poses a higher risk to:

  • People of color
  • People with lower incomes
  • Children
  • Older adults
  • People with certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obesity
  • People who smoke or used to do so

Air pollution can result in rises in asthma attacks, heart attacks, hospitalizations for people with COPD, infant death, respiratory infections and strokes. The ALA reports it can also raise the risk for asthma, COPD, certain cancers, diabetes, dementia and fertility problems.

“At Aspirus Health, our mission is to heal people, promote health and strengthen communities,” said Ali Wolf, Director of the Aspirus System Sustainability Program. “Because we love, we are leading on this important health issue for our communities, patients and team members. Not only are we committed to helping people with lung issues improve their health and manage their conditions, but we’re dedicated to practices that promote clean air to prevent the onset of these health conditions. We know our changing climate has a significant impact on human health.”

Since rolling out its sustainability initiative in 2018, Aspirus Health introduced programs to reduce its carbon footprint to support community health and improve air and water quality. Aspirus also instituted efforts to conserve energy and to align with best practices in the health industry to be a community leader for socially responsible business operations.

One clean air initiative at Aspirus Health is to use clean, renewable solar energy. To date, Aspirus has installed 1.6 megawatts of solar electric panels across its locations. These solar panels use the sun to create electricity, which is used to help power the buildings where they are located.

Unlike natural gas and coal used for generating power, solar energy emits no pollution, produces no odors, releases no chemicals and uses no water. Solar is the cheapest and cleanest form of new energy generation at the power plant level, making it the infrastructure of choice for utility growth and future investment.

The 1.6 megawatts of solar power at Aspirus Health provided an annual carbon reduction of 640 MtCo2 (Metric Tons of Carbon) in 2021. This annual reduction is equivalent to the carbon emissions or energy used by 138 passenger vehicles, 81 homes or 27,703 bags of landfill-bound trash.

Most recently, Aspirus installed solar panels on the roofs of the Aspirus Divine Savior Wellness Center in Portage, Wis., and Aspirus Medford Hospital in Medford, Wis. Active solar panel arrays have also been installed at Aspirus Health’s hospital, corporate campus, Cardiology Clinic and Family House in Wausau, Wis.; Aspirus Langlade Hospital in Antigo, Wis.; and Aspirus Rhinelander Clinic in Rhinelander, Wis. It is Aspirus Health’s intention to install additional solar arrays each year to reach its goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 80 percent by 2030.

Help protect yourself from air pollution and its impacts by:

  • Knowing the daily air quality index of your area.
  • Taking precautions when air quality is not safe for your health, including staying indoors, closing windows, using air filters and not smoking.
  • Not exercising next to busy roads to avoid contact with car exhaust.
  • Eliminating bad air from inside your home by keeping it mold-free, cleaning often to avoid dust mites, using cleaning products with lower amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ensuring fuel-burning appliances are vented properly, testing your home for radon, not smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, and opening windows to bring in fresh air when outdoor air quality is safe.