Hey, EPA: Children dependent on life support vulnerable to loss of electrical power

EPA says it cares about “the children”. But then why would it threaten the electricity needed to keep the most vulnerable alive?

Here’s the media release from a study presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Boston:

Children dependent on life support vulnerable to loss of electrical power

BOSTON — Children dependent on electrically powered medical devices for life support and maintenance are vulnerable to an unexpected loss of power – and their parents are ill-prepared to deal with it, according to an abstract presented Sunday, Oct. 16, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.

Children with special health care needs are medically complex and often dependent on feeding pumps, oxygen concentrators, nebulizers (providing medication to the lungs), chest vests (for children with cystic fibrosis), suction machines and other medical devices requiring electrical power. A natural disaster or a power grid disruption could halt electrical service not only in a child’s home, but also at nearby hospitals and medical centers, placing these children at risk of death. (Hospitals own back-up generators, but it may be very difficult for them to reach hospitals in time due to possible traffic gridlock or hospital lockdown.)

In the study, “Technoelectric Dependent Children,” researchers surveyed 50 families caring for children and young adults, ages 5 months to 25 years, who are dependent on electronic medical devices.

In the study, 94 percent of families felt that their children need an electrical medical device to maintain their lives. Researchers found many of devices did not have back-up batteries, and 86 percent felt their most important device would not run more than 1 day without electricity. Half did not have any back-up plan. Three- fourths did not have a generator. Though almost 90 percent possessed automobiles, half were not aware that a car can generate electricity.

“Our research revealed that most technoelectric dependent children with special health care needs are not prepared for power failure,” said lead study author Kazumi Sakashita, MD. “We suggest that in addition to having a back-up battery, parents and caregivers use an automobile as a tool to generate electricity and have a standby or portable generator at home. Families of children who are dependent on electrically powered devices should routinely drill for power failure and have a plan to maintain electrical power for their life support or maintenance devices.”

As the Wall Street Journal observed about the EPA threat to electricity reliability:

… the so-called utility rule that would impose new limits on mercury and other hazardous air pollutants… is the most costly in the EPA’s history in return for marginal benefits. It was rushed out to force a large portion of the country’s coal-fired power plants to shut down. On top of other such de facto anti-carbon rules, this could compromise the reliability of the electric system if as much as 8% of generating capacity is subtracted from the grid.

While it always makes sense to have back-up power, why unnecessarily increase the risk of a power outage in the first place?

4 thoughts on “Hey, EPA: Children dependent on life support vulnerable to loss of electrical power”

  1. WSJ: this could compromise the reliability of the electric system if as much as 8% of generating capacity is subtracted from the grid.

    I would say, “if as little as 8% of generating capacity is subtracted from the grid.”

    I seems to me that there are some slightly scary warnings going on here:

    1) We should not trust that the infrastructure on which our current quality of life depends, because that would be an “entitlement” to which we are not entitled, even though at this point in our cultural development we may have no ready alternatives for either sources of energy or devices themselves.

    2) If we have a family member who needs “technoelectric” devices, we had better be sure that at least one other member of the family is a polymath technician, just in case (1) kicks in.

  2. 8% is a huge number in the power business. The grid must control power delivered very accurately, or the voltage at the outlet will suffer dramatically. One blown circuit breaker at a power plant can destabilize the entire grid causing mass failure, as was seen on the east coast. The grid is not a battery that stores power, the power generated is used the instant it is generated (including some transport time of course). This is not an idle threat, when we lose power I have a backup generator for just this purpose. Many people are hospitalized due to no power at home to run equipment.

    You do not need to be a “polymath technician”, just a reasonably prepared person who understands systems fail, and that the government does not have a good track record in fixing things they break. The EPA is about to break something very important.

  3. Electricity production is not an entitlement, but a commodity that is sold to consumers. This private industry is regulated by many different Federal, state, county and city government entities. They do not need additional regulations heaped upon them by the EPA, particularly when there is the threat of destroying that business through the regulations.

    Let us support our Congressional representatives and senators that are making attempts to reign in the runaway EPA before they destroy our electrical grid.

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