There has been a great deal of discussion, both pro and con, about the cruise ship industry in downtown Charleston.
As a physician who practiced medicine here for 38 years, I would like to address the facts of cruise ship air pollution, its impact on citizens, tourists and dockworkers, and finally question why our State Ports Authority (SPA) has so far refused to include onshore power in its plan for the new terminal.
The American Lung Association's president and CEO, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Charles D. Connor, paints a detailed picture, stating he "saw firsthand the staggering amounts of pollution" from cruise ships during his waterborne career.
He reminds us that cruise ships "spew tons of soot and smog-forming pollutants."
"Communities near ports tend to suffer from a high burden of pollution, triggering asthma attacks and a variety of respiratory diseases, sending those who suffer from chronic lung conditions to the hospital and the emergency rooms.
These pollutants cause thousands of premature deaths across the United States every year."
Cruise ship pollution is unhealthy for anyone who works or lives near it. As a retired physician, the negative health effects on Charleston's population are a major concern to me.
I am puzzled. The SPA does not seem concerned about the longshoremen spending time near potentially cancer-causing pollutants. These workers need their jobs, but why continue to endanger their health instead of addressing the soot filling their lungs?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that establishing an Emission Control Area in North America, which requires the use of low-sulfur fuel within 200 miles of our coast, could save our country $47 billion to $110 billion in health care costs by the year 2020.
Estimates include reductions of thousands of instances of premature mortality, chronic and acute bronchitis, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits.
The Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) actively opposes the use of cleaner fuel, but they do support the use of onshore power. Carnival Cruise Lines is also willing to push onshore power as it is more cost-effective for them than to pay for the cleaner, yet more expensive fuel. Our port is understandably interested in keeping Carnival satisfied. Consequently, there should be no opposition to onshore power.
Charleston can protect its own by having the foresight to require that the SPA install plug-in capability. With an additional investment in onshore power, our city would join the ranks of responsible port communities.
If many other ports around the world use onshore power, why can't, or more importantly, shouldn't Charleston?
This is not a "new technology," as the SPA keeps telling the public -- the U.S. Navy has used it for over 50 years.
Investing $35 million in public funds for a new cruise terminal certainly should include onshore power to protect all of Charleston from air pollution, as we welcome cruise passengers to our beautiful, historic city.
J. Gilbert Baldwin Jr., M.D.
Dr. Baldwin received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His post-graduate training in internal medicine and hematology was completed at the Medical University of South Carolina. He practiced in Charleston for 38 years, in addition to serving in the U.S. Army Medical Command in Europe and in Operation Desert Storm.