Reduce the risks of air pollution from cruise ships, Post and Courier, March 8, 2012, commentary.

One of the most important functions of the Charleston County Medical Society (CCMS) is to give citizens of the county advice on important issues relative to public health. In 2008 the CCMS proposed a resolution urging the South Carolina Medical Association (SCMA) to support “the maximum feasible reduction of all forms of harmful air pollution, especially new and existing sources of toxic fine particle pollution.” This resolution was adopted by SCMA in 2008, but stalled in the Legislature. Since then the arrival of the cruise ship industry in Charleston Harbor has again brought the problem of port-related air pollution to our attention. Without shoreside power, docked cruise ships run their engines and further pollute the air. This is easily addressed.

After an extensive review of health data relative to the use of onshore power by docked cruise ships, the CCMS executive committee has asked the SCMA to take a stand.

Its proposed resolution acknowledges that the average cruise ship discharges four times the amount of airborne pollutants, especially sooty particulates, compared to the average cargo ship, thus affecting residents and visitors when ships continuously run their engines dockside for hours while passengers embark and disembark.

The effects of airborne pollutants have been shown to include increased chronic respiratory and heart diseases and increased cancer risk, especially among dockworkers, merchants and residents closest to the docks. That increases their health care costs.

The use of onshore power reduces airborne cruise ship pollutants by up to 90 percent and is used frequently by major U.S. cruise ports without appreciable economic loss to the cruise ship industry.

The American Medical Association supports reducing portside air pollutants and onshore power as does the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association and even the Cruise Lines Industry Association.

In light of that research, the Charleston County Medical Society is asking the South Carolina Medical Association, the City of Charleston, the State Ports Authority, Carnival Cruise Lines and the S.C. General Assembly to work together to enact enforceable requirements for cruise ships to use onshore power rather than engine power while dockside.

Our port facility is very near one of the most densely populated parts of our city. The added air pollution from cruise ship engines places an added health risk burden on those living and working near the port.

Many other port cities on both the East and West coasts have mandated the use of shore power for docked cruise ships out of concern for the health of their citizens. The CCMS believes Charleston should take this important step as well to safeguard the public health.

Stephen I. Schabel,M.D., is president of the Charleston County Medical Society.


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