Combustion Furnaces, Boilers and Stoves are Sickening American Children

Combustion Furnaces, Boilers and Stoves are Sickening American Children

The adoption of heat pumps and expansion of beneficial building electrification can remove harmful, fossil-fuel burning equipment from our homes and buildings for good. 

On September 22nd, 2021, BlocPower co-founder and CEO Donnel Baird sat before the ​​U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee and testified to the tragedy—and opportunity—hidden in our homes and buildings. 

“Gas and oil in buildings, it’s going to be like lead,” said Baird. “We’re going to look back on it five years from now and say ‘what were we thinking—how could we subject our children and the next generation to these toxins?’”

BlocPower’s Donnel Baird testifying before the Joint Economic Committee on 9/22/2

Baird’s remarks drew deeply from personal experience; his family kept their apartment warm in the winter by firing up and opening the gas oven, aware of the danger but without a better option. 

“You don’t need to be an engineer or the CEO of a clean tech startup to know that releasing toxic gases into your family’s bedrooms is bad for public health, and that leaving windows open to mitigate the impact is a waste of resources."

He confronted this problem early on at BlocPower while working to retrofit a New York City elementary school in the Bronx, a borough whose residents suffer from asthma hospitalization rates up to 20 times that of the citywide average. Baird told the Joint Committee: 

"We were called in to convert an aging school building following a tragedy. The building had been burning fossil fuels in its basement to power the facility, however the building’s ventilation system was set up improperly.  As a result, air pollution from the fossil fuel system in the basement was being pumped into the cafeteria everyday, contributing to chronic asthma amongst all the school children. The school nurse had 70 different ziplock bags with pieces of tape with all of the 4 year olds' names on it to figure out which inhaler went to which child. The air was so poor that one day a 4 year old had an asthma attack, had to go to the emergency room and later died. We know this is not an isolated incident; our schools and our homes across this country need and deserve electrification."

A highly pollutive boiler powered by fuel oil combustion at a BlocPower worksite

The severe health impacts of pollution from fossil fuel combustion on children are well documented, and a key driver of BlocPower’s partnership with Aclima, a company measuring air pollution block by block. But beyond averting the tragic health consequences of continuing to burn natural gas and fuel oil indoors, building electrification creates considerable financial opportunity and was the primary focus of the Senate hearing, entitled, “Examining the Economic Benefits of Electrifying America’s Homes and Buildings.”

In further testimony, Baird described BlocPower’s vision to “make our houses smart and all electric and responsive to a modern cyber secure smart grid, so that we can protect ourselves from climate disasters,” while also positioning the United States to “lead the world in innovation and manufacturing” in the rising wave of green and energy retrofitting. 

The global market for heat pumps alone is forecast by Research and Markets to “grow from $60.4 billion in 2021 to $96.7 billion by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9%.” 

With this market growth will come tremendous demand for skilled labor to get this high tech equipment into our building stock. BlocPower has already launched its Pathways program—a reimagined Civilian Conservation Corps for the climate technology revolution that aims to deliver good paying jobs to underserved, frontline communities. 

“We’re creating both jobs and healthier buildings and communities while delivering financial and economic impact,” said Baird. “These are real benefits to families, and aggregated across America these benefits to our economy are massive.”


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