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EPA Is Protecting Public Health and Reducing Smog

30 Jan 2015  |   Hannah Blatt

Tags: Clean Air

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a hearing on their proposed update to the clean air standard for ground-level ozone pollution, which causes smog and puts public health at risk. This new standard will ensure that the air we breathe is clean, which will reduce pollution-related illnesses, preventing asthma attacks, missed school days and premature deaths. By 2025, the health benefits will total up to $38 billion.

LCV’s Legislative Director, Sara Chieffo testified in support of the EPA strengthening this standard. You can read her remarks below: 

My name is Sara Chieffo and first let me say thank you for this opportunity to speak in strong support of the Environmental Protection Agency strengthening the national ambient air quality standards for ozone pollution – or as we all know it: smog. I am here today as a mom, as an asthma sufferer, and as the Legislative Director at the League of Conservation Voters.  

Today, unhealthy levels of smog pollution rob hundreds of thousands of Americans with asthma and other respiratory ailments of their quality of life. It sends thousands of children to emergency rooms each year and costs Americans billions in health care costs, lost productivity, and even premature death.

This dangerous smog pollution is created when emissions from burning fossil fuels and other industrial processes mixes with sunlight and heat. It is most prevalent in areas with major industrial facilities, power plants, and heavy automobile use.

The American Lung Association (ALA) compares inhaling smog pollution to getting a sunburn on your lungs and, as you might imagine, often results in immediate breathing trouble. But long-term exposure to smog pollution is also very damaging – in fact it is linked to lasting health problems like chronic asthma and other respiratory and lung diseases, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death.

Smog pollution also disproportionately impacts communities of color. A 2011 analysis of U.S. populations and their air quality found that African Americans and Latinos were more likely to live in counties that had worse problems with particle pollution and that African Americans were more likely to live in counties with worse smog pollution, have nearly two times the rates of current asthma as white children, and are four times as likely to die from it. 

Smog hits home for me. I grew up in Southern California and traveled with my soccer team almost every weekend to play in tournaments across the L.A. basin. I can remember playing many games at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains when it was so smoggy you could barely see to the other end of the field. 

I was diagnosed with asthma as an adult and my attacks strike on “red alert” days when smog pollution is at its worst. I often wonder if I would have developed asthma had I not spent all of those hours as a kid sucking in polluted air as I sprinted back and forth across the soccer field.

People have a right to know if the air they are breathing is safe or not. And that is precisely what updating these ozone pollution standards is all about. EPA sets the national ambient air quality standard based upon what experts tell us is safe and then localities figure out the best and most cost-effective ways to meet these clean air safeguards.

We know you are up against some staunch opposition. Well-funded opponents like the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute have put out inflated cost numbers to claim we can’t afford to clean up smog pollution. But we know better. Time and again industry has said we can’t meet new standards – whether it be for catalytic converters, seat belts, or acid rain – and time and again industry has met standards faster and at a far smaller cost than predicted.

I’d like to share a few key numbers you won’t hear from polluters trying to undermine stronger ozone standards. 1.8 million avoided asthma attacks. 1.9 million fewer missed school days. 6,400 premature deaths avoided. These are some of the impressive benefits that will be delivered if EPA sets an ozone standard of 60 parts per billion. These numbers add up to huge public health benefits, but behind these statistics are real people whose lives stand to be improved or even saved. 

I feel very fortunate to advocate every day for clean air, clean water and action on climate change. And I now have a whole new perspective on the import of my work. I do my best to protect and nurture my almost two year old daughter, and I am thankful that I can count on the EPA to help ensure the air she breathes is safe. 

On behalf of the League of Conservation Voters’ more than 1 million members, I encourage the EPA to follow the science and finalize an ozone pollution standard of 60 parts per billion, which will do the most to protect our health. 

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