The Environmental Protection Agency is holding hearings on a stronger ozone standard in Washington, D.C., Arlington, Texas and Sacramento, California. I spoke in Texas; here is my testimony.
My name is Wendy Bredhold and I am the Indiana field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I have a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Beatrice Rose, and we live in Evansville, Indiana, in the southwest corner of the state, within 62 miles of 17 coal-fired power plants, including some of the biggest and dirtiest in North America. The smokestacks of one coal plant are actually visible from Beatrice’s daycare center and the campus where I work.
Based on the current ozone standard of 75 ppb, my county’s ozone “report card” from the American Lung Association actually worsened from 2013 to 2014, from a D to an F. But I know that the current standard isn’t as protective as it should be, so even on days we’re told the air is only “moderately” polluted — most days — I don’t feel confident in the Air Quality Index. I urge you to set the revised ozone standard at 60 ppb and protect children who live in my community.
My daughter doesn’t have asthma and I hope she won’t develop it. But the poor air quality in our area is affecting her health. As she approaches her fourth birthday, how many days has she played outside, breathing air that puts her health at risk because current rules aren’t strong enough?
I am here on my daughter’s behalf, and also on behalf of families in my community who cannot be here. My friend Lori, a teacher, and her son Max, 12, both have asthma. Lori can tell when the air quality is poor because she feels a tightness in her lungs. She said, “When this happens, I increase our maintenance meds to double strength to help decrease inflammation and avoid asthma attacks. The cost of these inhalers is $300 per inhaler, monthly, and our insurance doesn’t pay for it. Luckily, I can get samples from the doctor sometimes. In addition, the rescue inhalers cost $60 per inhaler.” On smoggy days, Lori says she and Max avoid going outside except to walk to the car to go to school and work.
It’s worth adding, that the AQI is not well-communicated. Lori said, “Many times we do not receive alerts until after the air quality has become hazardous, and these come to my email only because I’ve signed up for the alerts. Most people in the community are not aware when there’s an alert, because it is not widely announced. In the past, I have had to inform the children’s schools and daycares about keeping them inside during air quality alerts. As a teacher, it has saddened me to have to keep our students inside during air quality alerts, on otherwise beautiful days.”
I can sympathize with Lori’s concern – I worry that Beatrice’s daycare center is not aware of the AQI and in the past I have seen children outside on days when it is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to breathe the air.
Another friend, Nicole, has a six-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Roxi, who has suffered with asthma since she was six months old. Nicole said, “Like many kids with chronic asthma, Roxi cannot go outside with the other kids at school on many days due to air pollution. She’s been in and out of the hospital almost every year. The medical bills run an average of $2,500 to $3,000 out-of-pocket for medication, extended hospitalization, doctor and ER visits. It breaks my heart that my child’s well-being depends on a combination cocktail of Singulair and Zyrtec, breathing treatments and an inhaler just to feel normal.”
In the five minutes I have, I can only relate the stories of two families within my circle of friends, but I ask you to keep these children in mind when reviewing the ozone standard. Reducing levels of smog to 60 ppb would prevent roughly 1.8 million asthma attacks, 1.9 million missed school days, and 6,400 premature deaths each year, and would have a major positive impact on the health of my community — and children like Roxi, Max and Beatrice in a heavily polluted corner of Indiana.