EPA Testimony: Families Need Smog Alerts To Tell Us If The Air Is Safe To Breathe

BY ON February 17, 2015

Letters spelling SMOG with smoke curling around the O

This was Moms Clean Air Force member, Sarah Fraser’s testimony at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ground-Level Ozone Hearings:

My name is Sarah Fraser, I am mother to 2 young children, and I am a resident of Washington, DC. I am speaking to you today as a member of Moms Clean Air Force, in unequivocal support of the EPA’s proposed strengthening of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy talked of the human right to breathe air as nature provided it. Today’s proposal supports this basic human right, expanding the ozone-monitoring season in many jurisdictions, and updating the Air Quality Index.

The Air Quality alerts are an important national system that helps mothers like me make decisions about whether to let my two children – ages 3 and 7 – play outside. The Air Quality alerts are tethered to EPA’s standard. If the smog standard is too lax, as it currently stands, the air quality alert system can tell me that it’s safe to send my children outside to play, even when it’s not. The smog standard needs to tell everyone if the air we breathe is safe.

I unequivocally support the new, lower standards – an 8-hour limit of 60 parts per billion – based on the extensive, irrefutable scientific evidence about ozone’s effects on children and on the public welfare.

Breathing ground-level ozone can trigger a variety of pulmonary problems, worsen existing pulmonary diseases, reduce lung function and permanently scar lung tissue.

In order to adequately protect children, scientists think that the national standard for smog should be set at 60 ppb. The American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society, among others, also support this standard. The EPA states that reducing levels of smog to 60 ppb would prevent 1.8 million asthma attacks, 1.9 million missed school days, and 6,400 premature deaths each year.

I support the new, lower standards as a mother in a global family, as a mother living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and as a mother living here in Washington, D.C.

D.C. is considered a non-industrial jurisdiction, and in 2009, Mayor Adrian Fenty requested that the District be designated a non-attainment area. We have, however, an industrial zone: Ward 5. My husband, two young children and I live in the residential part of it.

Ward 5 has some of the worst air quality in the District. Our industries are: an asphalt-processing facility, light and heavy trucking, two city bus lots, and an auto-body paint industry, which uses high-VOC solvents and paints.

In my neighborhood, fumes from these industries prevent my children from playing outside. These fumes prevent us from doing work in our yard to maintain and improve our property. These fumes prevent us from asking our friends and our children’s friends, over to enjoy our yard. These fumes prevent my parents and my husband’s parents from seeing their grandchildren often, as both elderly couples have compromised lung and immune system function.

And, all of these industries and processes contribute to ground- level ozone formation.

The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) maintains a stationary Air Quality Monitor at McMillian Reservoir (11-001-0043), nearly 4 miles from my Ward. This monitor has been recording violations of both the primary and secondary 8-hour EPA ground-level ozone standards since 2006.

Since 2008, D.C has had only 2 summers in 16 years without code red days for unhealthy air quality. Since 2008 we have had 4 years of summers where we exceeded the 75 ppb ozone standard for upwards of 4 weeks. In a family with no history of asthma, my children were diagnosed last year as pre-asthmatic by their pediatrician.

Ward 5 contributes ozone to the environments of Maryland and Virginia, which in turn contributes ozone to the environment of the Mid-Atlantic. The East Coast contributes all this ozone to the global environment, affecting our parents in Texas and New Zealand and our cousins in Australia.

The strengthening of the NAAQS by the EPA is an essential first step in rule creation that will ultimately enable our District, and our country, to provide clean air for people everywhere. Please move forward with this new rule.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.


TOPICS: Ozone, Washington DC