This week, Moms Clean Air Force met by phone with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to oppose, again, the Trump administration’s efforts to ignore the science on particle pollution.
Particle pollution, also called particulate matter, refers to the microscopic particles that come out of tailpipes, coal plants, diesel engines, factories, and wildfires. This harmful pollutant cuts short tens of thousands of lives each year in our country, and also increases asthma attacks, lung infections, and heart attacks – even at levels below the current national standards. But instead of strengthening the standards to protect our health, in accordance with the science, Trump’s EPA proposed an “update” to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) last spring that refuses to strengthen the standards for deadly particulate pollution
Even with a startlingly short public comment period, and a global pandemic that has disrupted parents’ lives across the country, dozens of Moms Clean Air Force staff and volunteers spoke up at the public hearings in May to oppose this dangerous proposal. And we are still fighting this harmful proposal. At our meeting with OMB – any regulation’s last stop on the way to being finalized – we gathered parents from cities with high levels of particle pollution: Detroit, Missoula, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. We raised concerns about the newly emerging research linking particle pollution with COVID-19 illness and death. And we spoke from the heart about why moms want stronger particle pollution protections. We were honored to have Eduardo Sainz, Arizona State Director for Mi Familia Vota, join us in this meeting to share how particle pollution disproportionately affects Latinos in Arizona and beyond.
Below are some excerpts from our comments.
Joining us from Detroit, with her 5-week-old baby girl in arms, was volunteer and educator Nicky Marcot:
“I am deeply concerned about the children in my neighborhood, many of whom also struggle with asthma, or who have parents struggling with other health issues that are worsened by particle pollution. As a teacher it was disconcerting how often many of my students had to miss school days due to health related issues.
I love living here in Michigan. My family frequently enjoys exploring the many beautiful forests and lakes. However, according to the World Health Organization, Detroit itself is one of the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest year-round particle pollution and Wayne county received a grade C from the American Lung Association on air quality.”
Melissa Nootz, Montana Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force shared concerns about wildfire smoke, which carries dangerously high levels of particle pollution:
“Children, the elderly, people with asthma, or heart or lung disease, are especially at risk from the smoke – exposure can result in reduced lung function, asthma attacks, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
A study from the University of Montana found that higher daily concentrations of PM 2.5 is related to an increase in influenza cases the following Winter. COVID severity and death rates are also related to PM 2.5 levels. And for communities that have historically been exposed to higher rates of pollution, wildfire smoke can worsen health disparities.
Do not ignore the health impacts of PM exposure at levels below the federal standards. As a Montanan and a mom – I urge you to help us by strengthening EPA’s proposal for PM.”
Patrice Tomcik, our Project Manager for State Campaigns, lives in Gibsonia, PA, near Pittsburgh. She spoke about the multiple sources of air pollution in her region:
“I know first-hand about polluting industries because my community is completely surrounded by polluting sources. Upwind to the west of our home is an interstate connector and to the north is a steel plant. To my south and east are a cluster of coal-fired power plants that contribute to making Pennsylvania’s power sector the fifth dirtiest in the nation. To compound the air pollution problem are multiple unconventional natural gas wells in my children’s school district with the closest ones a half mile away.
I am very worried about what my children are breathing into their lungs every day. My youngest son had cancer and I know his immune system is compromised. As a mother I try to make his home environment as healthy as possible but I know that I can’t control the air my son breathes and I depend on the EPA to do their job and implement the most comprehensive and meaningful air pollution standards that fully protect his health.”
National Field Manager Trisha Dello Iacono lives in New Jersey with her four children. She spoke about the link between particle pollution and COVID-19:
“My children and I live in Southern New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. The American Lung Association ranked year round particle pollution in my area 12 out of 204 metropolitan areas – meaning my children play and go to school in the 12th most polluted area in our country when it comes to particle pollution….
Coronavirus has drastically changed my family’s life, and the lives of so many Americans and this is especially so for my friends and our Moms Clean Air Force members from across the country whose children suffer from asthma or other upper respiratory diseases and live in areas with elevated levels of particle pollution. Multiple recent studies have shown a link between particle pollution and COVID-19 susceptibility.
We are learning that people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, are more vulnerable to health impacts from the coronavirus. For anyone who struggles with unhealthy levels of particle pollution in areas where they live, coronavirus is especially worrisome.”