More than 50 Moms Clean Air Force members, organizers, and staff testified at a public hearing this week about EPA’s proposal to retain the current, too-weak standards for ground level ozone, or smog. At the hearing, held by telephone on August 31 and September 1, moms from across the country shared their stories of how smog affects their families, expressing sharp disappointment with EPA’s proposal.
Smog is a powerful lung irritant that triggers asthma attacks, increases lung infections, and interferes with normal lung development. It is formed in the atmosphere when certain chemicals, like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, combine with heat and sunlight. These precursor chemicals come from cars, trucks, power plants, factories, oil and gas operations, and fires. Although smog has been on the decline over the past several decades, there’s been an uptick in the dangerous air pollutant in recent years, according to the American Lung Association – likely a result of climate change, which makes conditions more favorable for smog formation through elevated temperatures and heat waves.
EPA should have proposed to strengthen national standards for smog. Instead, it chose to keep the standards the same, in spite of strong evidence showing significant health harm at levels below the current standards. This continues a disturbing trend at Andrew Wheeler’s EPA of sidelining science, ignoring environmental injustice, and stifling public participation in the rulemaking process.
EPA’s proposal will lead to more kids having asthma attacks. More missed school days. More lung infections. It will lead to dangerous chronic conditions like COPD getting worse. And more children whose lung development is impaired. Doctors and nurses were among the many participants at the hearing who told us: We need a stronger ozone NAAQS to protect human health, with an adequate margin of safety, in accordance with the science.
EPA’s proposal also seems deliberately designed to stifle public participation. EPA has provided only 48 days, in total, for public comment. Even in the absence of a deadly respiratory infection that has upended our lives, this would be way too short. The last time EPA reviewed the ozone NAAQS, 5 years ago, it provided a 90-day comment period. This time around, when unprecedented circumstances make it harder than ever for the public to engage, EPA has offered no reason whatsoever why the comment period should be half that length.
This is the choice of an administrator who does not want to hear our voices. That’s why it’s more important than ever to join us in speaking up to protect the air we breathe.
EPA is accepting comments on its proposal until October 1.
Listen to my comments to EPA here: