By: Almeta Cooper, National Manager for Health Equity, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 22, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0072
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Good morning. My name is Almeta Cooper. I am the National Manager for Health Equity for Moms Clean Air Force which consists of more than 1.5 million moms, dads, and caregivers nationally who fight to protect clean air and children’s health.
As an African American woman, a mother, and a member of Moms Clean Air Force, I urge the Environmental Protection Agency to set a more health protective standard for soot of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard. The proposed annual standards are an improvement over the existing standards. However, the proposed standards simply do not go far enough to protect our health
I care deeply about environmental, climate and health justice, especially how the connection between clean air, climate change and health is affecting our nation’s most vulnerable populations—our Black, brown, and low-wealth communities.
When tiny particles of soot penetrate our lungs and bloodstream the results can be devastating. There are a wide range of serious adverse conditions—ranging from premature death to difficulty breathing.
According to the American Lung Association, 63 million people in the United States experience unhealthy spikes in daily soot pollution, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to higher-than-average levels of this dangerous pollutant.
Most importantly, spikes in daily soot pollution can result in acute health impacts during or soon after a day of poor air quality, such as asthma attacks and hospitalization for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
In the US, people of color are six times more likely to visit the emergency room for air pollution-triggered childhood asthma than white people.
Black Americans 65 years and older are more likely to die from exposure to soot, also known as particle pollution, than white Americans over 65. Asian and Hispanic individuals are also at higher risk of death from exposure to particle pollution than white individuals.
In a study published in September 2021 and conducted by researchers at the EPA-funded Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions, researchers found that the disparity in soot exposure between white Americans and Black, Latino, and Asian Americans was consistent across the country, in rural and urban settings, and at all income levels.
In closing, I ask EPA’s decision makers to remember that the numbers and data you hear referenced in these hearings are tied to real people, especially those tied to individual children with names and families. To paraphrase Columbia University Professor Frederica Perera in her 2022 book, Children’s Health and the Perils of Climate Change, [W]e provide data and related costs because decision makers generally require them to buttress their claims for (or against) action. The key is to make decisions as holistic and comprehensive as possible.
I appreciate that the EPA recognizes the necessity for strengthening the existing soot standards and I urge and implore the EPA to take these 3 actions:
- First, set a more health protective annual standard for soot of 8 micrograms per cubic meter.
- Second, set a more health protective 24 hour or daily standard for soot of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
- Third It is important that the strengthened standards become effective as soon as possible. All communities deserve clean air, including Black and Brown and low wealth communities that are already suffering the most harm.
Thank you to the EPA and its staff for inviting public comment and permitting digital and remote testimony to allow for increased participation in these public hearings.