By: Celerah Hewes, Project Manager for Campaigns, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 22, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0072
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Celerah Hewes, and I am a Project Manager for Moms Clean Air Force living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am here today to speak about the importance of setting the strongest science-based particle pollution standards to clean up our air, advance environmental justice, and protect our health.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed particle pollution standard is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough. Particle pollution, also known as soot, is not healthy to breathe. I am calling on EPA to set a more health protective standard for particle pollution of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard.
Particle pollution most commonly comes from burning fossil fuels in power plants, industrial processes, and vehicle tailpipes. Due to its small size, this pollution can penetrate our lungs and bloodstream, causing devastating health impacts. Families and communities living in heavily polluted areas deserve a strengthened annual and daily standard to help address the health harms of short term pollution spikes. Spikes in daily particle 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 fact, the nation’s leading health and medical groups have consistently called for stronger standards than what the agency has proposed.
Wildfires are a cause of particle pollution that is more difficult to manage. In April 2022, New Mexico had 20 wildfires burning in 16 counties across the state. Half of the state was on fire. This included the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Wildfire, which was the largest and most destructive wildfire in New Mexico history. Even for those not living in evacuation areas, smoke from the fire impacted our air quality, keeping children and other vulnerable populations inside throughout the summer. Wildfires, like these, are eroding progress on clean air, and as climate change is making wildfires worse, it’s more important than ever to address the sources of air pollution we can control with a strong particle pollution standard.
Stronger particle pollution standards will also advance environmental justice. In the United States, Black, Brown and Indigenous people breathe more of this pollution, on average, than white people because sources of this deadly pollutant are more likely located in and around their communities. Additionally, people experiencing poverty are 49% more likely to live in areas that exceed the national standards. Further reducing air pollutants, including particle pollution, beyond current standards would have a significant impact on public health and would advance health equity.
In conclusion, a strong annual and daily particle pollution standard will save lives. Estimates from recent studies have found that by tightening the particle pollution standard, EPA could save up to 16,000 lives and prevent approximately 46,000 emergency department visits for pediatric asthma each year. The EPA needs to strengthen the proposed standards to further reduce particle pollution, protect public health and prevent premature deaths.