By: Julie Kimmel, Manager for Member Cultivation, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 21, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0072
To: Environmental Protection Agency
My name is Julie Kimmel. Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am the manager for member cultivation for Moms Clean Air Force. I live in Reston, Virginia, with my husband and daughter. Today, I’m here to urge EPA to set a more protective standard for PM2.5 of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard. Stronger standards are necessary to protect the health of families like mine.
I have lived in Reston for most of the last four decades. We have seen a lot of welcome growth in our community—but with that growth comes a ton of construction and traffic.
Two years before my daughter was born, Reston got its first Metro stop on Wiehle Avenue. About four years later, we decided to send our then-two-and-a-half-year-old to the Montessori school one block over from that Metro stop. It is a great school that goes through elementary grades, and its location turned out to be hugely convenient when I started taking the train into DC for work.
But now I look back and wonder how much fine particle pollution my child may have been exposed to during her four-plus years at the school in that location. Construction boomed in the quarter-mile radius around the Wiehle Metro. New office buildings, new residential buildings, new restaurants. And along with them, all the excavation and compaction. All the diesel vehicles and heavy equipment spewing particle pollution that is so tiny it can penetrate our lungs and bloodstream.
Also in that quarter-mile radius are a highway and one of the most congested stretches of surface road in our community. That is a lot of potential PM2.5 exposure at a time when my daughter’s lungs were still developing. How has this exposure affected her health? Her friends’ health?
PM2.5 can cause devastating health impacts, from aggravated asthma and difficulty breathing to heart disease and diabetes to shorter life expectancy and premature death. Recent research suggests PM2.5 contributes to more than 100,000 deaths in the US each year. By tightening the annual particle pollution standard to 8 micrograms per cubic meter, EPA could save up to 16,000 lives a year.
But it is not just the annual standard that can save lives. In fact, personally I’m more worried about those 24-hour spikes—the type of spike my daughter and her classmates could have been exposed to while going to school so close to several major sources of PM2.5.
According to the American Lung Association, 63 million people in the United States live in places with unhealthy spikes in daily particle pollution. These spikes can cause acute health impacts during or soon after a day of poor air quality, such as asthma attacks and hospitalization for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
It’s hard to talk about daily spikes in particle pollution without mentioning the environmental justice implications. 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 particle pollution than white Americans over 65.
PM2.5 is deadly. It’s particularly harmful to children and communities of color, among other vulnerable populations. And EPA’s proposal for particle pollution standards does not go far enough to protect public health.
Please set a more health protective standard for PM2.5 of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard. We have to move quickly to finalize strong limits on particle pollution because every day that passes without these standards is a missed opportunity to protect our health and advance environmental justice. Thank you.