By: Karin Stein, Iowa field organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: August 31, 2020
About: Environmental Protection Agency Review of NAAQS for Ozone Docket ID No. EPA-HQOAR-2018-0279
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Good afternoon, and thank you for allowing me to testify at this hearing today. My name is Karin Stein, and I am the state organizer in Iowa for Moms Clean Air Force, a community of over one million parents united to protect the health of our children and other vulnerable communities against pollution. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in agronomy, and I pay a lot of attention to the quality of the environment in Iowa.
The main point I wish to make today is that the current ozone standards are insufficient and must be strengthened. I call on the EPA, which is entrusted with protecting the health of the people, to strengthen the NAAQS standards for ozone pollution. The EPA must always be guided by science, and the science is quite clear: ozone pollution mustn’t surpass 60 parts per billion to protect more people adequately.
In 2010, the Iowa Department of Natural Recourses determined that only two of the 14 locations where monitoring systems were actually set up at the time had ozone levels below 65 parts per billion. All others were higher. In 2018, all those same locations had concentrations of over 71 ppb. Traffic, agricultural, and industrial keep increasing, and Iowa summers are often very hot. This combination, as you know, increases ozone pollution.
In 2018, the Sierra Club of Iowa, recognizing worsening conditions and spotty reporting of air quality in our state, and in light of Iowa’s push to increase the use of 15% ethanol blends in gasoline during summer months (as opposed to mostly our cold months), called for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to expand its ozone monitoring network in urban areas. The use of ethanol increases ground-level ozone production, and this is a problem in Iowa, where the use of ethanol is widespread, summers are hot, air quality monitoring is scarce and reported widely, and the current EPA standards are insufficient.
As part of my work with Moms Clean Air Force, I interact with Latinos in Iowa on a regular basis. Many of the families I know live in the industrial areas of their towns, or in neighborhoods close to busy highways. Many of the men work in construction, including road construction, and they inhale exhaust fumes all day long while working under hot summer conditions. Then they go home to areas with often poor air quality due to their location.
I’d like to take a moment to tell you about Alyson, a Latina who lives in Muscatine, Iowa, a heavily polluted city. She and her two children have asthma, as well as her mother. They can’t go outside in the summer when ozone readings are high—and they often are. Her father worked outdoors and died of COPD at a young age.
Lung disease is so common in Alyson’s neighborhood that in order to get accurate air quality information on ozone levels and particulate matter, Alyson and her community members purchased their own air quality monitoring equipment, because the government hasn’t done it. As a result of what they have found, they are suing local polluters and have had to further restrict their enjoyment of the outdoors.
Her community of mostly people of color shouldn’t have to do that. They should be able to rely on the EPA to follow science and set proper standards for ozone and other pollutants, and for polluters to abide by those standards. I understand it’s not the EPA’s duty to buy air quality monitoring equipment, but the message our elected officials and our polluters are getting from the EPA under the current administration is that the EPA is disregarding science and the recommendations of the American Lung Association, and that standards can be set according to Secretary Wheeler’s will.
As a mother, as a person with scientific knowledge who reads scientific abstracts and primary, peer-reviewed research documents, and as a Latin American who sees people of color being victimized too often to industrial interests, I ask the EPA to tighten ozone standards to the level recommend by science, namely, at 60 parts per billion.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.