By: Lily Zwaan, Georgia State Coordinator, 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 testify. My name is Lily Zwaan, and I’m the Georgia Field Coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force.
I am testifying because my neighbors and I are affected by soot every day, and we need stronger standards so that we can breathe healthy air. On behalf of my community, I am asking the EPA to strengthen this rule to limit particle pollution to 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard, and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the 24-hour standard. The current standards do not meet the urgency that science tells us, and don’t meet my community’s needs.
In Georgia, our everyday experiences with short-term bursts of soot pollution make it clear that we need a strong 24-hour standard. Within the city of Atlanta alone, there are wild disparities in the quality of the air we and our children are breathing. Air quality around some Atlanta public schools for instance, is safe, because of their proximity to green spaces, but I recently spoke to a community member in East Atlanta where spikes in pollution from a nearby cement factory are harming the health of students at a high school right next door. This is a neighborhood where families have to close their windows to keep the soot out of their homes—and there are high schoolers right next door doing sports, going to class, and breathing in that air. I am worried that the current 24-hour standard isn’t adequately protecting their health. A study in 2014 from Georgia State University found that approximately HALF of all Atlanta Public Schools are located within a HALF MILE of a major highway, and that the elevated exposure to air pollution at these schools may be contributing to aggravated experiences of asthma and school absenteeism. And, it’s no surprise that the map of exposure to soot from our highways and industrial facilities also falls along patterns of racial inequity. The school I mentioned right next to a cement factory has a majority Black student body. If we are serious about environmental justice, and the intersection of health, climate, and racial justice, we need a stronger 24-hour standard.
No one should have to fear for their health when they leave their house, especially our kids, who face a greater risk of exposure to toxins in air pollution. No one should have to keep their windows closed or keep their kids inside because of the air pollution in their area. We can’t miss this opportunity to pass a stronger standard and meaningfully address air pollution and environmental justice. I urge you to set a protective standard for particle pollution that follows the science—both for the annual standard and the 24-hour standard. Thank you for your time.