By: Mollie Michel, Project Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: September 1, 2020
About: Environmental Protection Agency Review of NAAQS for Ozone Docket ID No. EPA-HQOAR-2018-0279
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to comment today.
My name is Mollie Michel, and I am a Project Manager for Moms Clean Air Force—a movement of over 1 million moms and dads nationwide united to protect our children’s health from air pollution and climate change. I am also a resident of South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I live with my husband and two daughters.
As a mother, an advocate, and a resident of Philadelphia, which consistently receives an F grade for ozone pollution from the American Lung Association, I am—frankly—horrified that this EPA is poised to ignore science showing that current ozone pollution standards are too weak to properly protect public health. I urge you to strengthen them to protect the tens of millions of families—including my own—whose health is at risk from breathing harmful ground-level ozone pollution.
My South Philadelphia community knows all too well the impacts that polluting industries can have on families, as we live only a few miles from the now shuttered Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery that polluted our city for more than 100 years, and less than one mile from a busy interstate that carries cars and trucks up and down the I-95 corridor. Pollution from oil and gas operations, transportation, and other sources threatens the health and safety of the hundreds of thousands of children in our city, including the nearly 20% of Philadelphia’s kids who suffer from asthma, which is nearly double the national average. To put a finer point on it, ozone pollution disproportionately impacts communities of color, and in a city like Philly, with a population that is majority non-white, this disparity could not be more clear. Hospitalizations from asthma-related complications here are nearly 5 times higher among Black and Hispanic children than their white peers. Of the children here who suffer from asthma, more than 40% report missed school days due to asthma complications. Nationwide, asthma complications account for more than 10 million lost school days each year and are the third leading cause of hospitalization among kids.
As a parent raising children in a heavily polluted city, I am constantly balancing my daughters’ physical health with their emotional health—a balance that has come into laser focus as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning options, and a lack of normal socialization due to quarantines and safety measures that keep us safe. For example, last summer, my then 10-year-old daughter wanted to join a running group in our neighborhood, which would have had her outdoors several times a week exercising and socializing with her peers. However, my husband and I decided not to enroll her because of the high volume of poor air quality days in Philadelphia in the summer due to ground-level ozone. This difficult and delicate balance of weighing the physical and mental health of our children, while perhaps less common just last summer, is now something most parents in this country understand all too well as they are faced with the decision whether or not to send their children back to school in person this fall while COVID-19 continues to ravage our country.
Scientists have known for decades that ground-level ozone can cause asthma attacks and increase the risk of lung infections. Evidence is increasing that these health effects are happening even at levels below the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards. As parents, we can’t control the air our children breathe so we depend on Administrator Wheeler and the EPA to do their jobs and implement the most comprehensive and meaningful air pollution standards that fully protect children’s health.
As COVID-19, whose health impacts are often worse for individuals exposed to high levels of air pollution, continues to infect and kill members of my community, my family, and my friends, moms like me can not accept the wrong-headed policies this administration continues to enact at the expense of our health and safety.
Strengthening the NAAQS for ozone to be more protective for all Americans, from my 80-year-old mother-in-law to my 8-year-old daughter, would show that this EPA has not entirely forgotten its primary purpose: to protect human health and the environment.
Please follow the science and update the current NAAQS for ozone pollution.