By: Patrice Tomcik, Project Manager, 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
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
My name is Patrice Tomcik and I am the Project Manager of State Campaigns for Moms Clean Air Force—a community of over 1 million moms and dads nationwide united to protect our children’s health from air pollution and climate change.
I live north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my husband and my two young children. I am dismayed that the EPA is posed to ignore the science showing the current ozone pollution standards are too weak to properly protect public health. I urge you to strengthen these standards to protect families whose health is put at risk from breathing harmful ground-level ozone pollution.
I know firsthand about polluting industries because my children’s school district has multiple unconventional natural gas wells, often called fracking, with the closest one about a half mile away from my children’s school. I’m concerned about what harmful air pollutants my children may be exposed to from the well pad when they attend school or play outdoor sports. Nationally, the oil and gas industry dumps more than 9 million tons of methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) into our air each year that can travel hundreds of miles downwind, contributing to ground-level ozone and affecting children in many states. This poses a real threat to children who suffer from asthma across the country.
Nationwide, there are more than 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children under the age of 18 and 500,000 days of missed school due to the smog resulting directly from oil and gas pollution each year. Many of these asthma attacks and missed school days occur far from oil and gas operations, in urban centers.
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.
Children are especially impacted by pollution due to the fact that they breathe more air per unit of body weight than adults and therefore can receive higher doses of pollution. Children exercise more and spend more time outside than adults, which means that they can breathe more outdoor air pollution. Both of my children play outdoor sports year-round. Additionally, children’s lungs and brains are still developing until early adulthood so toxic air pollution exposures can have deleterious effects that can last a lifetime.
Another group that is vulnerable to air pollution is the elderly. My father, who is 74 years old, lives 1.5 miles downwind from the coal-fired Cheswick Generating Station, and this is also the location of my elementary school and where I grew up. This power plant is located just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County. Allegheny County repeatedly earns a failing grade for ozone by the American Lung Association. As I drive to visit my father, I see the plumes from the stacks of the Cheswick plant float over the river toward the playground I played on as a child, a block away from my father's house. I missed a lot of school due to chronic bronchitis and now as an adult have respiratory problems. My father has lived most of his adult life in this house and now has diabetes, COPD, and heart disease with a heart attack that required quintuple bypass surgery. Two months ago he was put on portable oxygen.
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. Strengthening the standards for ozone based on science can improve public health by reducing asthma attacks, respiratory disease, heart disease, premature mortality, and long-term damage to lungs.
As COVID-19 rewrites our present and future, moms won’t accept continuing on the same polluting path we had before. The cost of inaction has already put our family’s health at risk. This is the time for us to strengthen our pollution protections and clean up America’s air.
I urge you to lower the ozone pollution standards in order to protect public health.