By: Patrice Tomcik, Senior National Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 22, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0072
To: Environmental Protection Agency
My name is Patrice Tomcik, and I am the Senior National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force, a community of 1.5 million caregivers united to equitably protect children’s health from air pollution and climate change.
I live in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, located within the Greater Pittsburgh region with my husband and my two young children. I am urging the EPA to set a more health protective standard for soot of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard. Both the annual and daily soot standards matter, because both long-term and short-term exposure to particle pollution impacts our health.
Pennsylvania has the dubious title as being one of the states with the most particle pollution deaths per capita. I know firsthand about particle pollution because my community is located near many polluting sources—an interstate connector, a steel plant, and just recently the Shell petrochemical complex.
The Shell petrochemical plant located in Beaver County is the largest facility producing the building blocks of plastic in the Northeast. This plant will spew 159 tons of fine particulate pollution annually into the air we breathe. In the Shell plant’s first 100 days of operation, it has already had multiple malfunctions resulting in flaring often accompanied by black smoke. Flaring can create even more particle pollution that impacts the air quality of surrounding communities especially in a 24 hour time period affecting those who live closest and downwind neighboring communities like mine. The feedstock for the Shell petrochemical facility will come from the fracked gas wells in the area such as the ones located a half mile from my children’s school. Extracting and processing gas creates particle pollution throughout the entire process.
Adding to the particle pollution in my community is the heavy trafficked state route 228, which is located less than 500 feet from my children’s school. Studies have shown that the highest daytime exposures of traffic pollution are within 500 feet of a busy road. On an average day, at least 10,000 vehicles and 500 trucks travel this heavily congested roadway. My children participate in outdoor sports nearby, and I know that particle pollution can easily penetrate indoors where they can be breathed in by young developing lungs.
I am very concerned about what my children are breathing into their lungs every day. My youngest son had cancer, and I know his immune system is compromised. 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. 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.
As a mother, I try to make my son’s environment as healthy as possible, but I know that I can’t control the air my son breathes and depend on the EPA to do their job and implement the most comprehensive and meaningful air pollution standards that fully protect his health.
Scientists have known for decades that polluted air can cause health conditions that make people more vulnerable to disease and infection. Lowering the standards for particulate matter based on science can improve public health by reducing asthma attacks, respiratory disease, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
EPA must listen to the science and move quickly to finalize the strongest annual and daily particle pollution standards to protect the health of children.