By: Sarah McBride, Program Coordinator for Media and Public Engagement, 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 Sarah McBride, and I am the Program Coordinator for Media and Public Engagement with Moms Clean Air Force. I am from Falmouth, Massachusetts, and I am testifying today to urge EPA to protect families and save lives by strengthening its proposed soot pollution standards to no higher than 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and no higher than 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard. Leading medical groups and the EPA’s own independent expert science advisors recommend stronger standards than what the agency has proposed—I’m calling on EPA to follow the advice of these experts and finalize standards that keep our air cleaner and families healthier.
Falmouth is a small coastal town without major highways or large ports and the air quality index rarely indicates a reading above “moderate,” but when I talk to my colleagues and friends who live in more densely populated areas with heavy traffic or polluting industries, I realize how privileged I am to have easy access to clean air—something that shouldn’t be a privilege, but a human right.
In August 2021, I got a small taste of what many consider the norm. Wildfires were raging out west, and because of how the winds were blowing, some of that heavily polluted air made its way all the way out to my home of Cape Cod. For the first time in my memory, the air quality index indicated “unhealthy,” and I could feel it. I remember my eyes, skin, and throat becoming itchy and dry, and everyone in my family looked flushed. Like many homes in New England, our house wasn’t built for unhealthy air—it doesn’t have an air duct system or any kind of filtration. In the summer, we rely on open windows and small window air conditioning units to stay cool. We tried to keep the pollution out as best we could, but my mom and I felt sick for days. I remember it being hard to focus on work and feeling a lot of anxiety about being exposed to what was probably large amounts of health-harming soot pollution.
It’s shocking and terrifying that so many people in the US and beyond live with this level of pollution day after day, and that is why I am so adamant that EPA must finalize more health-protective soot pollution standards. I recognize that there are some pollution sources that are somewhat out of our control—wildfires, for example—but that is exactly why it’s so important that EPA take action to protect us from the sources that it can.
I also want to underscore the importance of strengthening the 24-hour soot pollution standard. As I experienced back in 2021, daily spikes in air pollution matter. They take a toll on our physical health, our ability to work, and our mental wellbeing. According to the American Lung Association, 63 million people in the United States experience unhealthy spikes in daily soot pollution—that’s 63 million people who stand to benefit from a strong 24-hour standard.
With a pollutant as deadly as soot, there’s no time to waste. Every day that goes by without stronger protections, more lives are lost and more people are at risk of experiencing the devastating health impacts of being exposed to this type of pollution. Please, set a more protective standard for soot and finalize this stronger standard as soon as possible. Our health depends on it.
Thank you for your time and for this opportunity to testify.