Today EPA finalized a landmark public health standard to reduce sulfur in gasoline. This standard, called the Tier 3 rules, will dramatically reduce air pollution from car emissions at a cost to the consumer of less than a penny per gallon. As the oil and gas industries are among the wealthiest in the world–and receive huge tax subsidies by the US government — this will not make a dent in their bottom lines. Meanwhile, it will prevent thousands of premature deaths, asthma attacks, and respiratory illnesses each year.
Just about two years ago I was living in Pennsport, a traditionally blue-colored neighborhood nestled in South Philadelphia along the Delaware River. It was one of those beautiful mid-March spring days – you know the one, where you throw open the windows to let in the fresh air after a long winter and head out to the park to soak in all the warmth and sun you can manage. That afternoon I came home to put my two happy and exhausted kids down for a nap. Fiona, just 11 months, began wheezing and her lips turned blue. It was her first asthma attack. My heart aches remembering the terror on her face as we strapped the nebulizer mask to her face and her tiny hands fought to pull it off.
What triggered her first attack? What is unique to Pennsport, outside of the hardworking families and famous Mummers, is a raised portion of Interstate 95, a six-lane stretch of highway that separates that neighborhood from the waterfront as heavy traffic flows along the northeast corridor. When I opened our windows to the spring air, I let in the tailpipe emissions from the heavily trafficked I-95, just 2 blocks from my home. Yes, asthma runs in my husband’s family, but I knew then that our proximity to I-95 was bad for my children’s health, and the health of the families in my neighborhood.
My story isn’t unusual. In fact, 50 million Americans live and breathe near major roadways. Fiona isn’t unusual either, because every year millions of children have to breathe the pollution from trucks and cars that travel across America’s highways. For some children, like Fiona, that air pollution can trigger serious health effects.
That is why I applaud the finalization of these auto emissions standards. What do these standards mean for moms? They will prevent tens of thousands of respiratory illness in children so mothers across the US can now spend less time worrying about the quality of the air in their neighborhoods and more time with their families. Mothers of children with asthma can now rest assured that good policies are in place that will slash ozone precursors by 80%, and regulate harmful particulate matter. Mothers can also rest assured that these standards will provide immediate benefits to our children. Mothers, like myself, are full of gratitude that our voices were heard and our children’s health put first.
Today, on behalf of Fiona and the 7 million American children who suffer from asthma, I, and the over 200,000 members of Moms Clean Air Force thank the Environmental Protection Agency for new fuel standards that will protect our children’s small and vulnerable lungs, and help ensure a healthier future for all American families.