I am a proud Buckeye mom. When my husband, Chris and I decided to buy a house and have a baby, we chose Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is great place to raise a family because it is a big city that feels like a small town. We have the number one library system, the number one science center for kids, and the number one zoo in the country. Surrounded by my husband’s loving family, there is no place I would rather be raising my little boy.
But Ohio also has some horrible air pollution problems. Ohio is ranked second in the nation for emissions of mercury–a terrible neurotoxin. As an asthma sufferer and mom, I worry about my children breathing poor air. Lately, I’ve been reading a great deal about what exactly is in air pollution. I know mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that harms the developing brains of fetuses and young children. Since mercury exposure can affect a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn, these facts freaked me out.
Disillusioned At Town Hall
I want to protect my child’s right to clean air, and I recently went to a Delaware, OH town hall meeting about air quality and public health because I know the EPA is close to deciding upon an important regulation on December 16th, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This ruling is so significant to Ohio because it would reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 91% and particulate matter by 51%.
The first presenter was Bob Hodanbosi, Chief of the Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control. His presentation showed ways that the Ohio EPA has supported the Clean Air Act and how our air quality has improved in recent years. Toward the end of the presentation, he showed a slide labeled, “Air Toxics.” He explained that we currently have risks of cancer that are 1 in 100,000 or greater and reaching the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of cancer to 1 in 1,000,000 was going to be difficult to attain.
This was not the overwhelming endorsement for the new air toxics standards that I hoped to hear.
The next speaker was Dr. Timothy Buckley from the Ohio State University’s College of Public Health. He gave a powerful presentation about the importance of the clean air amendments on public health in our state. He showed evidence that airborne particles contribute to increased heart attacks and cardiovascular-related deaths.
He said that there is a 10% asthma rate for students in Franklin County, where my family lives.
Dr. Buckley turned directly to Bob Hodanbosi to make sure he understood him clearly and said:
“Are you saying there are currently coal-fired power plants in the state of Ohio that have NO regulations?”
Following an awkward pause, Mr. Hodanbosi indicated that yes, this fact is true.
People in the crowd fired question after question that laid the groundwork for what had been on my mind all evening…
After introducing myself and explaining how Moms Clean Air Force is a community of mothers who support the Clean Air Act, I directed my question to Ohio’s EPA Chief Bob Hodanbosi. I wanted to know about his statement: “…reaching the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of cancer to 1 in 1,000,000 was going to be hard to attain.”
So does the Ohio EPA support the US EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards?
Without directly answering my question, Hodanbosi indicated that he takes issue with the EPA’s proposed timetable. He felt that the power plants would not be able to comply with the rules within the three years that they had been given.
Since I knew these regulations had been in the works for twenty years, and there was more than enough time for these plants to prepare, I asked:
How much time he felt was needed in order to meet these new standards?
He replied that he felt it would take at least four to five years for these plants to comply with the new standards.
What?!? Think of how many more pregnant women and young children will be exposed. That means the chief of the Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control is proposing that we continue to allow as much as 21,000 pounds of mercury to spew into the very environment he is supposed to be protecting over the next four to five years.
Ohio Parents: Make Clean Air A Priority
From one Buckeye mom to parents all over Ohio, I know town hall scenes debating air quality like this one are ongoing in our state. It’s time to stop the debate and save our families. We need to clean up the air in Ohio so our beautiful children can grow up healthy in this great place we call our home.