Trouble in the Air: Maine’s health at risk from dirty air days

Environment Maine Research & Policy Center

Contact: Madeleine Fenderson, Campaign Organizer, (207) 956 – 3600, [email protected]

As the Trump administration considers weakening federal air quality and global warming emissions standards, air pollution remains a threat to public health. According to a new report by Environment Maine Research & Policy Center, more than 500,000 people in Portland experienced 26 days of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

In 2016, more than half of Maine residents experienced nearly a month or more of days with dirty. In addition to Portland residents, 150,000 people in Bangor had 46 days with degraded air quality and 107,000 people in Lewiston had 24 days.  

“Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Madeleine Fenderson, Organizer with Environment Maine Research & Policy Center. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and global warming pollution.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Maine Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund reviewed Environmental Protection Agency records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and particulate pollution – harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline and natural gas.

“There’s no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Even low levels of smog and particulate pollution are bad for health and can increase deaths.”

These troubling findings come at a time when the Trump administration prepares to weaken the federal clean car standards, a critical program to cut global warming emissions and increase fuel efficiency. And just this week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency will review the federal ozone standard — a standard he sued to stop when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

The report’s authors called on the federal government to strengthen, not weaken, the clean car standards and continue to allow states to adopt stronger vehicle pollution standards. The authors also called on EPA to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards.

“To protect our health, we must keep cutting smog, particulate pollution and global warming emissions,” said Fenderson. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”