Trouble in the Air: Baltimore health at risk with 114 dirty air days in 2016

Media Contacts
Christy Leavitt

Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center

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 Maryland Research & Policy Center nearly 2.8 million people in the Baltimore metropolitan area experienced 114 days of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“All Maryland residents should be able to breathe clean air. Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Christy Leavitt, federal campaign director with Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce global warming pollution.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and Maryland 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.

“As nurses we see first-hand the toll air pollution takes on families throughout the country with increased asthma attacks, cardiac issues, and even premature death related to poor air quality,” said Katie Huffling, Executive Director of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “We need the Trump Administration to put the health of Americans first by moving forward with policies that reduce harmful air pollution, such as the vehicle emissions standards.”

“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 Leavitt. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”