Trouble in the Air: Americans’ health at risk

Media Contacts
Christy Leavitt

Millions of Americans still breathe polluted air

Environment America 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 America Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 73 million Americans experienced over 100 days — or more than three months — of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“All Americans should be able to breathe clean air. Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Christy Leavitt, Senior Campaign Director with Environment America Research & Policy Center and co-author of the report. “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, the authors reviewed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog (ground level ozone) 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.”

“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.”

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.

“As an obstetrician, it’s clear that reducing the risk of dangerous pregnancy complications tied to air pollution, like premature birth, underweight babies, stillbirths and more, is the only humane choice,” said Dr. Bruce Bekkar, MD, Board Certified Ob/Gyn.

“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.”