Trouble in the Air: Cleveland’s health at risk with 114 dirty air days in 2016

Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center

Contact: Nancy Goodes, [email protected], (336) 340-0619

Despite improvement in recent years thanks to clean air policies, air pollution remains a threat to public health, according to a new report by Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center. In 2016 over 2 million people in Cleveland experienced 114 days of degraded air quality, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Nancy Goodes, Campaign Organizer with Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce future air pollution threats from global warming.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and Ohio 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 an occupational health nurse reviewing medical records for the military, not only did I see asthma interfering with normal lung function, but more allergic rhinitis and bronchitis. I had one military doctor tell me he had never seen more kids applying to the service with pre-existing asthma,” said Peggy Berry, PhD, RN, and member of Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

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