A lot of the United States lives with a lot of smog a lot of the time. That puts a lot of people - especially children and elderly Americans - at risk for health problems like asthma and other respiratory illness. That's the gist of a new report Danger in the Air, released on Wednesday, from PennEnvironment.
The report tells us that some of our large and mid-size cities have pretty awful air from smog. Not surprisingly, cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston have bad air a lot more often than they should. But even idyllic places like State College, PA have higher levels of ambient air pollution more often than we might suspect.
The report takes aim at the Obama administration for its recent decision not to tackle ozone standards. As Charlie Dorsaneo of PennEnvironment said, "They chose to kick the can down the road until 2013." PennEnvironment recommends policy makers take positive action to alert the public with a stricter standard, to reduce air pollution through tighter regulation on emissions sources like cars, trucks, industry, and power plants, and finally to invest in renewable and less wasteful energy sources like solar and wind.
On that last note, you might be interested to see that even in the wake of the Solyndra controversy, that Republican Congressman Joe Barton agrees:
Sustainability Now's Peter Buckland joined State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, Sierra Club Moshannon's Gary Thornbloom, and PennEnvironment's Charlie Dorsaneo at the State College press conference on the report. Buckland;'s remarks are included here:
I don’t know if anyone here knows, but this week is No Impact Week. It’s a funky approach to reduce our individual and collective negative impacts and increase our positive impacts. I think those are just plain good things to do.
PennEnvironment’s report today shows us some challenges we face from our society’s and our economy’s impacts. This is about us.
Every year, thousands of people get sick from ambient air pollution. Every high-risk ozone day brings thousands of asthma attacks. It harms elderly people and young children disproportionately. 92% of ozone comes from fossil fuels and the lion’s share from transportation and industry. We in central Pennsylvania live downwind from coal plants and industrial hubs to our southwest. The pollution they pour into the air hurts us. It illustrates how we all live downstream, or downwind in this case.
Now I don’t know about you, but I love being outside. For years I have been riding mountain bikes like they are going out of style. I quit smoking and have since ridden my bike more than most people think sane. It’s fun. It’s also healthy. My wife rides. I have ridden with hundreds or thousands of people across this lush and verdant state. Just about every day, my wife and I play outside with our four-year-old son. We play baseball. A lot. He and the other kids on Chestnut Street run around constantly. Riding, running, and playing should to be healthy.
But what the Danger in the Air Report shows us, and I am not being an alarmist, is that I might actually get sick from exercising. Moderate to intense exercise for a few hours puts people at higher risk of respiratory dysfunction on high pollution days. As we’ve just heard, the alerts are lower thresholds than they should be according to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. In places like Philly and Houston, you’re talking about regular health threats to people doing the right thing. I quit smoking for a reason.
Governor Corbett says Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be the next Texas because of the Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas booms. Take note of Pennsylvania’s air quality now. It’s not so different from Texas’. Philly is just a bit worse than Houston but Fort Worth is just a little worse than Pittsburgh. Now add tens of thousands of wells, compressor stations, pipelines, and the trucks to service it all and let’s talk about Pennsylvania air quality. As a bike racer I like to rank high. But this is no race for Pennsylvania to win. I say “No thank you” Mr. Corbett. So should you.
We need real action for health. Regulations are structured for polluters’ exorbitant profits. They say they fuel progress. More asthma and chronic breathing conditions – in humans or otherwise – is not progress. Progress is not pollution.
Health and happiness are progress. Congress and the President must act. We must also call our power companies to initiate switches from toxic power to less wasteful and renewable energy.
It can’t stop with phone calls, policies, and techno-fixes. Just like healthy diets and exercise, live to reduce pollution. Don’t go for no impact. Go for better impacts. Today, eat lower on the food chain. Tomorrow carpool, ride the bus, or ride a bike. Next week, figure out ways to throw away less stuff. Trash here travels 75 miles to Somerset county in 4 mpg trucks. Next month, get an energy audit and work your way toward a high efficiency low impact house.
Those impacts aren’t no impacts. They are much better impacts. That’s progress. It’s work. Let’s work together.
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