American Lung Association Unveils Healthy Air Agenda
This week, the American Lung Association issued a new report “Protect the Air We Breathe: The Healthy Air Agenda” which identifies the progress made in the United States on improving air quality.
According to the Lung Association, air pollution remains a pervasive public health threat in the US, with more than 124 million Americans still living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. The Lung Association’s “Healthy Air Agenda“ details the critical next steps the Obama Administration must take to defend the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to ensure all Americans can have air that is safe and healthy to breathe.
“The Healthy Air Agenda” lists 17 steps that are needed to continue improvements in air quality and protect public health. Some of those who are most vulnerable to air pollution include children, seniors, individuals with lung disease, heart disease and diabetes, people with low incomes, and those who work and exercise outdoors.
These lifesaving steps include:
- Clean up coal-fired power plants – Coal-fired power plants are a major source of hazardous pollutants and the single largest producer of greenhouse gases. Many of these pollutants, such as mercury, benzene, dioxins, arsenic and lead, can cause cancer and cardiovascular disease; harm the kidneys, lungs and nervous system; and even kill.
- Strengthen the outdated ozone standards – Ozone (smog) is one of the most dangerous and widespread pollutants in the nation. In 2011, the Obama administration failed to update ozone pollution limits, violating the Clean Air Act by not setting a standard that adequately protects public health. Strengthening these standards to levels that the law requires will help prevent thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year.
- Clean up gasoline and cars – Emissions from cars and light trucks are a major source of dangerous air pollution. The EPA needs to issue new standards to control ozone-forming and particle pollution from passenger vehicles by reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline and set fleet-wide emission limits on new vehicles.
- Clean up oil and gas production – Methane is a highly potent climate pollutant, with warming effects almost 25 times that of carbon dioxide. The EPA must take steps to clean up the methane leaks and venting from all oil and gas sources. Cleaning up natural gas (which is mostly methane) venting, and leaking components of this industry can have almost immediate positive effects on public health and the climate.
- Clean up wood-burning – Residential wood burning devices, like outdoor wood boilers and stoves, are the largest residential source of particle pollution. Emissions of harmful air pollutants from wood burning can have significant health impacts on users and their immediate neighbors. The EPA is currently reviewing the standards and needs to update them to reflect new technology and require that all wood burning devices burn cleaner to reduce impacts on public health.
- Fund the work to provide healthy air – The EPA along with State and local air pollution agencies are essential parts of the national infrastructure that cleans our air and protects the health of our communities. But ever-tightening budgets jeopardize their work. Increased funding will enable them to effectively monitor air quality, implement critical air quality programs to protect public health and meet national clean air goals.
- Protect and enforce the law – Since 2011, some in Congress have repeatedly attempted to target the Clean Air Act’s lifesaving protections from dangerous air pollution. The Clean Air Act is one of the most successful public health laws in history. Congress must oppose all attempts to weaken, block, or delay its public health safeguards. Without the Clean Air Act, millions would be put at risk of more asthma attacks, reduced lung function, complications for those with lung disease, and even premature death.
“The Clean Air Act says the health of everyone should be protected. The American Lung Association will continue to fight for that protection,” said Janice Nolen, lead author of the report.
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