2008-03-13

New EPA Limits Protect Industry Not Children

I wasn't going to write about politics on this blog. I really wasn't. It was going to be all about the food. This was going to be my creative outlet, combining my love of cooking and baking with a need for allergen free meals for my son and children like him.
Then I read today's news, and I decided to write about this anyway. Sometimes being a mommy is about more than today's appointment with the allergist or tonight's dinner. Sometimes being a mommy means looking at the bigger picture.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, "[a]bout eighty percent of children with asthma have allergies." This includes my son. If a child is at risk for anaphylaxis, then compromised breathing can make an allergic reaction even more dangerous. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they are setting a "new ozone standard at 75 parts per billion in ambient air in the United States. The previous standard was 80 parts per billion." That's less smog, which is good news for those with weakened respiratory systems, right?
Not so much. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review its standards and adjust them to meet the recommendations of current scientific research every five years. The EPA failed to update ozone standards until forced to do so by a court-ordered settlement in 2003 from a suit brought by The American Lung Association, The Environmental Fund, and other groups. What was the resulting recommendation of the EPA's own review board? "The EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended...a standard of 60 to 70 parts per billion, with the lower level suggested for children who are more vulnerable to ozone pollution."
This led to frantic efforts by lobbyists working on behalf of "manufacturers, automakers, electric utilities, grocers and cement makers," who didn't much want to pay the costs of cleaning up their acts. Their hard work paid off. Shortly before the court mandated deadline arrived, President Bush personally intervened to prevent the lower limit from being adopted, despite a unanimous 2001 Supreme Court decision, which requires limits set by the EPA to be based solely on scientific, not political or economic considerations. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson has also requested that Congress "modernize" the Clean Air Act by allowing such additional considerations to be taken into account.
What is the tangible difference between the two standards? I'll let the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups that sued to force the EPA into action, to explain:
By tightening the ozone standard from 0.08 ppm to 0.075, the agency estimates the new standard annually will prevent at least 820 deaths, 1,400 heart attacks, 1890 emergency room visits for asthma, and 610,000 lost school days by the year 2020.
In contrast, EPA estimates that an ozone health standard of 0.065 ppm -- the midpoint in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm unanimously recommended by EPA’s independent science advisory committee -- would prevent at least 2,330 deaths, 4,000 heart attacks, 4,600 emergency room visits for asthma, and 1,300,000 lost school days in the year 2020.
By my math, that's a difference of 1510 deaths, 2600 heart attacks, 2710 emergency room visits for asthma, and 690,000 school days missed per year once the standard is fully implemented. I would prefer that my child not be one of the statistics to fall into that gaping chasm. The EPA itself, or at least the scientists who work there, mention that the cost to industry of lowering pollution will be offset in reduced healthcare expenses. (They could also save a few bucks on lobbyists.)
Although I don't have a huge readership, there are enough regulars lurking about that I'll go ahead and give you this link on how to contact your elected representatives. If giving your Congressperson a piece of your mind is a new experience, here are a few pointers to remember while expressing your opinion of the EPA's new ozone limits and the proposed gutting of the Clean Air Act:
  • Be polite. You are a Concerned Citizen, not a Raving Lunatic.
  • Be specific and concise.
  • Make it personal. This is how the EPA's inadequate ozone limits will affect my asthmatic/allergic child. Bad air means he/she will spend more time sick due to asthma and he/she will be less likely to survive an allergic reaction. Mention that your child will miss school, you will miss work, and you and your employer will pay more for healthcare.
Now I'll get off my soapbox and go bake something.

1 comment:

John Walke said...

For a behind-the-scenes look into more of the dirty details behind the President's interference with the EPA ozone standard, check out my posting at http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jwalke/science_decider_in_chief.html