At a public hearing in Philadelphia this week, Moms Clean Air Force joined with health care professionals, corporate leaders, religious leaders, community members, state air quality managers, recreation groups, environmental groups and many others to tell the Environmental Protection Agency that we support its proposed cleaner gasoline and tailpipe emissions standards, also known as "Tier 3."
The proposed standards address traffic pollution through regulating both the sulfur content of gasoline and the emissions limits of the engines that burn it. The standards will slash soot and ozone-forming pollution, removing so much air pollution that it will be the equivalent of taking one in seven cars off the roads entirely.
The standards will help kids breathe easier. They will reduce asthma attacks, school sick days, hospital admissions, health care costs, and premature deaths. All for less than a penny per gallon. As Frank O'Donnell from Clean Air Watch said, implementing these standards is a "no-brainer."
Amidst the chorus of support for these health-protective standards that will finally make our fuel as clean as that of most developed nations, one stakeholder raised a lonely voice of dissent: Big Oil. The American Petroleum Institute, to be exact.
Big oil doesn't want to change the fuel composition. They claim they've already done lots of work to reduce sulfur in gasoline under some older standards. They claim the levels of sulfur in gas are "trace amounts." They claim that these standards would harm the American economy.
Let's tell them that our children's health is worth far more than a penny per gallon. Send a message to the EPA supporting the rapid finalization of these strong clean air standards.
Here is what I told the EPA at the hearing:
"Good afternoon, I'm Molly Rauch. On behalf of Moms Clean Air Force and our more than 130,000 members nationwide, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak today on this important proposal to address vehicle emissions.
I speak to you today as a mom. I have three children, ages 5, 7, and 9. My youngest turned 5 just yesterday, and as I watched him blow out his candles last night, I was thinking about this hearing, and how my son's ability to take a deep breath, and make his wish, and blow out his candles, was a precious gift, one that I can't take for granted.
One in ten American children suffer from asthma. One in ten. Meanwhile, more than 40% of Americans live in areas where air pollution levels exceed at least one federal health standard, and cars are a major part of the problem. Cars emit soot as well as the ingredients that form smog. Soot and smog trigger asthma attacks, making asthma worse among those who already have it, and, research suggests, also causing asthma to develop in otherwise healthy children.
Asthma attacks are dangerous health events. As I know from my friends who have children with the disease, asthma attacks also burden families with missed school and work days. They send families to the doctor's office and to the pharmacy to buy medicine. They flood the healthcare system with Emergency Room visits. And they are terrifying. My children do not have asthma, thankfully, but I myself carry an inhaler for my own occasional bouts of wheezing, so I know personally how frightening the symptoms can be.
EPA's proposed cleaner gasoline and tailpipe standards will cut harmful emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by 80% from today's levels. They will cut dangerous particle pollution, or soot, by 70%. They will cut dangerous air toxics pollution, such as benzene, by nearly 40%. The new standards will do this by reducing the sulfur content of gasoline and tightening tailpipe emissions.
The air pollutants addressed in the proposed standards are correlated in study after study not only with asthma but also with bronchitis, pneumonia, heart disease, stroke, increased hospital admissions, stunted lung development, heart attacks, and premature death. Children, the elderly, and people who are already sick are especially vulnerable to the health effects of these air pollutants, but they are not the only ones affected. Every person who breathes may be affected by these health impacts. All of which is to say that while moms have a special interest in this issue, all Americans have a stake in the proposed cleaner gasoline and tailpipe standards.
That's why Moms Clean Air Force strongly supports the proposed standards - which will prevent 22,000 asthma attacks every year, according to EPA's analysis of the health benefits. These standards will also prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, and 3,200 hospital admissions, nationwide, every year. They will reap up to $23 billion in annual health care savings by 2030, and they will cost about a penny per gallon. They will protect our kids, save us money, and they don't cost very much to implement.
The proposed cleaner gasoline and tailpipe standards have broad support, from automakers, to health professionals, to the emissions control industry, to national recreation groups.
By slashing tailpipe emissions, the standards will also help those children who live closest to major roads and traffic congestion. Those children are disproportionately African American, Hispanic, and other minorities. They are also poorer than children who live farther away from highways and traffic. Not unexpectedly, such children are more likely to have asthma than their white peers. So, the standards will improve the health of those children who need it most, and will help mitigate racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in pollution exposures and disease distribution.
It just makes good sense to clean up asthma triggers at the source.
I live with my family in Washington, D.C., a city with notoriously horrible traffic that often also has unhealthy ozone levels. In fact, Washington, D.C., has received a failing grade for ozone levels from the American Lung Association's State of the Air Report. The proposed cleaner gasoline and tailpipe standards will help reduce the number of days that my children have to breathe unhealthy levels of smog.
Please finalize these health-protective standards quickly." So that my children, and yours, can blow out their birthday candles year after year after year.
Photo: Moms Clean Air Force